By Barry Janoff, Executive Editor
March 21, 2011: In an homage to the madness of March college basketball and not to the current disparities between NFL owners and players, Electronic Arts said that consumers and football fans would have the opportunity to select the cover athlete for NFL Madden 12 via a bracket-style voting campaign.
Now through April 27, EA Sports is teaming exclusively with ESPN to enable people to help select the one athlete from among 32 candidates (one representative from every NFL team) to appear on the cover of Madden NFL 12, which is scheduled to hit retail this August.
This is an expansion of the NFL Madden 11 cover selection, when fans were offered the choice of several players from which to pick. In the final voting, quarterback Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints) won out over Jared Allen (Minnesota Vikings) and Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis Colts).
Two years ago, EA Sports also teamed with ESPN, which intergrated the release of Madden NFL 10 thoughout its programming.
Votes will determine which NFL players advance through the seeded brackets. The unveiling of the Madden NFL 12 cover athlete is currently scheduled for April 27 during ESPN's SportsNation. However, given the situation between owners and players and that "all player participation has been facilitated by NFL Players, the licensing and marketing subsidiary of the NFL Players Assn.," EA Sports stated that the "Madden NFL 12 cover announcement date is subject to change."
Among the players being considered are Aaron Rodgers, quarterback for the Green Bay Packers and Super Bowl XLV MVP; Madden NFL 11 cover star Brees, Michael Vick (Philadelphia Eagles, who appeared on the Madden NFL 2004 cover when he was with the Atlanta Falcons), Mark Sanchez (New York Jets), Tim Tebow (Denver Broncos), Maurice Jones-Drew (Jacksonville Jaguars), Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings), Julius Peppers (Chicago Bears), Hines Ward (Pittsburgh Steelers), Philip Rivers (San Diego Chargers) and Sam Bradford (St. Louis Rams). Also in the running is "The 12th Man" representing the Seattle Seahawks.
Round 1 voting will take place now through March 27. Round 2 is March 28-April 3. Round 3 is April 11-17. The Final Round voting will take place April 18-26. (Full bracket here.)
Marketing support includes a dedicated Facebook page where visitors can fill out brackets for the opportunity to win prizes including Super Bowl tickets and copies of Madden NFL 12. (Full details here.)
In addition, SportsNation co-hosts Colin Cowherd and Michelle Beadle will provide updates and interviews with candidates throughout the voting period.
Madden NFL 12 is the 23rd edition of the videogame in franchise history. Since its debut in 1989, the Madden NFL franchise has sold more than 90 million units, according to EA Sports.
"There's never a shortage of opinions when it comes to the annual selection of the Madden NFL cover athlete."
"Whether it be from fans, media, agents, or even the players themselves, there's never a shortage of opinions when it comes to the annual selection of the Madden NFL cover athlete," Anthony Stevenson, senior product manager for EA Sports, said in a statement. "So this year we're handing the keys over to the public. ESPN continues to be a tremendous partner of the Madden NFL franchise, and it makes perfect sense for SportsNation to be the platform that gives fans the ultimate say in who graces the cover of Madden NFL 12."
According to Raphael Poplock, ESPN vp-games and digital partnerships, "ESPN is proud to continue its tradition of serving fans by collaborating with EA Sports and putting the cover vote of Madden NFL 12 in their hands. We believe ESPN provides the perfect platform for fans to be heard, and encourage everyone to support their favorite representative in this bracket-style vote."
NFL Madden Covers
2011: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
2010: Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona Cardinals), Troy Polamalu (Pittsburgh Steelers)
2009: Brett Favre (Green Bay Packers. However, EA Sports offered a printout version of Favre in his New York Jets uniform after the trade became official.)
2008: Vince Young (Tennessee Titans)
2007: Shaun Alexander (Seattle Seahawks)
2006: Donovan McNabb (Philadelphia Eagles)
2005: Ray Lewis (Baltimore Ravens)
2004: Michael Vick (Atlanta Falcons)
2003: Marshall Faulk (St. Louis Rams)
2002: Daunte Culpepper (Minnesota Vikings)
2001: Eddie George (Tennessee Titans)
2000: John Madden