Everything Gaming With @emmalwaldren Of EA Sports

Today we’re speaking with Emma Waldren of Electronic Arts. A seasoned multi-award-winning global brand marketer with experience designing, assembling and executing authentic, meaningful integrated marketing communications projects. Across internal and external audiences through data-driven insights, disruptive creative, commercial innovation and first-class relationship management. Part of the creator economy for over a decade - as a creator (top 4% of all social media users, Klout, 2015), marketing lead at a Premier League club, agency-side (on behalf of athletes, founders and brands) and currently creator lead at EA SPORTS. An advocate for ‘others’, I also Co-Chair Electronic Arts’ Women’s Employee Resource Group's UK Chapter and sit on Women in Football’s Marketing and Finance Committee.



[00:00:00] Jessy: So Emma, I am equally as excited to get to know you. Your story recently moved to the US. Worked for a very cool company and have a great background in the whole world of influencer marketing. So I’m excited to just let it like dive into a lot of different things today. So first and foremost, welcome and how are you?

[00:00:46] Emma: Thank you. I’m really really good. Thank you. As you said, I’ve been here for about a month. Previously I was a UK employee at EA and now I’m an American employee. And we just moved to Down South to Louisiana. So I’m excited to be here. 

[00:01:05] Jessy: That’s awesome. And what initiated the move? That’s a big move.

[00:01:10] Emma: It’s a number of factors. My husband’s job, he’s an athlete based out of Louisiana. So for him, he needed to be here. And then also I will say a silver lining of Covid. EA has a flexible work program. 

Which means that you can actually work in all states but two that we have studios. So I was very lucky that by the nature of the work I do in marketing and the fact that I work with talent so I don’t really need to be in the studio. They were quite happy for me to move to, especially an American time zone as most of my clients are based in the US.

I’m sure 

[00:01:54] Jessy: that they were happy about it. But it’s also nice to have you here as well. I know that I can only imagine that it would be like a really really big move. I guess I’d love for you, just in your own words, it’s always easy to see people’s, work history on paper, on LinkedIn. The digital paper and get a sense of like how you got to where you are today.

I’d love to hear in your own words a little bit about like your journey to EA. A little bit about your background and how you landed where you are today professionally.

[00:02:30] Emma: Okay, awesome. So yeah, it wasn’t a normal route as I don’t think there’s any normal route, but it, I actually started at EX university doing political science. The original idea was that I would join the military. 

And I was signed up to the military for as a reserve. Whilst at university I became a high performance athlete playing rugby. It’s a slightly different sport, but it is growing massively in the US.

And I just realized that my passion laid in sports. And then it turned into sports marketing, which to be honest, I didn’t really know what it was at the time. And then I started creating content as a bit of a, rugby geek. I was actually quite proud to call myself rugby B geek back in the day. Could not claim that anymore.

But I became a coach and analyst a referee. And I was playing for the southwest of England and England development squad at the time for the senior women. And then I just started tweeting and creating content around it.

 So I left college in 2011. And then around then it was just once people started realizing what Twitter was and blogging was king and queen at the time for content and the way of getting a message out.

And I just developed a audience online. Throughout just creating content and tweeting and sharing my opinion. And then I moved into PR through more digitally because then I could actually go into an interview and be like, okay, I have 7,000 followers on Twitter which was pretty massive then. And I had a cart score of, I think it was 5%.

So it was one of the top influences in sport at the time in England globally as well when it came to rugby. And yeah, I was just creating content really enjoyed it. Was known as that person that really understood the tools.

And then just kept growing my expertise in regards to, I was at the NPR side, then I moved into a sports agency and started looking after athlete’s content. Trying to get them to really understand what it was like to be a brand as a person and start, monitoring their content too, and making sure they were posting the right things on social. And also doing a little bit of crisis management which they didn’t want, to reach the airways did.

Then I moved to a bigger agency where while we were looking after SAP who did had, at the time, they had about 36 different properties in their portfolio. And I was managing the marketing for all their sponsorship rights across from NBA, NFL ,Bayern Munich, DFB during the World Cups. Lots of different challenges. Women’s tennis and also some of their athlete ambassadors like Paula Kramer. There was a few different ones like that. And then some sailing. The extreme sailing series where I managed all the content for them and then the ICC Cricket for the cricket World Cup created some content online for them.

In my own time I was also still creating content and advising, like I did some sports policy advice in regards to, basically awareness for sport. And then I was also fronting a YouTube channel at the time called The Third Half, which was a rugby show which was really fun. 

But then I decided after a while, an agency. I also did some consultancy for a Red Bull and Nemar Junior Fives, and that was all digital. And it was all influenced marketing threaded into the larger piece. That was the first time we really did gift marketing as well through creators, which is quite different. 

And then I moved back into in-house cause I wanted a bit of a change. So I was doing my master’s part-time for sports marketing and then moved into a premier league football club, so now Premier league.

At the time it was championship, so division two led their digital strategy. At that time we were exploring dark social. So it was dark social influence marketing through the likes of WhatsApp with Adidas and creating that kind of content through creators, what is now known global as a tango squad.

I was actually the first person to partner with Adidas through our department, cause it was one of the few we got it. I think at the time in football and was like, okay so we had creators doing skills halftime on the pitch and it was all very new back then.

So that was 2015, 2016 and then I basically candidly realized that I was significantly underpaid when I started hiring some other people on my team. And had some good conversations with some senior people, the CEO being one of them, and just realized that they didn’t have the money cause it was division two at the time, but so I started looking and that’s when I saw the role at EA came up and it was to manage their football partnerships. 

So it was the whole rights portfolio for all their UK based global football partnerships for Fifa so Man United, Man City, which was part of City Football Group Kevin De Bruyne and then Premier League Football League. So all 72 clubs in the UK. 

And it was ranging from creative content. It was ranging to everything. I did that for about a year and a half. I loved it. It was huge. Working with athletes as creators and all the clubs as creators and the size of Man United Channels. 

And then I joined a new team at EA. So I moved from the football partnerships team into the talent and influencer marketing team was at the time. Creating partnerships with creators and obviously as I had a background in it, it was a natural fit for me. I was leading partnerships across all our sports portfolio, so FIFA, Madden, UFC, NHL and I always forget, one, but it’s like a baby.

At the time it was NBA as well, which was quite a big one, which I really enjoyed. Cause they have some really cool creators in that space. And I was also doing Sims, so Sims 4, which is a more lifestyle game which is huge. Again, the audience there is massively engaged. It was also very different types of games to work.

And now recently as I shifted back to the US. To the US I’ve moved more to the NFL. And so now I purely lead North American football, which is Madden, and then our college football franchise, which we’re planning on releasing soon. 

[00:09:40] Jessy: It makes a lot of sense. But it also very interesting to hear that like this all started because, you were a rugby influencer. That’s so so cool. And how great it must be to end up where you are today, which is very related, very current and like very niche also. I assume you see the through line between it all, which is really cool to see. 

And then EA for anybody who isn’t familiar. So EA stands for Electronic Arts and they develop and publish sports video games. A lot of our community is in a very, like a variety of different areas of influencer marketing, but we don’t have a lot of people who are in the niche that you’re in. 

I wanna learn so much more. It’s not an area that I’m incredibly familiar with, but I have always at least had it on my radar because, just cause I’m not into it. I am very well aware of how many people are like in that world and how much money there is, how much like notoriety and I mean it’s a huge area of not just influencer marketing, but culture in general. 

So my hope today is that you can educate me a little bit more, our audience, a little bit more about that world. I think first and foremost, I’d love to hear from you. What would you say is a misconception about gaming in terms of the influencer marketing industry? 

[00:11:14] Emma: The typical one is always that there’s a set type of gamer which, it used to be that it is just boys in their basements or 40 year olds in their basements with the 30, 40 year old virgin.

The reality is 50% of our players that we call customers, players are women. So electronic arts we do sports games, so sports and we also DEA games. We just acquired a mobile studio. There is so many diverse areas that you can go into, which I don’t really think people truly realize. 

The other ones is that only grant gaming brands are successful in gaming which ,couldn’t be further from the truth. All these different brands, can communicate with people in the way they really want to communicate.

And then the other one again is just that all gamers are the same and they all have all the same desires. And that couldn’t, again, be further from the truth. Just even in our portfolio, it’s different kinds of people play our different types of games. That’s another one as well. 

[00:12:22] Jessy: I don’t know. I would like to see our members, our community just open up their minds during this episode in particular, to just like even gain an education on the vast extent of how many people are involved in the world that you’re in on a day-to-day? We’re talking about like millions of people and some of it is US based. It’s also like on a global scale.

And I’d love to hear from you. Are there any distinctions between gaming US versus on a global scale in other countries? The reason I ask is because I hear a lot from our community. That, they’re looking to get their brand messaging out to, always to a specific audience, right? And a lot of instances they’re handling the US business of X, Y, Z brand. 

And so for those folks who are like, is this right for me? Is there a place for me here? What would you tell them? Is there a certain strategy that they should keep in mind? Or what is good for them to know and what opportunities lie in it for them? 

[00:13:37] Emma: So I would say that for our sports games, obviously you look at the sports that do well in that industry. So football, soccer is a global sport. Therefore, if you want to tap into a global audience, that’s probably your strongest bet. 

There’s so many different opportunities, and then you have the layers of the pure, just casual gamers. And then you have the competitive side of gaming, which is a whole new audience and growing rapidly.

 There are so many different audiences, it’s just as long as you know what you are trying, what kind of audience you are trying to tap into, then that’s where you have to have a conversation with two selects of me or one of my colleagues. 

 There’s quite a few of us that work with the different creators across the different areas globally and locally. And there’s, I think there’s about 50 of us globally that all work with creators at EA. Myself I’m global, so I’m based in the US but I will also work with local partners too. And then there’s other people that specialize in Latin or they specialize in we’ve got Germany or Apac, or all the different.

So yeah, there’s literally huge opportunity and huge chances there. 

[00:14:54] Jessy: And I appreciate you going through it cause that is the sentiment that I want to really make sure to get out there for this conversation in particular. The amount of opportunities and the sort of like limitless opportunities to reach a variety of different people is there.

And I think what’s so great is that if somebody simply sees that and says, huh? What opportunities are there? There’s something there. I have to just now figure it out. What’s the strategy for myself? You and your team are the people that they can touch base with then.

So I would love to hear now a little bit more about like your day to day, like maybe the types of creators that you work with what types of opportunities they’re working on. But also maybe even for women who are watching that are like, Emma has the coolest job. I wanna learn more about what she does. Tell us a little bit more on a day-to-day the type of work that you’re doing? 

[00:15:55] Emma: So first thing I’ll say, the standard every day’s different. And also it depends on what time of year it is. And again, since pre covid, post covid, it’s significantly changed as well. Pre Covid. I was in la LA New York or Paris once or twice a month for a shoot, which obviously has changed quite significantly.

I haven’t flown since a New York fashion shoot in 2020 in January, which is quite a while now. And it’s like we wanted to activate around the Super Bowl, but we couldn’t get out there because of because of Covid new variant. 

There are layers. So obviously we do a lot of recruitment in regards to creators and finding people that we should be we should be working with and I say that should be is, we just want to work with awesome people that love doing what they do.

Everything we focus on is authentic. And we try to be as authentic to our brand and the creators and their content as possible. So I’ll be honest, one of my pet biggest pet peeves is agencies tapping me up and be like, oh yeah, these are the people I represent.

And my first question obviously is do they game? Do they play our games? So a lot of my time is spent on recruitment meeting with agents and meeting with agencies and trying to find out who they represent.

And more than just that, it’s what do their creators want to create? Like we’re in planning, right now for the next iteration of our games, which launch between August, September time for the sports franchises that are their annual.

And for that it’s okay. So I’m looking at the likes of Mr. Beast. I’m looking at Faze Clan and I’m say, okay, how do we partner with them that makes sense for our audience and their audience? So it’s that kind of conversations we’re having now.

We’re also planning. For our sports games, we have a set like five big beats that every year we focus on in regards to, when we reveal the covers of our games, when we launch our games and holiday. So holiday Christmas time then we have some big in-game beats. 

So for those that aren’t used to the sports games is in our games, we have different modes. And one of them, for Madden and it’s called…, and you have items of different players and you can play as different players and you can strategize and play, each other at the at the type of football it is.

In those, it’s also monetizing. So you can buy these items or you can win these items for doing challenges. So throughout the year we have, team of the year, for example or team of the season where it’s the best of the best players in the world, we rank them, to have that conversation.

But then we obviously want creators to create content around that conversation. So it’s things like that as well. And then we partner with partners of the league, but those are also the kinds of things we’re creating and partnering around.

And then when it comes to execution, is it a virtual event? And also another thing to mention when we work with agencies, we like to work with people that A, care about their creators. I just won’t work with agents that I don’t feel are authentic and true to what they’re doing.

And then also, diversity and inclusion is huge for us. So before I start a campaign, look through my target list with my colleagues and just make sure that we are really looking at trying to represent physically, the people that play our games. 

So we are talking across every different type of minority from different type of nationality and race. Sexual orientation, gender. It’s trying to make sure that everyone looks at our content as that’s me. That’s the aim for everything we do.

And then the other types of execution going back there on ground. So I could be doing a shoot with 10 different creators and we are capturing them for them to be in game. Which is also a lovely piece, we do. 

Someone like Lisa Freestar was an ambassador I’ve worked with for a long time. She’s the biggest freestyler in the world. So yeah, we capture them in body suits. You’ll see sometimes they post it on their social just cause it’s really cool. It’s got lots of little funny stickers. And then we just capture their movement and their facial recognition software so that we can make sure they look the like themselves in game.

And the other ones are big events. I think it was 56 different creators that were all freestylers from across the world. So Rio was represented, London was represented, Paris was represented, and my team would do everything in regards to managing the execution of those creators. So we’ll be there, to honest on site, they normally call me mom because I’m checking in on ’em so much to make sure just everything is just working and they’re happy.

And then also it’s onsite. It’s creating content opportunities that wouldn’t normally, like we hadn’t planned. And the Play Event what, three years ago now? Juju Schuster and Lisa Freestar were in the same room and I was like, okay, what content we can we create. 

She basically nutmegged him for that night. It’s a soccer move , he just looks a little silly cause he, she was obviously soccer’s her sport and it was a funny piece and it went straight. It was, the press picked it up like that and I think it had 5 million views within a matter of hours. Just because it was just a piece of random content. We had a creator and an athlete together and people love to see it, cause you wouldn’t normally.

So yeah, there’s lots of different pieces. There’s obviously lots of admin to, from recapping, reporting, contracting. Yesterday I had to pay a hundred creators through our platform. So it’s some days it’s very much more admin heavy. But I’m also very lucky that we have the processes in place at EA that make it very easy for us to pay people and contract people through the different platform. 

And we have quite standard terms with how we work as well. I think we can be that way because creators know that we like them to be authentic themselves to themselves. I’m not gonna go to creator and say, you have to say X, X, X. I’m gonna say, here’s the hashtags, here’s the @ mentions. 

This is what we’re trying to get to. Be your best self. Create that content. I will wanna see it before it goes out for most cases, but other than that, I just working with you because I trust you to make awesome content. That’s how we work and there’s a lot of trust involved in what we do, which is great. 

[00:23:59] Jessy: I love that. I hope that I’m sure that everyone listening is oh, thank you for walking me through that. I think that it’s a broad range of things that you’re doing, but I think that’s the sort of like the theme of this conversation perhaps, is that, there’s so much happening in your world on such a broad scale. There’s so many opportunities and I just hope that people really take that away from this conversation today. 

I would love to just get a sense of like your thoughts just on influencer marketing broadly. What do you wish was different about influencer marketing? 

[00:24:36] Emma: So, I came from a sport, but when I was PR I had the creators I was working with, they were a lot of mummy bloggers. Which they were literally mummy bloggers back in the day. So as a blog post, that was the target, an editorial piece. 

But the way the influencer market changed in the last decade is there’s a lot more reliance on people just wanting to be things or just wanting to be an influencer for no real reason. And it might sound strange, but it’s like I’m lucky to the fact that the creators I work with, they either love a sport or they love our games or so for the likes of Kin and Shipko, who I work with for Sims, she was massively relevant to our realm of magic campaign and we got her some, create some really awesome she cast some spout and she has a skill cause she’s an actress and she’s awesome and I was obsessed with Rome Advent, et cetera. 

But there’s so much more now. There’s a shift towards just people wanting to be famous for being famous sick, which I personally struggle. And then, it is hit and miss with sometimes of agents in relation to, I worked with some incredible agents with CAA and Loaded and some smaller boutique agencies and to us, sometimes creators don’t have agents, even though they have a couple of hundred million followers. They still do prefer to do things themselves and they are awesome because they are truly doing what’s best for the client and they’re doing what’s stress for us as a brand. And they’re trying to deliver to that high standard, and I too much would rarely get that down. And it comes to publishing content.

But I do see and I have seen other people in regards to some agents who just aren’t doing what’s best for their client. There is now a reliance on agents, which is needed because the level of the contracts that people deal with now. And to be honest, some people, they need that agent to be that voice, cause it is sometimes it’s hard to argue for yourself, especially when it comes to payment. And your worth. And I know that from personal experience.

I just feel like some agents are just not there for the creative. They’re just there to get a paycheck. 

[00:27:15] Jessy: Can we dig into that a little bit? I’d love to hear like, how can managers do better? There’s a lot of talent managers in our community.

And let’s talk to the ones who are well-intentioned. What can they be doing better that you think would help facilitate a better partnership with a great company like the one that you work for ?

[00:27:38] Emma: I think it’s twofold. Sometimes people know their worth, but they think they’re worth a lot more. And then the kind of feels right. And by that I say that like a brand like myself, the content we create and using our brand drives additional engagement because of the fact that we are such a strong brand and we will engage with content. So it’s naturally gonna get a higher impressions and reach and engagement.

But with that, it’s sometimes, some people come at me and the prices are just crazy. And then I just have to politely say, I’m sorry. I would love to work with you, but I just can’t afford it. And the reason I will say that is because I work out people’s value in regards to I have a formula I use and it’s very much linked to views and engagement, where still there’s such a reliance on follow and total followers.

And when that’s really not where the value comes for a brand like mine. For mine, it’s, we need to know that people are gonna see that content. We know we people are gonna engage with that content. I’m not that interested in what the total impressions are or the total followers cause I need to know is it’s a relevant audience.

So that’s one of the first things is don’t buy followers. Don’t buy engagements. Don’t buy likes because someone like myself or one of my colleagues, we will know. And we will just politely step back.

But the other side is, if you’re going to a brand like me, as I said earlier, is don’t come at me and just give me a list of people that you want me to work with. Come at me and say, okay, X and X love playing this game. They’ve been playing it for this long. These are the kind of things they’d love to create. That to me, makes my life easy. It makes your life easy cause it’s more likely that I’m gonna be like, okay, awesome. 

I might not come back straight away, but in four or five or six months when we actually start activating our plans, I’ll think of that person, just by the nature or one of my team members will be like, okay, that person makes sense because, I write it all down. If someone comes at me and says, these persons are up and coming, I will have a note somewhere and be like, okay, that person sounds interesting. Or I’ll follow them in Instagram or TikTok and be like, okay, when I come across them again. That’s really cool.

But then the other side is with the oppressions and it’s not coming over. Sometimes, I have worked with a few people recently. The numbers they were showing me and they were huge, and the reality of our partnership was the contented really poorly. 

I personally was actually quite shocked with how badly some of the content did because I’d seen all the different channels, but then it’s okay, so that’s clearly that they’ve been buying likes and impressions, or they’ve been doing other things that agencies used to do, and I’ve seen agencies do it from aggregations or running content through different networks to inflate the following. Which is also quite common with unpaid media work.

But I won’t work with that person again now. And that agent, when he comes to me, it’s like, I don’t really wanna work with him because I don’t trust that the content he’s creating is true. And we do remember it’s a small industry. Like I’ve been here for a decade and obviously we have Wiim. There’s a group like we do share information. 

So I do think you just need to be truthful. And if things aren’t working and you are not getting the engagement numbers, you think you should be, change your strategy because of the creator is awesome. They clearly do have that potential. And like the likes of myself is, I do actually want, find people, especially in the diverse space and grow their channels, that’s one of the big things we do is we have, something called a creative network.

And we have a platform now that we manage a lot of our relationships online. I still have all the individual relationships, but it’s just when it comes to managing opportunities, cause we do a lot throughout the season or the year, and it’s bringing people into that network and actually okay. Their channels might be, but we see potential and they do make good content. They just don’t have the following yet.

We will fuel them. We’ve done it a lot. Some of our biggest FIFA creators are people that were very small and we just kept giving them opportunities and opportunities so to help them grow. But KSI was a EA creator. That’s how we started and he got famous for actually not so nice things about FIFA. That’s how he got so famous in the start. And it’s like the Sideman, who’s his friends. They’re all big EA creators because, they’ve been creating for us for a long time. 

And then the other side of it is just make sure your creators are doing the right things. Doing the advert like hashtag sponsor baier for us or just hashtag. Just making sure you’re doing the right things and if you say you’re going to do something, do it and be prompt. 

When it comes to recaps, I know it’s painful getting Instagram story captures. But that’s what we need to see because that’s how we prove that creator did what we said they would do to our leadership team, where 72 hours it was just little bits like that. It’s just being a good partner to be honest. 

[00:33:41] Jessy: It’s all about relationships and building trust. And building the sentiment that like we are partners. And so all of these to me, are like best practices. It’s really important to have empathy for the person on the other side of that partnership to know if I were your partner, I’d be like, I want you to look great to everybody else that you are reporting to.

I appreciate everything that you just shared. I think our last question for today, and I’m very excited to hear from you, it’s more about yourself as a professional, having been in the industry now for 10 plus years. If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?

[00:34:27] Emma: I would always say that to have more confidence in myself and my own abilities. I wouldn’t say I’ve done some poor career moves through my time. But it’s cause everything is a learning. But I feel like sometimes, I should have just backed myself more.

It wasn’t always the easiest industry because obviously sport for being a female. And I did get a lot of doors shut. I didn’t really feel that should have been, and I don’t think they would’ve been if I was a male. But it’s just keep trying and just keep backing myself more and also when it comes to salary and just know my worth more. Cause I know I did a lot of work for free to try and get more experience and it’s just like I should have been paid for a lot more work that I did back in the day, lots of volunteer work and event work, just to get experience. I should have really done it for pay. 

 But for me it was like, to get that experience, so I’ll just do it. But yeah, it’s just seeing the opportunities and just enjoying it more. I think I worked a lot, so I had three jobs. I had a full-time and two part-time jobs, an additional part-time job from the beginning of my career until I joined EA because I wasn’t being paid enough, so I had to make up forever else. 

So I was just continuously tired and that was even before having a baby. So it was like, I think earn more money and try and enjoy myself a bit more and work a little less hard. 

[00:36:16] Jessy: My hope is that, future generations won’t have to experience what we did. Like my hope is that by you sharing that, like this is what I wish my myself 10 years ago, I could have told myself 10 years ago by the current generation and future generations hearing that I hope that they can bypass the stress and the hardships that we went through.

But simultaneously, it also made you exactly who you are today. I’m sure you have a killer work ethic because you had to work three jobs. I know I do, right? It’s a double-edged sword. But I appreciate that.

I appreciate everything that you’ve shared today, and I’m so genuinely grateful that you’re part of the Wiim community. I feel like you very clearly add such a cool perspective to the group, and I’m so excited for our members to get to know you more. 

So please be active, please, everybody listening, reach out to her. What’s the best way for them to get in touch with you? 

[00:37:17] Emma: Everything is Emma Waldren. So Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, or Slack. I’m on Slack 24/7 because that’s how we communicate at work. 

[00:37:26] Jessy: Perfect. And thank you so much for sharing that. If you’re a member Emma mentioned Slack. All of our members have access to that Slack board, and so it’s an incredible way to just like directly DM her. She said she could.

We’ll list all of that in the show notes, this episode here. But thank you so much for joining us today and we will see everybody else next week. Thanks guys.

Emma Waldren

Social Influencers Manager (Lifestyle Creators Lead), NA Football, EA SPORTS

A seasoned multi-award-winning global brand marketer with experience designing, assembling and executing authentic, meaningful integrated marketing communications projects. Across internal and external audiences through data-driven insights, disruptive creative, commercial innovation and first-class relationship management.

Part of the creator economy for over a decade – as a creator (top 4% of all social media users, Klout, 2015), marketing lead at a Premier League club, agency-side (on behalf of athletes, founders and brands) and currently creator lead at EA SPORTS.

An advocate for ‘others’, I also Co-Chair Electronic Arts’ Women’s Employee Resource Group’s UK Chapter and sit on Women in Football’s Marketing and Finance Committee.

Book Your Session