Gillette teams with EA Sports

February 4, 2009 6:05:54 PM PST
Gillette has teamed up with EA Sports in a push to expand its sports marketing into video gaming in a major way. Golfer Tiger Woods, a veteran of marketing for both businesses, helps tee off the new partnership as part of an upcoming global online sports games competition that gives winners a chance to play head-to-head against real-life sports stars.

Gillette and EA Sports officials say the partnership will include joint retail promotions, print and TV advertising, and a heavy online presence. They say they're both targeting young men through sports and want to build their businesses in markets around the world.

"This is a classic partnership where we're leveraging mutual assets," said Peter Clay, Gillette vice president of global grooming. "It's very efficient for both of us."

The shaver maker has for decades sponsored traditional sports such as baseball, boxing and football and more recently added NASCAR because of its growing popularity.

"Times have changed," Clay said. "Young guys are still watching live action sports, so we still have a big presence there, but they're also spending a lot of time gaming. That's where guys are these days."

Bruce Cohen, a strategist for the retail consulting firm Kurt Salmon Associates, said shaving products companies must start early cultivating consumers who often become lifelong customers. Video game players are an increasingly diverse group, and older men can relate to game promotions because they play themselves, are used to their children playing them, or are familiar with the sports figures involved such as Woods and football's John Madden, he said.

"Gaming is part of the bridge to that next group of consumers they're trying to tap into," Cohen said. "At the same time, it's not so far away from their core consumers and their group of classic sports like golf and football."

Meanwhile, Cohen added, EA Sports gains an experienced marketing partner with deep pockets and global reach.

Gillette's part of Cincinnati-based consumer products giant Procter & Gamble Co. P&G recently reported that Gillette's five-blade Fusion shaving system, launched in 2006, has become its fastest brand to reach $1 billion in annual sales.

EA Sports belongs to video game publisher Electronic Arts Inc., based in Redwood City, Calif. Among its popular sports games are Tiger Woods PGA Tour, Madden NFL and FIFA Soccer.

Video games sales continue to grow, even in a sluggish U.S. economy. Electronic Arts reported sales of $3.67 billion, up 19 percent, in the fiscal year ended March 31.

Peter Moore, president of EA Sports, said video gaming is growing in newer markets such as eastern Europe, Russia and China, and the tournament will be a good test of the expanding popularity. He said it's difficult to estimate how many players will take part.

"This is the first time anything of this scope has been done before," Moore said.

Moore joined EA a year ago from Microsoft Corp., which is part of the gaming competition that will be played via Microsoft's Xbox.

Details will be announced in October. Live finals are planned in Tampa, Fla., in January. There, Woods and other sports stars will play winners.

Woods joked that he wants a handicap for the video match. He said he's been spending more time playing video games these days as he recovers from knee surgery, but doubts he'll be ready to beat a top video gamer.

"I better stick to my day job," he said.


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