Johannes Leonardo created a wacky spokescharacter to promote EA Games' Madden NFL 21. Who saw that coming? It's like a trick play!
Portrayed by King Keraun from Black-ish and Insecure, "The Spokesplayer" debuts in the amusing spot below hyping the latest version of the popular football video game, which comes out this Friday:
Dude's pretty smooth. His job, we're told, is to speak up for the rising generation of athletes so they don't have to. They're just too darn busy making highlight-reel plays to chat with the media or indulge in self-promotion. (As if.)
Though they appear in the film, A-teamers Lamar Jackson (Madden 21's cover star and the reigning NFL MVP), Patrick Mahomes and Cam Newton are relegated to the second string. Each surfaces briefly via NFL footage, and we hear Jackson at the ad's beginning and end.
Even so, the Spokesplayer quarterbacks this narrative, hyping the game's elite and welcoming fans to "a whole new era" as he bops around town. Keraun exudes cheeky style, even if the character's gameplan feels a bit convoluted.
Directed by David Gordon Green, the work signals a big change from JL's splashy, star-studded teasers for Madden 19 and 20. The latter spotlighted last year's cover athlete, Mahomes, while the former turned a fictitious gamer into a hero extolled by celebs including Nicki Minaj.
JL deserves credit for switching up the playbook with the Spokesplayer, but this particular rookie may need more seasoning before settling into the starting (and starring) role.
Below, agency creative director Omid Amidi discusses the campaign:
Muse: Why create a character rather than showcasing athletes and celebrities?
Omid Amidi: Our insight came from the fact that there is a rising generation of superstars that are radically changing the game for the better, without boasting about it. They're too busy ushering in this new era of football and creating highlights than giving out soundbites. Look no further than Mark Ingram having to hype up Lamar Jackson all last year.
And unlike previous campaigns that relied on a mix of celebrities, athletes and gamers for a couple of big hits in the world, we wanted our content to be able to live all year long. To be reactionary and nimble based on what's happening, especially during these uncertain times. So, it only made sense that we'd create a character—someone we can leverage throughout the season.
So, this approach wasn't driven by not being able to get the players together for a shoot?
The idea of the Spokesplayer wasn't born out of Covid restrictions. We never felt the Spokesplayer needed to have athletes around him. He's not an entourage member. He's his own person. We purposely set out to create something that felt authentic, rather than star-studded like previous years. While we followed health and safety guidelines, we also set out to create a campaign that wouldn't feel like it was shot during Covid.
How will the work evolve?
The Spokesplayer will be popping up throughout the season in a multitude of ways. The man has a lot of things to say. You might see him on Twitch, Twitter, Instagram, maybe some NFL shows, speaking on behalf of players and Madden. He's simply going to be there, when and where he's needed.
Why did you cast Keraun?
King Keraun was one of those people on the list, among big-name actors, musicians, etc. When it came down to it, he felt right. He's charismatic and his comedy is self-made, providing people with bite-sized content. He gets what we're trying to do with this campaign and was excited to make himself available through the season.
He's a huge sports, football and Madden fan, so when we started fleshing out the Spokesplayer, King was a no-brainer. We felt the character wasn't just in good hands, but in the hands of someone who wants to make it as big as we want to make it, too.
Talk about making the spot. Was the shoot challenging?
We got lucky in the sense that we were able to shoot safely just as L.A. County was reopening for production, with most of our teams joining remotely. Our team loves to do quick rewrites and improvise jokes on the spot, so that became something that was less fluid, being remote.
An amicable fight broke out about who got to keep which props. There was a lot of cool stuff—a panther painted in Carolina Panthers colors, an NFL helmet gumball machine, bobbleheads, a painting of Lamar Jackson rising like a raven over a huddle. A few games of rock, paper, scissors broke out.