Zynga, the world's leading provider of social game services, today announced its partnership with American Express to launch the first-ever Words With Friends Celebrity Challenge. Beginning today, players can join in on the action simply by playing Words With Friends for their favorite celebrity team. The challenge features Kristen Bell, Sophia Bush, Jonah Hill, John Legend, Snoop Lion, Eva Longoria, Edward Norton and Paul Pierce all competing against one another -- with help from their team -- for a chance to grab a piece of a $500,000 winnings cache for their charity of choice.
Players can join a team starting today and celebrity gameplay kickoffs off on Thursday, September 27, and run through October 3. Players can play for free by downloading Words With Friends on iOS or Android, and follow the celebrity matchups at www.WordsCelebrityChallenge.com. As part of the experience, players can also donate directly to a celebrity's charity of choice thanks to a partnership with fundraising site CrowdRise.
"We hope that everyone joins in and plays with their favorite celebrity. When it comes to charity, every word counts, and there is no easier way to donate to a good cause then by simply playing a few rounds of Words With Friends," said Travis Boatman, senior vice president of mobile at Zynga. "We are excited to be working with our founding sponsor American Express for the Words With Friends Celebrity Challenge, and want to thank our celebrities for having fun with our players to raise awareness for their charities."
"Giving back to the community is a hallmark of American Express, and we are thrilled to be able to partner on this incredibly innovative, engaging and fun program that will bring together celebrities, fans and charities in the spirit of competition to benefit six amazing charities," said Susan Hammes, vice president of digital brand and social media development at American Express. "Words with Friends is an extremely powerful social game that has shown its ability to connect millions of users. We wish the best of luck to the celebrities and fans who will join us in the Words With Friends Celebrity Challenge."
Here's how players can get involved:
Join and Play -- Join a celebrity team and help them win a chunk of the $500,000 for their cause by playing the most words in your own Words With Friends game. Every word played in a game during the length of the tournament will help boost the team's ranking. The higher the rank, the more money the team wins for charity.
Give -- You can still get involved, even if you're not a wordsmith. By making donations, fans will be able to compete for cool prizes, including autographed items, like basketballs from Paul Pierce and posters from Kristin Bell and Jonah Hill.
American Express wants to help players make every word count by giving away free Word-O-Meters. The Word-O-Meter measures the strength of your word to help you make the best possible moves. When players join a celebrity's team and play their first word in any Words With Friends game, they immediately receive 50 free Word-O-Meters.
"We are all about making fundraising fun through competition and games at CrowdRise, so this couldn't be a better partnership for us," said Edward Norton, who in addition to competing in the tournament is also the founder of CrowdRise. "Zynga knows a thing or two about social gaming, and it's awesome to see them using that knowledge to engineer impact."
The charities each celebrity will be playing for:
Eva Longoria -- The Eva Longoria Foundation: The Eva Longoria Foundation helps Latinas build better futures for themselves and their families through education and entrepreneurship. The Eva Longoria Foundation supports programs which help Latinas excel in school and attend college, and works to provide Latina entrepreneurs with career training, mentorship, capital and opportunity. By investing in Latinas, the Eva Longoria Foundation hopes to build a stronger future for our country.
Jonah Hill and Kristen Bell -- Harlem Grown: Harlem Grown is a non-profit organization that partners with the NYC Parks Department, Department of Education and a variety of food advocacy and community agriculture organizations. Their mission is to increase the capacity of communities and students to access nature and green spaces, to engage these communities with nutritional and outdoor educational opportunities and improve access to a wider range of healthy foods while focusing on food justice issues.
Edward Norton and Sophia Bush -- Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust: The Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust works to protect the legendary ecosystems and astounding biodiversity of East Africa. MWCT aims to preserve the Maasai way of life through responsible eco-safaris and comprehensive programs in conservation, health and education that directly benefit local Maasai communities.
John Legend -- The Show Me Campaign: The Show Me Campaign works to fight poverty using proven solutions that give people the opportunity to survive, thrive, and succeed. Believing that equal access to quality education is the civil rights issue of our time, the Show Me Campaign promotes education reform in the United States. In Africa, Show Me has worked with Millennium Promise to provide clean water, health care, education and other basic tools that break the cycle of poverty.
Snoop Lion -- The Snoop Youth Football League: Founded by entertainment icon Snoop Lion, The Snoop Youth Football League is a non-profit organization providing inner-city children the chance to participate in youth football and cheer. The SYFL serves children between the ages of five and thirteen, teaching them the values of teamwork, good sportsmanship, discipline, and self-respect, while also stressing the importance of academics.
Paul Pierce -- Truth On Health -- The Truth Fund: Boston Celtics captain Paul "The Truth" Pierce and his foundation, The Truth Fund, launched The Truth on Health Campaign to help empower and encourage young people to lead healthier lifestyles. The Truth on Health includes an awareness campaign and sustainable programming for young people to live healthy lifestyles -- incorporating physical fitness and healthy eating, and encouraging a commitment/pledge of 60 minutes per day dedicated to physical activity.
Play A Celebrity Sweepstakes
Players will also have a chance to play a game of Words With Friends against their team's celebrity. As part of the Words With Friends Celebrity Challenge, players who join a celebrity team and play five words in any Words With Friends game during the tournament will be automatically entered in the Play A Celebrity Sweepstakes. Winners will be announced on www.WordsCelebrityChallenge.com on October 4. Limit one entry per person. No purchase or word play is necessary;
Words With Friends is available for free from the App store on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch for $2.99.
In 2011 CrowdRise topped Mashable's list of "Most Innovative Crowdfunding Platforms" and was named a "Top 25 Best Global Philanthropist" by Barron's. CrowdRise was founded by actor and activist Edward Norton, producer Shauna Robertson, and the founders of Moosejaw, Robert and Jeffro Wolfe.
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