Ronaldo, Messi & EA Sports FIFA’s marketing strategy

Cristiano Ronaldo FIFA 18 vs Lionel Messi FIFA 16

Cristiano Ronaldo will grace the cover of the upcoming FIFA 18 game, an honor formerly bestowed on Lionel Messi. But what exactly is happening at EA Sport?

Well, I can tell you precisely what’s happening. In more urban terms, EA Sports is racking up the bills and stacking up the dough. Likewise their direct competitor, Konami, which house the Pro Evolution Soccer franchise. In fact, both gaming companies make loads of money by pushing each other to be better and the explanation for that isn’t exactly far away.

If you’re a gaming person you will already be aware of the fact that as both Ronaldo and Messi are the best players in the world, as well as rivals, Konami and EA Sports are also nemesis as far as the virtual football world is concerned. To avoid going too deep into technicalities, we will shed some light on the cyclic partnership between the players and these two companies which has been so for close to a decade.

The Merry-Go-Round

First of all, it’s strictly business. Some possess a rather defective precognition that, perhaps, EA Sports’ ‘hatred’ for Ronaldo is the reason why Messi dominated their covers for years. Wrong, wrong and wrong again. There is absolutely nothing personal about the whole abstraction and this is how it all began.

Lionel Messi on the cover of PES 2009
Lionel Messi on the PES 2009 cover

Messi was the poster-boy for Konami’s PES from 2009 to 2011. However, the Japanese gaming company decided to succeed him with Cristiano Ronaldo for the cover of the 2012 and 2013 editions. EA Sports, sensing an opportunity from a pure marketing perspective, secured the signature of Messi, who was quite on top form at the time, making him the global face of the FIFA franchise.

Cristiano Ronaldo on PES
Cristiano Ronaldo on PES 2013

EA tied the 29-year-old Argentine to a four-year deal, with his contract ending after his last appearance on the cover of FIFA 16. In fairness, it turned out to be a marvelous piece of business in view of the fact that Rooney, the then face of FIFA, wasn’t quite living up to his name. However, their main rival PES was winning the popularity contest with Cristiano Ronaldo in their corner.

Many would have thought the FIFA-Messi marriage, and the Ronaldo-PES union will ‘be a thing’ for a while, but it isn’t the case as we will soon find out. Konami, being aware of Messi’s availability after FIFA 16, and once again from a commercial stance, swooped in and partnered with the whole Barcelona Football Club on a three-year contract.

Simply put, they now have every star player at Barca at their disposal and they will feature anyone they please on their cover. The theory in circulation is that Messi terminated his partnership with EA Sports as a ‘courtesy’, and one inclined to his allegiance to Barcelona considering the rivalry between them and Konami would have yielded complications.

That was sorted but the battle for supremacy was far from over. EA Sports also dropped the hammer by partnering with Real Madrid and Manchester United in the same year. For the poster-boy of the FIFA 17 game, Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus ended up with that honor after emerging victorious in a poll suggesting James Rodriguez, Anthony Martial, and Eden Hazard contest for the same recognition.

FIFA 17 cover: Hazard, James, Martial, Reus

The PES 17 also featured all of Messi, Neymar, Suarez, Rakitic and Pique respectively. It seems likely the last two mentioned players will be replaced by Iniesta and Rafinha Alcantara in the upcoming edition of the Pro Evolution Soccer game. All things being considered, EA Sports is still the superior between the two game developers as they are, undoubtedly, set to clock astronomical figures in revenue now that they’ve gotten Cristiano Ronaldo.

“It is an honor to be on the cover of FIFA 18.

Great seasons lead to great things. #FIFA18 @easportsfifa

A post shared by Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano) on

“It is an incredible feeling, I am thankful to have been chosen”, stated Cristiano Ronaldo as quoted by Real Madrid’s official website. Senior developer at EA SPORTS FIFA, Aaron McHardy, also added:

“The best player in the world has helped us to come on in leaps and bounds on the pitch.

“We are thrilled to be able to count on Ronaldo, as working with him has helped us learn about his unique style of play and understand what makes him so special.

“His passion, energy and international fame makes Cristiano Ronaldo the best ambassador that FIFA 18 could have”.

Just as the 32-year-old has been promoting Nike’s merchandise to his 200 million+ social media followers, FIFA 18 is definitely going to reap huge from posts in such likeness. Like we said earlier, it’s all about marketing!

Bonus: Biased Ratings?

Some people argued that since Messi ‘ditched’ EA Sports, his rating became inferior to Cristiano Ronaldo’s in FIFA 17. Now, disregarding all the quotidian marketing complexities, why would anyone genuinely think Messi deserved to be rated higher than Ronaldo in FIFA 17?

FIFA 17 ratings
FIFA 17 ratings of Messi, Ronaldo, and Neymar

Both EA Sports and Konami use a computer simulation software to decide the stats of a player according to his previous season. This includes his overall form and performances, as well as his achievements during the season.

Indeed, last year, we all bore witness to a 31-year-old man who finished behind Luis Suarez (39 goals) as La Liga’s second highest goal scorer with 34 goals, trudged on to win a UEFA Champions League trophy, UEFA Golden Boot, Euro 2016 Cup , UEFA European footballer for the year, the UEFA Super Cup, Ballon d’Or, FIFA’s The Best Men’s Player of the Year award and the FIFA Club World Cup.

Biased? Take a seat, please!

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Emmanuel is a very vibrant writer from Ghana. Young but not small. Humble but full of hunger to learn and confidence to achieve greater heights in the world of online journalism. Emmanuel is passionate about the Beautiful Game with special love for English giants Manchester United and their former number 7 icon, Cristiano Ronaldo. In his leisure time, he loves writing and reading practically anything; old notes, e-books, articles... you name it! The Accra native and devoted Christian also loves drawing, swimming, watching and playing football both on the field and via FIFA video games. At times, Emmanuel loves to find himself alone at the beach and in nature.


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