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EA ratchets up in-game advertising with Sports Illustrated swimsuit models

2011 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue cover model Irina Shayk and model Chrissy Teigen’s likenesses will appear in the upcoming video game Need for Speed: The Run.

Electronic Arts

Remember the Lamborghini babes in the 1982 Burt Reynolds vehicle Cannonball Run? Their scantily clad analogs will appear in Need for Speed: The Run. Sort of.

Electronic Arts announced Tuesday that the likenesses of 2011 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue cover model Irina Shayk and model Chrissy Teigen will appear in the game as part of a promotional deal struck between the game publisher and popular sports magazine.

To bring you up to speed, Need for Speed: The Run – the 18th instalment in EA's long-running racing game franchise, set for release November 15th – has players illegally speeding across the United States, from San Francisco to New York. Made by Black Box, an EA subsidiary based in Burnaby, B.C., its inspiration comes from races like the infamous Cannonball Run, which was unofficially run four times in the 1970s prior to the Reynolds film based on it.

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Ms. Teigan and Ms. Shayk have apparently been brought on board to flesh out the cast of computer-controlled drivers against whom players will compete in the game, which, for the first time in the series, will include out-of-car sequences. The two women play best friends competing in the race (no word yet on whether they're driving a Lamborghini, though one can always hope).

The cross promotion isn't limited to the models' appearance in the game. Electronic Arts is offering a bundle that will see buyers receive a six-month "All Access" subscription to Sports Illustrated, a copy of Need for Speed: The Run for PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, and a Making of Need for Speed: The Run documentary DVD starring the two swimsuit models for $50.

This unusual tactic takes in-game advertising to a new level. But gamers shouldn't be surprised. Already worth over $700-million annually, experts believe that companies will spend $1-billion to get their brands in games by 2014. That kind of dough can buy plenty of invasive marketing.

What do you think of the Sports Illustrated/Electronic Arts deal? Is seeing virtual versions of familiar faces better or worse than, say, driving past an in-game billboard? Sound off in the comments section if you have an opinion.

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About the Author
Game and Gadget Reporter

Chad Sapieha has been writing about video games and consumer gadgets for the Globe and Mail since 2003. His work has been published in magazines, newspapers, and Web sites across North America, and he has appeared as an expert on television and radio newscasts. More

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