[Updated 12/22/14 11 pm with a correction: Our story incorrectly reported the number of views for the Game of War: Fire Age YouTube ad. That ad has more than 2.5 million views across various YouTube posts over four weeks. That number is more than the 2 million reported for the FIFA 15 ad over two weeks.]

One of the world’s biggest sports stars is turning into a smart investment for game maker Electronic Arts.

Last week, EA Sports started airing a new Christmas commercial advertising its FIFA 15 soccer game. It features FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi taking on Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard in a FIFA 15 match while snowmen and holiday ornaments sing all around them. The 50 second spot is on television networks, but it is online where the ad is really catching on, according to iSpot.tv, which is a website that tracks ads live as they happen on TV and the Internet. The commercial has more than 2 million online views from Dec. 5 through Dec. 21. Compare that to the TV version of developer Machine Zone’s ad for Game of War starring swimsuit model Kate Upton, which only has around 200,000 online views. Even if you combine all forms of the ad — and not just the TV version — Machine Zone’s Kate Upton commercials have more than 2.5 million views. But those ads appeared on YouTube and TV for more than two weeks longer than EA’s FIFA ad.

With gaming companies spending more than $675 million on TV ads this year through Dec. 18, it’s important for marketers to get as much return on their investment as possible.

While both of these ads are appearing on television, EA and Machine Zone can get a lot more from them online, since it’s a far less expensive medium for marketers. In fact, iSpot.tv estimates that 100 percent of online views for the FIFA 15 video were completely organic. That means that EA didn’t pay to play the video for others. Again, compare that to Upton and Game of War, which iSpot.tv estimates paid for more than a third of its 200,000 views. The company bases these figures on its own model that monitors user interactions with each video, and it’s one that the company claims is consistent with what advertisers see within their own analytics.

The end result is that EA is paying to air some ads on TV, but the popularity of Messi and Hazard are helping to carry the video to far more people. Meanwhile, Machine Zone is plunking down millions for the TV spots and then even more on top of that to get some views on the Web.

“TV views are just as important as they’ve always been,” iSpot.tv chief executive officer Sean Muller told GamesBeat. “What has changed is the ability to connect offline and online and measure integrated campaign success.”

Mobile developer or publisher?
Learn how the most successful developers get better users for less money.

Muller explains that advertisers are able to immediately judge how a campaign is doing based on the reaction they are seeing online.

“With the major brands and Hollywood studios we work with, marketing departments are evolving how they measure return-on-investment,” said Muller. “Judging a good portion of TV ad campaign success by their ability to generate earned online activity whether it be views, shares, likes, or comments. We’re living in the future that advertisers have dreamed about since the birth of the Web — now, they can integrate campaign efforts offline and online because they have the tools to measure cross-platform success in real time.”

ISpot.tv claims that Machine Zone has spent more than $12 million since the start of December to broadcast the Upton spot more than 1,300 times. EA, meanwhile, has paid approximately $1.2 million for 157 airings.

None of this is to say that Machine Zone made a poor investment. Messi and Hazard are probably very expensive to book for a commercial, so EA might have more of an upfront cost. And the Machine Zone commercial is at least getting people online and looking for Game of War … or maybe just more pictures of Kate Upton. ISpot.tv tracked more than 20,000 searches related to this ad since the start of December, while only seeing around 2,000 for the FIFA 15 commercial.

This suggests that Messi is likely spreading virally through social media, while people are seeing Upton and searching her out when the commercial airs during big events like football games.

GamesBeat Black Friday Gift Guide: Everything we recommend this holiday season