By Barry Janoff
August 19, 2013: The first version of the now iconic video game, Madden NFL, was release in 1988 for Commodore, Apple II and Ms-DOS operating systems.
It was at that time, according to Electronic Arts folklore, that two guys became so immersed in the game that the soon envisioned a time when their sons would play football so that the dads could go at one another ad infinitum.
The two future NFL stars turned out to be running backs Arian Foster of the Houston Texans and Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks. And their dads, at least in the folklore version, were Darien Foster and Marshawn Lynch Sr.
It is the real Foster and Lynch who play their fictitious dads (Arian's real father's name is Carl, Lynch was raised by a single mom) and watch their son's grow into NFL stars in EA Sports' "Running Back Sons," a 70-second spot that supports the release of Madden NFL 25 on Aug. 27.
"Running Back Sons" broke on ESPN during Monday Night Football and will go into regular rotation on network and cable sports programming, with versions including 15-, 30- and the entire minute and ten seconds..
The commercial opens in the late 1980s and continues through to 2013, following the dads as they play new versions of Madden NFL on ever-updated versions of TVs and tech support systems. We also watch as the sons go through rigorous training — running over a bear, jumping through flaming tires, pulling a car, lifting not just weights but entire weight racks — to reach the NFL.
The spot does not end with the closing scene. When viewed on the Web, it is an interactive link that leads to an EA Sports micro-site loaded with such options as a "Making of Running Back Sons" snapshots and information, a bevy of Madden NFL 25 features and another link to a Fathead day one promotion.
We first see Darien Foster and Marshawn Lynch Sr. as young men playing Madden Football. A voiceover offers, "The '80s. While playing NFL Madden for the first time, Darien Foster and Marshawn Lynch Sr. start an epic rivalry that will shape football in the modern era. They realize that if they raise sons to be elite NFL running backs, they can use them to school each other in Madden. A unique and highly unorthodox conditioning program becomes the crux of their training."
As their sons train and grow to NFL running backs, the two dads continue their war of words and one-on-on battle via Madden NFL, ultimately seeing their sons become part of the game. "He learned that move from my son," one dad says to the other watching their kids in Madden NFL 25. "He didn't learn anything from your son," says the other.'
Watching Lynch perform a particularly strenuous move on the Madden NFL field, his dad exclaims, "That's that beast mode right there," a reference to Lynch's self-proclaimed nickname. The voiceover continues, "Today, the sons have become offensive threats of their fathers' dreams. Spinning and deking their way to Madden offensive domination. A season 25 years in the making. Madden NFL 25. In stores Aug. 27.
The final shot shows Foster and Lynch in action on a TV screen with text, "See more of a season 25 years in the making." (See the full spot here.)
Total sales of Madden NFL games has topped 90 million and $3 billion in sales since 1988, according to EA Sports.
Foster has rushed for more than 4,500 yards and 44 touchdowns in four seasons (and has another 1,531 yards and six touchdowns receiving). Lynch has nearly 2,800 yards rushing and 23 rushing touchdowns in two years with Seattle.
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