Songs For Screens is a Variety column sponsored by music experiential agency MAC Presents, based in NYC. It is written by Andrew Hampp, a brand partnership specialist and former correspondent for Billboard. Each week, the column will highlight noteworthy use of music in advertising and marketing campaigns, as well as new and catalog songs that we deem ripe for synch use.
While there may not be a Team USA at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia this summer, there’s no denying the impact that FIFA fans have on launching music from across the world – just ask K’naan, Shakira and Ricky Martin, among many others.
That extends to EA Sports’ wildly popular FIFA World Cup video-game series, which has accumulated more than 21 million players worldwide. To announce its downloadable FIFA 18 World Cup tournament feature, EA Sports premiered a new trailer starring Portuguese soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo that debuted a new song, “Run Wild,” by Nigerian-born rapper Thutmose and German singer/songwriter NoMBe — both signees to Th3rd Brain Records, a label services division of the management company by the same name. In just four days of release, the trailer has already racked up over 10 million views across Facebook and YouTube alone.
The infectious rap-rock track “Run Wild” was submitted by Th3rd Brain’s head of music supervision Michael Gaertner late in the supervision process led by Raphaella Lima, who oversees global partnerships marketing at EA Sports. Though the trailer had already featured a different music placement by the time “Run Wild” came across Lima’s desk, she made an eleventh-hour recommendation to switch things up. “It’s hard to hit that tone where you have something with emotion that’s fresh. With my [team], it’s, ‘Let’s go for AC/DC.’ I’m like, ‘Guys, that’s you and everybody else. It’s not special.’”
Unreleased at the time of submission, “Run Wild” originated as a song for Thutmose’s upcoming debut album before the rapper decided to set it aside to focus on the more hip-hop leaning vibe of tracks like “Ride With Me” and “WuWu.” “I have certain songs that have been a product of my own sound that wouldn’t technically fit, but I make them I love sports and I’ll create anthems to keep myself going for motivational purposes,” says Thutmose. “When the FIFA thing came about, I was like, ‘Yeah, this is one of the few instances where this would make sense. I grew up playing soccer, all my friends play FIFA, so to me it was a no-brainer – just push the button.”
NoMBe, whose rock and soul-influenced debut They Might’ve Even Loved Me dropped in March, joined the track as part of an upcoming collaborative EP with Thutmose and jumped at the opportunity to premiere the song simultaneous with the trailer’s premiere on April 30. “We had this organic connection with the music department at EA Sports. They’re just honest music lovers who don’t really care where a song comes from. They just care about making something really big, so if it’s something unreleased and really new they can be a discovery tool. In a lot of ways it’s really preferable to putting a song out on your own.”
Though FIFA isn’t as big in North America as it is across the globe, Th3rd Brain’s Gaertner sees the trailer as the ideal launching pad for both U.S.-based artists. “Thutmose and NoMBe are both immigrants, and their song is being used for the World Cup , which is basically a celebration of this event where the whole world comes together,” he says. “Synch fees are great, and at the end of the day we’re trying to help our artists live their life, but this early in the game we just really care about the exposure and getting them out there. We’ll probably drive more sales outside of North America than in North America.”
And the relationship between EA Sports, Thutmose and NoMBe won’t end with the “Run Wild” synch. “The brand has a desire to implement Thutmose and NoMBe into multiple games and events that we have coming up,” says Lima. “This trailer has definitely opened the doors to different titles once the fall comes, and hopefully continue to grow and do more in ways that we’re just really building together.”