Sega Brand Repositioning
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Holmes Report

Sega Brand Repositioning

Access Communications’ client SEGA, a leading video game publisher, was in need of a corporate image makeover at the start of 2002. The company had successfully transitioned from being a hardware developer to a third party video game publisher for all three of the console gaming systems.

Paul Holmes

Access Communications’ client SEGA, a leading video game publisher, was in need of a corporate image makeover at the start of 2002. The company had successfully transitioned from being a hardware developer to a third party video game publisher for all three of the console gaming systems. 2002 would be a “make or break” year for SEGA, as the company had a stated goal of becoming the #2 independent console publisher in the U.S. by the end of holiday 2002. Access Communications’ extensive efforts on behalf of this client helped ensure positive corporate image with media and analysts, and ultimately, consumers.
Although SEGA had already began to create video games for consoles such as PlayStation 2, GameCube and Xbox, investors, analysts and media were looking to for more information and proof points as to why SEGA would be a successful third party publisher like competitors such as Electronic Arts (EA).
Following the industry’s largest trade show, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), in May of 2002, analysts, investors and media believed SEGA’s achievement of goals was contingent upon the success and timing of SEGA’s game launches.
Since the company only had a history of developing games for one gaming platform, Access needed to communicate that SEGA could manage the launches of 35 different titles on a variety of different platforms and ship them on time with competitive titles. And competition for coverage was fierce – EA and Activision had blockbuster titles such as “Madden” and “Tony Hawk Pro Skater,” among many others. Further, general consumers still seemed confused about SEGA’s transition. Thirty five percent of gamers did not know which game platforms SEGA developed for; educating them was another major challenge for Access.
Despite these challenges, there were opportunities. SEGA was known for more than 40 years as the leader in creating original content utilizing its 12 powerhouse development teams, a strong message for Access to drive home with media and analysts. Also compelling, SEGA had just announced its first positive financials in at least five years and had a well-admired management team.
Finally, media and analysts were anxious for the competition to “heat up” between SEGA and EA, particularly because SEGA was the only game publisher that made strong sports games that could compete with EA’s. Access had the opportunity to fuel the fire with SEGA’s messages delivered strong to investors, analysts and media.
 Access first conducted a media audit to assess how media and analysts felt about SEGA and the company’s chances of success. In terms of SEGA’s biggest challenges to become a leading software publisher, 44 percent found that achieving brand recognition was key; 38 percent cited making continuously great games; 10 percent cited poor financials and 8 percent cited EA as SEGA’s biggest challenge. Seventy five percent of respondents found that SEGA’s greatest opportunities were its strong game library/developers, online development expertise and the SEGA Sports games.
Second, SEGA and Access conducted a Brand Tracking Study, in which it was discovered that 35 percent of gamers did not know which platforms SEGA developed games for. Given this information, Access PR focused on the following points in messaging – reinforcing that SEGA made the best games on multiple platforms and had the best development teams, that the company was financially stable and meeting milestones and that the company had the right game plan in place for continued success.
 The communications objectives were to re-position SEGA as a leading video game publisher; secure positive coverage for the company, positioning it as being “on par” with successful game publishers such as EA; communicate that SEGA makes great multiplatform games and has strong developers; and secure positive analyst quotes in coverage. Key audiences included business press, analysts, gaming and consumer press.
 The Access and SEGA PR team created a series of monthly creative postcards to media and analysts ranging from a “Back in Black” card to reinforce SEGA’s first positive financials to a postcard defining the word “transition” to show that SEGA has successfully transitioned to a third party publisher.
There were four developer events which helped expose media and analysts to SEGA’s incredible development talent and reinforce content strengths, including: “Developers Unleashed” event, which brought all 12 of SEGA’s global development studios together in one place for the first time; “Virtua Fighter 4” and “Jet Set Radio Future” held concurrent with these game kick-offs to spotlight the developers. The multiplatform message was stressed at these events by showing games on various platforms. Media and analyst attendance at these events totaled more than 400.
Given that sports accounts for 55% of SEGA’s business and 30% of all platform sales, pushing the SEGA Sports message was critical in the overall repositioning of the SEGA brand. To that end, PR put on an exclusive Sports Summit at a New York Hotel on September 5, concurrent with the launch of the NFL season. At the event, SEGA Sports’ developers conducted game demos and pro athletes like Jason Giambi were on hand to sign autographs.
Executives also explained how SEGA was meeting and exceeding 2002 objectives. More than 90 reporters and industry analysts were on hand to hear executives discuss the future of the SEGA Sports brand and to try their hand at SEGA Sports’ 2K3 line up. The multiplatform message was stressed in saying SEGA was making “all sports games on all platforms.”
Executives were active on the speaking circuit, participating in industry panels and speeches at E3, Game Developers Conference, Bear Sterns Conference and many others. During these speaking engagements, SEGA reinforced how the company is meeting/exceeding milestones, its strengths in game development and its 12 studios, its online gaming expertise and success in the sports gaming market.
Monthly in-person and phone meetings with all key analysts, business press and gaming press during which executives would reinforce how the company was meeting/exceeding objectives; discuss game sales, game features and other relevant topics. More than 150 briefings occurred in total.
This “rolling thunder” campaign ensured that SEGA was showcasing how the company was meeting milestones on a monthly basis.
 Because of the PR team’s proactive outreach, excellent media results ensued and all objectives were met. In a mid-term media audit, 86 percent cited that SEGA’s games that they’ve seen thus far have been better than the competition. 75 percent thought that SEGA could achieve the #2 publisher status – a 15 percent increase from earlier in the year. Messages stating that SEGA makes great games were replayed in 85 percent of industry stories and game reviews.
Ten feature spotlight stories on developers and at least five feature stories were secured focusing on SEGA’s comeback opportunity, and 95 percent of game reviews hit the multiplatform message by listing all platforms a particular game was available for. In a follow-up study, only 20 percent were not aware that SEGA was multiplatform vs. 35 percent six months prior.
In addition, three critical analysts upgraded the Japanese stock to “buy” status. By the second quarter of the year, SEGA was the #1 publisher on Nintendo GameCube (up from #2 in Q1) and #2 on Xbox (up from #5 in Q1). Finally, more than 75 percent of analyst quotes about SEGA were positive.
The key quotes reinforcing messages Included:
· “SEGA is mounting a comeback…the company is known for the high quality of its sports games. SEGA can come knocking on EA’s door, and I think EA’s a bit nervous about that.” San Francisco Chronicle, May 2002
· “Two years ago, gaming industry insiders were wondering whether Sega would survive. Now they’re wondering how far it will go.” CNN/Money, June 2002
· “Analysts say Sega’s financial recovery is much faster than expected. ‘It’s impressive considering their recovery pace, and the fact that Sega’s core consumer game sector is returning to the black is a very good news for them,’ said Lisa Spicer, a game sector analyst from ING Barings. CBS MarketWatch, March 2002
· “A gaming powerhouse is back; Sega embracing console systems.” Florida Times Union, August 2002
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