Behind The Scenes

A social media campaign’s evolution: The Madden NFL 13 Cover Vote

The Madden NFL 13 cover winner, Detroit Lions star Calvin Johnson, was announced before a live audience in the heart of Manhattan.

In March, ESPN’s SportsNation once again teamed up with EA SPORTS to bring back its popular Madden NFL Cover Vote to fans for the second consecutive year in its current iteration.

Within just seven weeks, the campaign logged a new engagement record for an ESPN poll with nearly 20 million votes cast to name Calvin Johnson, Jr. the cover athlete of Madden NFL 13, which releases to the public on Aug. 28. Other social media record-breaking numbers from the campaign include:

• Overall Facebook Engagement = 598,000 likes, comments & shares by fans on SportsNation, ESPN & ESPN’s partner Facebook platforms
• Individual Facebook Post “Likes” = 53,000 likes for “winner” post, a picture of Calvin Johnson’s new cover
• Video = 2.7 million views on and SportsNation’s YouTube page

Mike Bucklin, associate manager, Integration and Gabe Goodwin, producer, spoke to Front Row for a look back at ESPN’s most successful social media campaign to date.

ESPN’s relationship with EA SPORTS goes back a long way. How did we get to where we are now in regards to the Madden Cover Vote?

MB: Our goal with EA is to go bigger every year. Years ago, we’d have a cover athlete do live and taped interviews from his living room. We grew to bringing our cover athlete to campus for the Bristol “Car Wash.” It was highly visible, but it lacked engagement. Now that we’ve brought in SportsNation to allow fans to decide the winner, and with athletes campaigning for the right to be on the cover, we’ve turned the program into an award-winning, record-breaking, strategically integrated event that serves content to millions of passionate fans on nearly every platform we operate.

How much did the athletes contribute? Was that a big part of the campaign’s success?
GG: Ask a producer at ESPN if he wants Victor Cruz, LeSean McCoy, Darrelle Revis, Patrick Willis, Cam Newton, Rob Gronkowski, Arian Foster and Calvin Johnson stopping by the studio. He or she will say ‘yes.’ This campaign gave us the ability to say ‘yes’ for seven weeks, bringing all of those guys to Bristol for special segments on SportsNation. In addition, SportsNation’s social media platforms helped drive interest for those special shows while also housing additional content like campaign videos from Brandon Lloyd, Brian Orakpo, Stevie Johnson and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

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