EA Sports Raises Stakes For Forthcoming UFC 2

Usually, a cover star for an EA Sports game is either determined by the company or put together via fan vote, like with previous entries in the Madden NFL football series. For UFC 2, however, the company has decided to let two top competitors fight for the spot.

In an announcement yesterday, EA Sports confirmed that UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo and interim featherweight champion Conor McGregor, who will fight in next week’s main event for UFC 194, will compete to see who joins “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey on the cover for the forthcoming game UFC 2, which is scheduled to release next spring. This is an interesting way for the publisher to consider who will be on the cover, marking the first time it’s decided to leave the choice to fate – rather than popular fan vote.

“The main event at UFC 194 between (Aldo) and (McGregor) is without a doubt one of the most anticipated events in UFC history,” said Dana White, president of UFC. “Aldo and McGregor are two of the biggest stars in the world, and it’s fitting that next Saturday night, the winner not only becomes the undisputed UFC featherweight champion, but also the second global cover athlete for EA Sports UFC 2.”

Even though fans won’t be the deciding factor on who’s on the cover, the publisher is still letting them take part in the action with a special website. Here, fans can make their guesses who will win the fight, and in what round, and by what method (like submission, knockout or decision). After making these guesses, their prediction will come to life in a shareable video clip, which can then be shared across social channels.

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“Fight For the Cover is another way we are bringing an authentic and exciting experience for the fans,” said Jamie McKinlay, vice president of marketing for EA Sports. “From the Octagon at UFC 194, to the Octagon in UFC 2, this is a huge moment in UFC and EA Sports’ history, and we’re thrilled to be a part of it.”

The promotion is a big win for both parties, as UFC will benefit from the exposure of not only the game, but the bump-up in publicity for its forthcoming event; while, at the same time, EA Sports can promote its game, and brush aside the social media buzz that fellow cover star Ronda Rousey was “cursed” with her appearance in it, as she lost to Holly Holm last month, ending her undefeated streak.

That doesn’t seem to faze the company, at least based on an interview we conducted with senior product manager Jeff Sharma last month. “Ronda is one of the most dominant fighters in the world, and has really transcended MMA. She’s universally recognized, and her star is still on the rise. She’s also a passionate gamer, which is always a great addition for any EA Sports cover athlete.”

Whoever scores the victory next week, they’re sure to be a knockout when the game arrives next year.

Top 10: YouTube Gaming

Before YouTube Gaming even launched this past summer, YouTube was already a huge content hub for gamers and the platform was synonymous with “Let’s Play” videos and infamous influencers like PewDiePie, SkyDoesMinecraft and more. So how are YouTube Gaming’s biggest stars doing now Check this out.

Branded Emoji Hashtags Are The Next Big Twitter Craze

Emojis have become increasingly popular, and have turned into into a language brands can effectively use. A number of companies benefiting from branded hashtags and custom imagery for on social network platforms like Twitter.

One brand that has found great success using emoji is Star Wars. Back in April, coinciding with a new trailer for The Force Awakens, Disney designed a number of custom emojis to tie in with the film, including a Stormtrooper helmet and new robot BB8. 

ResizedImage600314 Emoji 1203Bridget Harvey, a senior manager for Twitter’s brand strategy team, noted the effectiveness of these images to Adweek. “We saw a lot of excitement around the Star Wars Emojis. That drove quite a bit of interest from our partners around the possibility of creating an Emoji for a brand. From there, we decided to explore this further. We really do believe in innovation through experimentation. That’s something that my group holds near and dear to our hearts. We believe that when you do experimentation in any campaign, the best campaigns start with insight.”

She adds, “it’s pretty clear that people love emojis. From that insight, we felt that this is a clear opportunity.”

Star Wars isn’t the only brand that thinks emoji speak louder than words…

  • Coca-Cola launched a successful Emoji campaign back in September, titled #shareacoke. The imagery involves two Coke bottles in unison, along with pictures of people sharing their beloved sodas.
  • Toyota created its own emoji program, where users could download custom images from the company to post to their heart’s content. “We’re really excited about the amount of engagement,” said Toyota’s social media marketing manager, Florence Drakton to Adweek. “The fans took the cue… it definitely opened up a new style of communication between ourselves and our consumers. It’s another form of expression. Sometimes, it’s better shown in an image than with words.”
  • The American Music Awards benefitted from custom emojis as well, with artists like Ariana Grande to Nick Jonas getting their own special images.


Companies like Taco Bell have fully embraced custom made emojis for food fans to use and share with others.

It’s clear to see that branded emojis have become a hit, even though they aren’t being used as regularly as some companies would like. Nevertheless, their increased usage should be more than enough reason to create many smiles. 

Rovio’s ‘Angry Birds’ Movie Takes Flight

Angry Birds began as an addictively challenging puzzle game, where different birds are slingshot across a level to get at “Bad Piggies” by knocking down various constructs. The fewer birds you use, the higher your score. It has since grown to become a major phenomenon, which includes an animated television show called Angry Birds Toons, toys, comic books, and even a breakfast cereal among a multitude to other products. Now it’s ready to hit theaters as an animated major motion picture.

The Angry Birds Movie, starring the voices of Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad, Bill Hader and other celebrities, is set to launch in May 2016, and features a bird named Red who has anger management issues. When mysterious green piggies arrive on their island, it’s up to Red and his friends to find out what they’re up to.

Joseph Knowles[a]listdaily talked to Rovio Entertainment’s PR Manager and Senior Writer, Joseph Knowles (who spoke while in consultation with Angry Birds Movie Vice President and Program Lead, Joe Lawson), to find out what more about the relationship between the game and movie, along with what it takes to keep these Angry Birds flying high.

What was the process of translating the Angry Birds brand into a feature film

The original game was built around unique characters with special traits, and character has always been a Rovio strength. So, it was really a matter of setting these characters free and letting them soar in the movie. We have put a lot of attention and care into crafting the movie’s story and the emotional journey that our characters travel, and I think people will really be surprised by what the film delivers.

To what extent has Rovio been involved in the development of the movie

The Rovio team built this movie from the ground up. We have an amazing partner in Sony Pictures Entertainment who is marketing and distributing the film globally, but Rovio is producing the film and leading the charge in every way.

Angry Birds has been a juggernaut for merchandise. What about Angry Birds makes it so appealing as an entertainment franchise

I think it all goes back to character. Strong characters aren’t confined or limited to their original context, but can freely travel from one medium to another and still hold their appeal. You certainly see that in other entertainment franchises too, like Star Wars for example. What they all have in common is character.

How does the marketing of the movie feed into the game and vice versa

As a way of staying true to our digital origins, we’re planning a “game-changing” innovative campaign that will tie The Angry Birds Movie to our mobile game in a way that’s never been done before. We’re keeping details under wraps for now, in order not to spoil the surprise.

There are the Angry Birds games, a variety of toys, a breakfast cereal, a TV show, and now an upcoming movie. What frontier remains for the Angry Birds to fly into

You never really know where the franchise will go next. Ultimately, it depends on what the fans want and where they want to go. We’re always interested in new ways to extend the Angry Birds brand experience in fun and cool ways.

Facebook Is Still The Social Platform of Choice for U.S. Companies

Social media plays a vital part with the marketing plans put together by companies, and it appears two major sites are leading the charge, based on a new report from eMarketer.

The report, U.S. Social Trends for 2016: eMarketer Predictions for Video, Viewability, Buy Buttons, Messaging and More, indicates that both Facebook and Twitter are still highly preferred by companies. Through the end of 2016, 88.9 percent of U.S. marketers with over 100 employees will utilize at least one of these social networks for marketing plans.

Facebook has held steady in terms of preference amongst companies, staying in the 80 percent range and keeping a firm lead, as indicated on the chart below. However, Twitter is close behind in the 60 percent range, while Instagram has grown dramatically over the past few years, jumping from 11.5 percent in 2013 to 48.8 percent for 2016.

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With more focus on social media, companies have also increased their spending budgets, and it’s an ongoing trend. A separate report, Social Media Marketing Trends, conducted by Ascend2, indicates that only two percent of companies polled tend to lower their advertising budget. By comparison, 67 percent intend to increase theirs.

More proof of budget increases are present in another report, conducted by the American Marketing Association. Based on numbers conducted over the past couple of years, the percentage of total marketing budget devoted to social media has risen, from 6.6 percent to 10.7 percent – and it’s likely to go even higher next year.

This second chart from eMarketer below breaks down social network ad revenues, indicating what kind of changes are coming from digital ad spending. The changes are showing signs of decreasing over the next few years, but the budget point remains higher than it was in 2014.

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The report concludes that while there are some challenges that come with marketing plans with social media, most companies think that it’s still an effective enough medium to continue spending on. With the right program, it’s easy to see how quickly it could catch on with current and would-be consumers. 

Verizon Brings In-Game Video Calls To ‘Minecraft’

The amount creativity of Minecraft players can express knows no limits, and now they could have the power to cross over into the real world. Verizon recently announced on its Github blog that it has partnered the creative team at BlockWorks to introduce web-enabled features in the game world of Minecraft. Meaning that with the right materials and a special app, players can construct a virtual cell tower and smartphone to place calls to the real world. 

The list of virtual smartphone features include:

Video Call

Users can activate their in-game phone to send and receive video calls from other people, and, as you can see in the sample videos below featuring popular YouTube stars Captain Sparklez and SethBling, it takes a real-time image and converts it into the game, but with blocks.

Web Browsing

The video above also demonstrates web browsing that can also be done through a player’s in-game phone device, although it uses very blocky images, which fits in with the game world. This feature also connects to the real world from inside the game, so it’s like one reality connecting with another.


Finally, users can build their own selfie stick and attach it to their in-game phone, taking a picture of their character to send to others via text messaging. This is bound to be a fun social feature, especially for friends staying in touch with one another while they play the game.

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This service came together with the help of a web application called Boxel, which translates web pages and imagery from streaming video into blocks, allowing them to be put into a Minecraft server. In addition, Verizon has also open-sourced the library of this tool, so devoted fans can write their own code to play around with however they see fit.

These are fundamental features that should be popular in the Minecraft community, which has millions of fans across various platforms, including PC and mobile. The video call feature in itself should be a fun way to see what Verizon’s technology can do, although web browsing and selfie photos should be produce creative results as well. Verizon benefits by having putting its technology on full display for the Minecraft universe to see and use.

It’s unclear whether the server based app will work on all versions of Minecraft, since the demonstration appear limited to the PC, but hopefully it will work across all platforms so that everyone can take blocky selfies.

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LeBron James Turning Entertainment Tour De Force Into Hollywood Empire

The world’s most marketable athlete is taking his talents from the hardwood to the entertainment field.

Basketball superstar LeBron James has scored a $15.8 million investment through a partnership with Turner and Warner Bros. to support his self-financed entertainment studio Uninterrupted.

Uninterrupted is an athlete-centric content hub on the Turner-owned Bleacher Report showcasing a series of point-of-view video shorts from players on many platforms. It’s an arm of James Spring Hill Productions company, which already has credits to the Disney series Becoming; Starz’s dramedy Survivor’s Remorse and NBC’s upcoming primetime reality game show series Average Joe.

“The best thing about Uninterrupted is there are so many creative opportunities for athletes to tell their stories,” James said in a statement. “I’m excited to be partnering with important, innovative companies like Warner Brothers and Turner to keep building Uninterrupted as a place for athletes to go to connect with fans and share their stories in a different way.”

Since the beginning of the season, the four-time NBA MVP and two-time champion has released a series of videos via Facebook in 360-degree virtual reality. The “Striving for Greatness” vignettetes, an Uninterrupted original series detailing James’ training regimen (see below), concluded yesterday. Along with Wednesday’s announcement, the site also expanded to Verizon’s mobile streaming media app go90.

“I’m going to take full advantage of it while I can,” he’s previously told The Hollywood Reporter regarding capitalizing on opportunities.

James is rapidly building a Hollywood empire. With 63.4 million followers on the Big Three social media sites, he’s a marketing Goliath and the epitome of an athlete-turned-influencer. His off-field spoils include a $44 million endorsement portfolio with partners like Samsung, Beats By Dre, Nike, Kia and McDonald’s and there seems to be no end to the portfolio boons he and business partner Maverick Carter land.

“Whether it’s through real-time videos, original digital series or documentaries, Uninterrupted provides that creative outlet for athletes to share their stories in a way they can t anywhere else,” Carter, Uninterrupted’s CEO, said.

With LeBron’s latest deal with Warner Bros., it only perpetuates the rumors swirling around him segueing into the silver screen and starring in a potential Space Jam sequel. He’s already cameod as himself in Entourage and also plays a version of himself in Trainwreck.

And much like former-Yankees great Derek Jeter’s launched The Players Tribune, a site where athletes like Kobe Bryant pen their own pieces without the filter of a team spokesman or journalists, athletes are now dabbling in entertainment and media ventures previously unavailable to them.

That mostly means gems like Michael Jordan’s Space Jam or Shaquille O’Neal’s discography won’t be as prominent as the platform-limited 90s blessed the masses with, but who’re we to complain?

Just pass the rock to LeBron.






How the Vrse VR App Engages With Audiences

With the Vrse virtual reality app, audiences can jump into deep 360-degree cinematic experiences that range from being in a music video with U2 to watching the world change though major events and spectacular visual effects. By using devices like the Google Cardboard and the Samsung Gear VR, another world can be accessed using a smartphone. The virtual reality can only get better with more advanced devices like the Oculus Rift, which will become commercially available next year.

Chris Milk [pictured above, courtesy of Vanity Fair], Founder and Creative Director of the Vrse, gained recognition by creating music videos with artists like U2 and Kanye West, has had his work featured at museums, film festivals, and Barack Obama’s introduction at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He has also done a short but engaging TED Talk about how virtual reality can create a deep sense of empathy.

[a]listdaily spoke to Chris Milk about his work with Vrse, how virtual reality will impact entertainment, and how these experiences bring stir up emotion to those that view it.

What is your approach to reaching a wider audience for VR

We continue to work on projects that excite us, and we hope that excitement transfers over. We re big fans of U2 and Muse, so those VR experiences meant a lot to us. The friends we have at the United Nations and New York Times to help us see the world differently. They ve got their finger on the pulse of the world s most pressing issues. We ve been fortunate in the past to discover that people are looking to experience the kinds of stories we re telling. It s like a young band playing the music they love, only to discover they have fans. It s humbling, sure, but it also drives us to create more.

How is mobile VR technology impacting video entertainment

You re not going to see a huge impact yet, simply because the technology is only starting to get into people s hands. Right now there s a huge push, creatively, to stretch the bounds of traditional narrative storytelling. VR is awakening an excitement that the industry hasn t really experienced for decades. Creators not only have a new canvas, but also a whole new set of brushes and colors with which to paint. The energy we re feeling on the creative side will hopefully catch soon with audiences wanting to try something new.

What kind of response have you seen to mobile VR films, and how do you see it growing

It s overwhelmingly positive. We ve shown our work to thousands of people firsthand, and the reactions we ve seen range from the hilarious to the heartfelt. VR is a really impactful medium. Incredibly personal and immersive. It s essentially sci-fi brought to life, and I think there s always been a huge sense of anticipation for what we can do now. When someone experiences VR and laughs themselves to tears or cries themselves to fits of laughter, I think it s because they re having to recalibrate what they expected was possible in their lifetimes. Our stories and our work certainly take a backseat to the power of the medium. Everything Vrse does is in service to the medium, and I m excited to play whatever small role I can in pushing VR forward.

How ‘Rock Band 4’ Free Styles Its Way To Audiences

“You don’t need to be able to play music,” says Harmonix’s PR and Communications Lead, Nick Chester. “It’s the fantasy.”

“People love seeing these [influencer] personalities interact with each other– doing that in a Rock Band setting where people are playing off each other and having fun is going to be really powerful for both viewers and influencers to get people engaged.”