Sega of America is introducing the next generation of the speedy blue video-game brand for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, designed to lure back the 18- to 34-year-old set that in recent years has lost interest as the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise began skewing much younger.
While Sonic, along with Mario of Mario Brothers, is one of the most consistently recognized characters in gaming, the franchise hasn't had a major hit, or major marketing push, in several years. Part of the issue has been that Sega exited the console-making business and therefore didn't need a blockbuster title to launch new console generations. But the other reason is simply loss of interest by gamers.
"A whole new generation of kids doesn't know who Sonic is," said analyst David Cole of DFC Intelligence.
The new game and campaign aims to change that. "For the last two to three years we've been working to reposition the brand and character in sync with the launch of PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Both marketing and game design has been elevated for the next-generation audience of 18- to 34-year-olds," said Scott A. Steinberg, Sega VP-marketing. There are more than 35 different Sonic games with more than 44 million units sold worldwide, he said.
The newest "Sonic the Hedgehog" game, which marks Sonic's 15th anniversary, goes on sale Nov. 15 and will be supported by a $20 million national ad campaign that includes TV, print, radio, online and promotions. TV ads, which will run on Spike TV, Cartoon Network's Adult Swim and Comedy Central, depict a non-animated barnyard scene into which rumbles a tornado that turns out to be Sonic.
The ads include "Easter eggs" -- hidden treats for Sonic fans who have a DVR. By watching the ads frame by frame, viewers will be able to spot objects hidden when viewed in regular speed, the Sega spokeswoman said. The agency is Duncan/Channon, San Rafael, Calif.
And to help appeal to an older audience is the music for the spot, performed by up-and-coming retro heavy rock band Wolfmother, an Australian group that just recently won the Australian Recording Industry Association awards for best rock album and best group of 2006. Sega has also cut a deal with J&J Snack Foods' SuperPretzel brand that puts Sonic on the brand's box and includes a promotional tie-in.