Comedian Kevin Hart races up to the front door of a swanky residence and begins to knock frantically. He knocks and knocks and knocks some more. An unsuspecting Dave Franco, actor and brother of James, opens the door only to be promptly slapped in the face by Hart. It’s Madden Season, you see, and this is Hart throwing down the gaming gauntlet.
It’s an odd moment, one that’s punctuated by Hart rationalizing his behavior by busting out some rhymes, but it’s got nothing on the three minutes that follow. After asserting that Madden Season is the reason that his hand touched Franco’s face—backed up by brass-blowing cheerleaders, natch—Hart then cops to keying his car, putting sugar in his fuel tank, stalking him and waking him with a bullhorn all in the name of a good ol’ gaming rivalry. Sound bonkers? This is all before a Gaga-like figure breaks out a ballad while standing in the middle of a porpoise-filled pool, before an epic house party breaks out, before a gaggle of NFLers (Colin Kaepernick, LeSean McCoy, Dez Bryant, Von Miller, and Damian Lillard included) make a cameo as a nonsensical rap crew, and before Franco snaps at the smack talk and relentless provocation leaving his house to meet a fiery fate, and signalling to Hart that, oh, it's on!.
No, this isn’t the latest star-studded comedic music video from College Humor or Funny or Die. Instead, it’s the launch campaign for EA Sports’ perennial NFL game title Madden NFL 15, and it’s a frenetic ode to hardcore rivalry.
"Madden is the unofficial kickoff of the NFL Season and our campaign this year—Madden Season—is a celebration of that special time of year when friends become frenemies and football rivalries are in full swing," says Dana Marineau, VP Creative Advertising at EA Sports of the video, which was created with EA Sports’ agency of record, HEAT. "The core of this story is simple—Kevin and Dave are two Madden rivals getting ready to play, and as the spot unfolds we learn about all the hi-jinx and pranking Kevin does in order to get Dave to compete against him Madden. It’s all based on what we know to be true of our fans—that playing and beating someone you know is the ultimate winning feeling. We think Madden Season epitomizes the fun, mischief, and competitive spirit that all Madden fans share."
This also marks the first time EA has ever created a longer form, web-based music video in place of an ad to promote this important game. Marineau says with Madden Season EA Sports wanted to create a sharable "piece of Madden culture—an epic music video—and put it where our audience lives." The video was teased with short clips on EA’s social media channels before the full video was released exclusively online. Two 30-second broadcast spots cut from the video will hit the air on SportsCenter a few days later.
Marineau says strategy behind creating a music video to was two fold: first to create a piece of content that younger fans would want to share and to experiment with breaking away from traditional distribution methods. She says that’s why they cast some of the "hottest and up-and-coming talent in Hollywood," such as Hart and Franco, as well as Harley Morenstein from the popular Epic Meal Time YouTube channel and NFLers Damian Lillard, Richard Sherman, Dez Bryant, Colin Kaepernick, LeSean McCoy, Von Miller, and Eddie Lacy, all of whom have significant social reach. "We have youthful and fun NFL stars and YouTube celebrities that really speak to the culture of the Internet. We chose all these people very deliberately for their social popularity and influence."
Eventually Marineau says there will be an additional component that will up the sharability ante by allowing fans to "engage with Madden in a real-time, personalized matter." But for now, details are scant, so the focus is on the completely bananas Madden Season video, which, as Marineau puts it is "a simple tale about getting ready to play Madden. Just a typical day in the life of a Madden fan—nothing too out of the ordinary, right?"