Words don’t matter. Buttons do

Xbox One used guerrilla tactics to promote the release of Fifa 18 despite losing the right to market the football simulation video game. Sony PlayStation, Xbox’s main competitor, had secured the exclusive marketing rights to FIFA 18 prior to its release (on both PlayStation and Xbox). Microsoft-owned Xbox decided to promote the game anyway – just without mentioning or showing the product.

Xbox achieved this with The Beautiful Combination, a campaign created in partnership with football team Real Madrid. The activation kicked off with an online film featuring several Real Madrid players showing off their skills while the corresponding Xbox button combinations for FIFA 18 loom large in the background.

Viewers see slick passes, shots and skill moves before a voiceover announces: ‘Xbox and football – a beautiful combination’. At no point in the film is FIFA’s product or brand mentioned.

Xbox extended this mechanism into several Real Madrid football games, including the much-anticipated Uefa Champions League fixture between Juventus and Real Madrid – a match watched by millions around the world in April this year. Passes, tackles and shots by the Real Madrid football players were ‘decoded’ into Xbox button combinations in real time by a ‘world-class gamer’ (shots became Bs, passes As, and so on) during the game. These button combos were then broadcast on pitch-side boards around the stadium, turning the football match into a live tutorial for Xbox gamers.

Meanwhile Talksport, a popular sports radio broadcaster, adapted its live football commentary to chronicle the equivalent button combinations throughout the match. The day after the Champions League game, Xbox published a post-match report teaching readers how to recreate moves from the game on their consoles. The report was published in the sports section of London Evening Standard, one of the most widely-read newspapers in the UK.

Why its hot?
-Beautiful Truth Well Told: Gamers don’t just watch to enjoy the game. They want to learn the moves.
-Xbox hijacked competitor’s sponsorship by speaking the fans language.