When Customer Interaction Goes Wrong: Madden NFL Cover Contest
This doesn’t end well.
Here’s the scenario. The most successful sports video game of all time, Madden NFL, held a challenge this year to determine which player would be bestowed with the honor of being on its cover. So they held an online voting tournament where the public could decide, and one player from each of the 32 teams was chosen. Then, customer interaction was called upon, thousands of votes were cast, blood and tears were shed, and at the end of the day only two were left standing. Going into the finals, the match-up was (drum roll, please): Peyton Hillis vs. Michael Vick!
Otherwise known as “Who the hell is that?” vs. “Man, I hate that guy.”
I’m pretty sure the marketing team at EA Sports, the makers of Madden, all did simultaneous forehead smacks when these results came in. How did this go so wrong? There were players like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson, and Julius Peppers in the running, who are all huge stars and (likely) future Hall of Famers. Well, it started when Peyton Hillis’ team, the Cleveland Browns, ran an actual marketing campaign for its (kind of) star player to win the Madden cover challenge. The campaign must have been pretty powerful, because it worked: big time. Hillis even beat the reigning Super Bowl MVP (who shall go nameless around Chicago).
And I have absolutely no idea how Michael Vick got this far. No further comment needed. But in a delicious coincidence, the Cleveland Browns fan section in their stadium is called the “Dawg Pound.”
Come on, EA Sports. Why fix what isn't broken?
So, what could EA Sports have done differently? For starters, Madden NFL is already one of the most successful games of all time. They didn’t NEED this gimmick. No one would have complained if Peyton Manning was on the cover. I understand the feeling of wanting to do something interesting for fans by encouraging customer interaction, but why fix what isn’t broken?
Second, they should have NEVER put any player in the challenge that they wouldn’t have been proud to put on its cover. But they did, and they’ll pay the price. The sales of the annual Tiger Woods game dropped dramatically after his…um…indiscretions, so who knows what effect this will have on Madden’s sales?
By the time this is posted, a winner will have been declared. But it really doesn’t matter. The story is told, and either ending is an unhappy one for EA Sports. At this point, I don’t think they even care who wins. And they only have themselves to blame…
Do you agree that EA Sports should have taken a different approach with this competition? What else could they have done to involve their customers? Do you have any other examples of customer interaction gone wrong?
Editor’s Note: Peyton Hillis was declared the winner for this contest during the first week of May. You can check out their official site for more details!