SBJ/August 13 - 19, 2001/Marketingsponsorship

Sega throws $20M behind liftoff for sports

Sega of America will spend $20 million behind the launch of its new Sega Sports video games this fall as the company moves away from being a hardware manufacturer and begins selling software only next year. Its NFL 2K2 game, which hits stores next month, will be the first Sega game ever offered for multiple platforms, including Sony's PlayStation2 and Microsoft's much anticipated Xbox, as well as the Sega Dreamcast. The NBA 2K2 will follow in October, with PlayStation2 and Dreamcast varieties. Both will be supported by dedicated television ads from Leagas Delaney-San Francisco. A general Sega Sports brand ad kicks off the campaign during the Sept. 17 "Monday Night Football" game between the Vikings and Ravens.

"What's different this year is Sega Sports is really going to become its own entity and step a little bit away from Sega," said Stacey Kerr, the product manager for Sega Sports.

She said the creative has not been set and the company hasn't decided whether athletes will appear in the campaign. Randy Moss is the primary spokesman for the NFL game, appearing on the game box and in point-of-sale materials at the very least. Allen Iverson fronts the NBA game.

The Sega Sports 2K2 series kicks off this month with Major League Baseball and NCAA titles. Pedro Martinez and Drew Brees appear on their respective covers. With the Rose Bowl staging the national championship game for the first time under the Bowl Championship Series setup, Sega has obtained a special license and will theme the game around a "Road to the Rose Bowl" competition.

It has not yet been determined whether Sega's college game will rotate along with the Bowl Championship Series in future years, highlighting the Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl and Fiesta Bowl when appropriate. That's a little far ahead for Sega to be thinking, after not even having an NCAA title last year and staying out of sports games for several years before that.

Sega got back into sports gaming with the launch of the Dreamcast platform in 1999. Dreamcast has shipped 8 million units worldwide, the company says, but was never the hit some had predicted. It will be discontinued at the end of this year, marking Sega's exit from the hardware business.

Other Sega Sports titles will include tennis and NHL.

SOMETHING TO BUILD ON: The monthly kids' workshops that go on at all 1,200-plus Home Depot stores have been renamed the "Olympic Kids Workshop." Now, instead of building bird cages and picnic benches at these events, participants are putting together miniature bobsleds, pin holders and an Olympic ring toss game. More than 100 stores have already bought special kits to run the Olympic workshop, and a Home Depot representative said orders have been flying in for the last two weeks. Stores must buy materials for the workshops out of their own budgets, but Home Depot supported the launch by picking up the tabs for 15 key locations, as well as decorating the stores with Olympic banners and other paraphernalia. The program extends to Canada and Puerto Rico and will run through March of next year.

COWBOYS CAR TALK: Jerry Jones may run into problems with the NFL if he moves ahead with tentative plans for the Dallas Cowboys to own a NASCAR race team. It's not a multiple team ownership issue, as the NFL constitution — which bans team owners from having a stake in clubs from other leagues outside of their home NFL market — does speak to motorsports. If Jones tried to sell sponsorships on a Dallas Cowboys race car, however, things could get sticky. The trademarks of the Dallas Cowboys are controlled by the league, and the NFL would probably claim the rights to approve or quash sponsorships of a car or race team that bears the Cowboys name in any way. The league would probably try to block brands such as American Express and Pepsi, which compete with NFL sponsors but back Texas Stadium and deal extensively with Jones, from having any national association with the Cowboys name. And if Jones were not able to leverage the name of the team with his NASCAR venture, he would be no different than any other wealthy businessman getting into motorsports. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the sponsorship issue is something the league "would have to look into" if Jones or the Cowboys move ahead with the plan.

Andy Bernstein can be reached at abernstein@amcity.com.

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