GAMING & ESPORTS

LaLiga, Verizon Pick Up the Sticks for a Gaming Golazo

The eLaLiga All-Star Challenge uses EA Sports FIFA to engage Hispanic Americans and connect them with the stars of the Spanish league, including Mexico national team winger Diego Lainez.

Diego Lainez loves soccer. Well, fútbol, to be more precise.

When he isn’t suiting up for Real Betis in LaLiga or the Mexico national team, the winger is still playing the Beautiful Game — the virtual version. “Playing EA Sports FIFA is one of my favorite hobbies outside of soccer,” Lainez told Boardroom.

The 21-year-old midfielder is far from the only footballer fond of FIFA; countless past legends and current stars like Kylian Mbappe, Erling Haaland, and Trent Alexander-Arnold have all expressed their special love for the Electronic Arts franchise. Liverpool forward Diogo Jota not only won the 2020 ePremier League Invitational after beating teammate Alexander-Arnold in the final, but has not-once-but-twice gone 30-0 on FIFA Ultimate Team Champions to solidify his place atop the global rankings.

Perhaps Italian icon Andrea Pirlo, another famous FIFA fanatic, put it best: “After the wheel, the best invention is the PlayStation.” On the day of the 2006 FIFA World Cup final, Pirlo said he slept in, played PlayStation, and “In the evening, I went out and won the World Cup.”

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Listed in Guinness World Records as the best-selling sports video game franchise in the world, the FIFA series has sold more than 325 million copies as of 2021. And with millions across the globe playing the games year-round across all manner of platforms, it only makes sense to leverage FIFA’s popularity to find new ways to engage existing fans of the world’s most popular sport and cultivate a rising generation of supporters for the years and decades to come.

With that in mind, LaLiga North America, a joint venture between Spain’s top league and Relevent Sports Group, has partnered with Verizon for the second year to engage Hispanic Americans through the eLaLiga All-Star Challenge, a gaming competition presented by Verizon.

This year, amateur gamers will have the opportunity to showcase their skills to one another in the hopes of winning up to $1,000 and the ultimate prize: A trip for two to Spain for a LaLiga experience. Additionally, they’ll have a chance to play against their favorite LaLiga stars — including João Félix and Luis Suarez (Atlético Madrid), Jesús “Tecatito” Corona (Sevilla FC), and Lainez — as part of the Celebrity Challenge.

“EA Sports FIFA is a great way to bridge the gap between gamers and sports fans to get them interested in the sport,” said Lainez. “It also helps new fans get familiar with European clubs and players, making them feel more connected to the game itself.”

Last year’s inaugural event had more than 6,300 US-based participants competing for bragging rights and the ultimate prize. The competition delivered 4.6 million video views and 190 million impressions across 6.4 million minutes of streamed content, according to LaLiga North America.

Currently, the United States has the second-largest Spanish-speaking population on the planet behind Mexico. With 13% of the population already speaking the language at home, estimates are that by 2050, 1 in 3 people in the US will speak Spanish (including bilingual people who also speak English).

On March 25, Lainez had his turn to grab his controller and compete against some lucky fans:

For LaLiga North America, the initiative is a win-win to not only provide a platform for current fans to further their interest in the league and its players, but also to engage with new fans in the US as soccer’s popularity continues to grow. Soccer is the second-most-popular sport to watch for Americans between 18 and 34 years old, according to a recent Gallup poll.

“This initiative is cool because it gives fans the chance to play EA Sports FIFA against current LaLiga players, merging the video game and soccer fan experience,” Lainez says. “People will play, tell their friends, and the community will grow—particularly among Hispanic American gamers given the professional players like me that LaLiga has selected for this program.”

The competition’s Celebrity Challenge continues May 6 when João Félix of Atlético Madrid and the Portugal national team picks up the sticks. This summer, the “Final Challenge” takes place to determine the ultimate winner of the trip to Spain.

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