That Time Sega Sponsored F1... [Badnik Mechanic Vid]

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by MrMechanic, Dec 14, 2019.

  1. MrMechanic

    MrMechanic

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    Edit: Wasn't sure if I shoul post this in Sonic or Sega, whilst it's a Sega thing, the blue one appears... all over this event so... yeah. Feel free to move if you want to.

    Edit 2: I hit the image limit, so a few appear as just links.

    So if you guys were not aware yet, I run the Badnik Mechanic YouTube channel and for the last year I've been putting out videos which take an extensive look at specific moments in gaming history (mainly Sega and Sonic related) and for the last two weeks I've been researching the Sega and F1 partnership from 1993, initially I thought this would just end up being a fun retelling of the event, but as the way goes with this, I found a few bits of new information and accounts of the day, along with a few connections between that this event created with other big Sega events that some people are probably not that aware of.

    So this video is the result of that research, I hope you'll give it a look.



    So to avoid this just becoming a 'pls watch my video' and not doing anything else, let me explain why I'm making this thread and one of the reasons why I finally decided to join Retro.

    I've spent the last year researching a lot of Sonic and Sega related events and realised that a lot of even the most dedicated sites that catalogue this material mainly look at things from a surface level, which is fine since really that's the level of detail most people care about. But other times some events actually link to one another in ways which are not obvious (Which is the case with this particular partnership).

    By that I mean, take the Sega Star Kids challenge, they managed to get a lot of stars from Saved By the Bell and other comedy shows from the early 90's, which allowed Sega to get those same stars to come to the Sonic 2 launch party. The same thing happened with this partnership (I'll explain at the end).

    So I hope you get something from both the video (which admittedly contains a lot more information) and this thread which contains most of the main best bits.

    Beginnings
    A very brief backstory, if you've seen any of my other vids or know about Sega's campaigns during the early 90's they were trying to appeal to a specific demographic of potential customers, and one such tactic was to advertise and appeal to potential customers at events where this demographic typically hung out. Which is why you saw a lot of Sega promotion at popular sporting, theme parks and other big public events which were popular with teenagers and young adults.

    Which brings us to 1993 and the decision to sponsor F1.

    The Sponsorship
    There were two key people behind the sponsorship, Phil Ley & Simon Morris. In 1992-1993, Sega London (Now Sega Europe) were tasked with doing a promotional campaign that would appeal to teenagers and young adults which would be seen across the United Kingdom. But Morris and Ley decided to take it to another level, their thinking was 'what if we could do something that would be shown in the UK, but also potentially shown across Europe and the rest of the world?' So they looked at F1 racing.

    In the 90's, F1 had a lot more appeal than it does today, it was seen by even non racing fans as being a cool, fast and exciting sport. Sega during this time were also trying to promote themselves as being a cool and exciting company, who also had a fast character mascot, see the connection?

    Sponsorship's with F1 teams were also really different in the 90's. Most teams were sponsored by Tobacco companies and it was rare for companies outside of the traditional brands who dominated motor racing to try and sponsor a team or race.

    So this is where there is some discrepancy, but this seems like the most likely scenario as to what happened based on what I've read and researched. Sega approached F1 with their intention to pick a team to sponsor, at this point all interested teams would enter negotiations with Sega and it seemed that a lot of teams were interested because Sega were apparently willing to pay far higher than what even the most lucrative sponsors were willing to pay.

    The winning team was Williams, a combination of one of their drivers being Damon Hill (UK based) and the fact the Williams team were willing to make a lot of concessions in terms of Sega's branding.

    Unlike a lot of the other teams, Williams were willing to place Sega's logo all over their car, uniforms and even pit areas, on top of this, they would also be willing to host several Sega related events at their headquarters and book their drivers to appear at a number of Sega themed events (this is one of those links to other events I was talking about).

    [​IMG]

    By a coincidence, Williams had a uniform colour scheme which was very similar to that of Sonic the hedgehog, blue uniforms with a patch of Yellow, even their shoes were red with a white stripe on them.

    The drivers helmets were one of the coolest part of the uniform, they had a great piece of Sonic artwork on the top in a makeshift Sega themed boarder.

    [​IMG]
    The positioning of the logos on the sleeves were done deliberately, due to the fact that if the driver won a race or did well, it was common for them to cheer as they did a celebration lap, meaning you could see the sponsors logo in full view of the cameras.

    [​IMG]
    Even if the tv crew cut to the drivers view, you could also make out the sponsor logo.

    In car view of the sponsor logo.

    The Car
    Odds are you've seen the 'see through' effect which shows Sonic's legs pressing down on the accelerator, making it appear that Sonic is driving when the car is in motion.


    [​IMG]

    But there was another much lesser known design which shows Sonic's hand on the gear stick.

    [​IMG]
    It doesn't have quite the same effect as the leg design but it still works.

    The car also had the Sega logo on the back of the wing mirrors (see above) but another cool aspect of the car was the wing spoiler.

    [​IMG]

    So the initial design was just the Sega logo and the Sonic head, but each time Williams achieved pole position, they would add a pirate Sega skull to the spoiler. There are a few variations of this (see my video) one which doesn't have the Sonic head, and as the 1993 season goes on you can see more heads added to the spoiler.

    Williams Pit Area
    As part of the deal, Williams would have to decorate their pit area with tons of Sonic and Sega imagery at every race they went to, this usually involved their pit crew wearing Sega branded shirts and hats, but also the walls would be decorated with various images and artwork of Sonic....

    Including... This one....

    [​IMG]
    I have not edited that image, that's an actual piece of artwork that was used in the Williams team pit area, right by where they did interviews, yes it's an official image of Sonic that appears to be flipping you off!

    The Race

    Along with sponsoring the Williams team, Sega planned to also sponsor one of the actual race events, they chose the European Championship at Donington in the UK, reason for this is... Nobody else wanted to sponsor it. It was a race that even F1 didn't care too much about, so whilst it was an expensive event to sponsor, it was much cheaper to sponsor for Sega than it would be if it were an event people actually cared about.

    So Sega really went to town on this one, the big change was the name of the event itself, they managed to get it re-named "The Sega European Grand Prix" which appeared on both TV and promotional material at the event itself.

    Programme cover for the race.

    But sega were not just content with the name change, they completely transformed the circuit. I think these photos will illustrate just how much they transformed the course with their branding.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The circuit itself was also decorated with both Sega's logo and signs which showed Sonic, unfortunately I couldn't find any good still photography of these signs, so this screengrab of the race will have to do.

    The Sonic & Sega signs on the track.

    These signs were all over the track, virtually every few meters there's either a Sega or Sonic sign.

    A few other fun circuit placements were the giant Game Gears. These things were actually the giant display screens that were normally on the track, but Sega re-decorated them to look like Game Gears.

    [​IMG]
    Apparently there were a few of these, but I could only find one example of the giant game gears, if you check out my vid you can see it in 'motion' as it shows some action on the screen.

    Another cool feature was the sign and ticker display.

    [​IMG]

    A giant Sonic accompanied the electronic billboard, the billboard would display various Sega slogans before and during the race, as well as a few fun contextual messages during the race start and end, according to reports from people at the venue, it displayed 'Game on' at the race start and 'Game Over' when Senna won the race.

    To help entertain the crowd, music from various Sega games were also played before the race started.

    Before the race started there was a parade of pit girls, all wearing Sonic costumes... and they all look amazingly depressed, every one of them looks like they hate it.

    [​IMG]
    There is some very brief video of this parade in my video on the subject, odds are they look so depressed because aside from the outfits, the day was really poor weather wise, lots of wind and rain, they were likely freezing cold and were outside in those outfits for hours.

    [​IMG]
    The only time they look happy is when the cameras are directly on them.

    Now there were also due to be other fun things going on at the race, but they had to be taken down due to the poor weather, but they were up and running during the time trial events the day before, these include, a giant Sonic hot air balloon.

    [​IMG]

    And even a giant Sonic 2 themed blimp!

    Unfortunately I couldn't find any footage of the blimp, but there does exist some video of the hot air balloon at the race site. If you check out my video (around 10:22) there's a brief clip of the balloon at track side during Damon Hill's time trial run. But odds are looking up any time trial for Donington 1993 will net you a glimpse of it.

    The UK Sonic & Tails mascots were also at the event, but there's not much in terms of footage or video from from this event,

    [​IMG]
    Yeah you don't have to say it, I've done a video on just the Sonic mascot costumes and... these are far from the worst ones ever used!

    That Trophy
    So this trophy...

    [​IMG]
    The trophy was created by Sega specially for the event, but Senna was also awarded with 'the real trophy' shortly after. One fun thing I noticed when looking at the video, is when the BBC realise they're showing the sponsor trophy, they quickly zoom out, then zoom back in when the real trophy is shown.

    Now this trophy was believed to be lost, but McClaren themselves confirmed it's still around in one of their store rooms.
    [​IMG]
    They also confirmed that the arm is adjustable. But it speaks volumes how this is hidden away than on display with their other silverware.


    Further Promotion
    As part of the promotion, this new original artwork of Sonic wearing a racing drivers uniform was created to celebrate the partnership.

    [​IMG]
    Full Sized Image

    This artwork was used repeatedly throughout the 90's, it was used on a number of T-Shirts and jumpers/sweaters, but was also used in Sega World London as part of a the Racing Track level.

    As mentioned earlier, part of the deal with Sega meant that the Williams drivers would be used for various promotional events, these included a number of TV adverts, including one for Sonic Chaos and both the car and drivers were used to launch the Sega On the Road busses for 1993.

    [​IMG]

    But another elaborate promotion that the Williams team were involved in were the Sega UK and European Championships, both Damon Hill and Alain Prost were on hand to give prizes to the winners, and the UK championship finals were even held at the Williams HQ.

    This is what I meant by how some events end up linking to one another. The UK Sega championships would have been held at another venue had this partnership not taken place, and Sega's relationship with popular celebrities of the time like Chris Evans wouldn't have developed which meant he probably wouldn't have taken part in the Sega RLSS life guarding video.

    The car itself would also be used after it was retired from racing, it spent time as a display piece in Sega World, right under a giant mural of the racing driver Sonic.

    Pin badges and other merch were also created for the partnership.

    Pin badge image

    You can even get official model miniature helmets which actually have the Sonic artwork on them.

    It's also possible to get full sized replicas but... yeah those are EXPENSIVE!

    Believe it or not, but you can still buy official merch based on the partnership to this day, the reason being is that fans and collectors of F1 merch want cars from all history to look exactly like they did, this includes the sponsor decals. I've no idea if Sega get a percentage of this or not but it's still cool to see new merch being made for this.

    Where's The Car Now?
    [​IMG]

    After the car left Sega World London, it was returned to William's, it's now part of the Williams HQ's history centre, you can still view it to this day and it still makes appearances at car shows and events, it also still has some functionality to it, the engine still works as does the active suspension.

    So I hope you enjoyed this thread, please check out the video since there's a lot more detail in there as well as video of some of the things I've talked about here, if anyone has any questions, I'll try to answer as best I can since I suspect I forgot to include one or two things.

    Further Reading:
    Eurogamer: Interview with Morris and Ley

    Pit Pass: First hand account of the partnership and even the race itself.

    Sega Retro: Basically... all these magazines contain information about how Williams helped Sega with other promotions after the race and season was completed.

    (There was a bunch more but I unfortunately messed up with the recording of the references this time around).
     
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  2. Loop

    Loop

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    Very interesting topic and very well researched, major props for making the video and writing it up! I’m an avid Formula 1 fan and do graphic design work for motorsport teams thanks to having found about this in my childhood - there are some more details that I know about this subject!

    The Sonic head in the car was only featured when Williams raced with a double-rear wing, in races like Adelaide and Monaco where there was the need for more downforce. Hill’s car had Sonic with one finger up while Prost had him with two fingers up (as Hill inherited the number one car from Nigel Mansell, who was the reigning champion but left F1).

    The white gloves detail was just promotional though, Williams' official racewear partner Stand21 provided the drivers blue and yellow gloves (as was the standard in previous years for the team), while the shoes were up to the drivers' choosing - Prost wore red Mizuno racing shoes (just like his rival Senna, coincidentally) and Hill wore black Mizuno racing shoes.

    Team sponsors don't get any additional income for memorabilia made after the sponsorship deals expire, and since the end of SEGA's deal with Williams their decals were included in every diecast replica made ever since. Some of the manufacturers do contact the respective companies for the original computer-vectorised files that they provided the teams with so there's that.

    I commented this in your video but I'll say it here as well - SEGA Portugal sponsored Portuguese driver Pedro Lamy and his employer team Team Lotus in the 1994 Formula 1 season: his helmet had SEGA and Sonic stickers just like Prost & Hill the year prior, and the Lotus car had a SEGA logo on the same spot as the Williams car (in a smaller size, though); Lamy was also featured in TV commercials promoting the Mega Drive. The deal was short-lived though, as Lamy suffered a very serious crash in a private test with the team and had to sit out the whole year.

    What's also interesting - SEGA also made a deal with Ayrton Senna, the winner of the European GP, prior to signing with Williams, with his name giving the namesake of their unofficial Formula 1 game - Ayrton Senna's Super Monaco GP II. This comes as quite ironic as Senna was the main rival of Prost, and the game was still marketed in 1993 with Williams drivers. The Senna deal, though, was pushed by SEGA of Japan, as the Japanese crowd was (and still is) very fond of the Brazilian driver. He can be seen in a commercial for the game for Japan.
     
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  3. MrMechanic

    MrMechanic

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    Hey, thanks for posting, yeah I read your comment on the vid.

    Thanks for the extra info, there's no way I'd figure that stuff out unless I REALLY got into F1, I figured the different spoilers would have something to do with specific tracks or weather conditions but didn't want to say for certain.

    The Sonic holding up 1 or two fingers, no way I'd ever figure that one out though!

    The racewear thing I know was Williams' standard affair, but I just love how it fits the Sonic imagery so well, it must have also been a key reason for why Sega went with Williams over say a team which raced in a completely different colour.
     
  4. Sonic is displayed here in various degrees of off-model, except notably the trophy itself. I do wonder is Sega of Japan sculpted it, but if they were unaware of the sponsorship then maybe not...

    Also, is the Sega logo on the bottom of the toy replica? I imagine you're not keen on opening the package, but you must be curious.
     
  5. Yoritoshi

    Yoritoshi

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    A Sonic trophy for one of the greatest laps in F1 history is something that belongs in a museum. Thanks for writing about the subject!
    A bit of a curiosity is that Sega had also sponsored the Dick Simon Racing team at the IndyCar Series at some point in 1992, but there's little information about that online.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Edit: Here's a shot of the Sega blimp from the Power Sonic article on the subject.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2019
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  6. Loop

    Loop

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    It looks like Matsushita brought some of his Japanese partners in SoJ and Panasonic to fund his seat at Dick Simon Racing - the main cars driven by him and teammate Raul Boesel had SEGA logos with Sonic next to it. SoJ joined from the start of the season it seems, and stayed until the end, with the decals getting smaller as Boesel got his sponsors to join the team.
     
  7. Xilla

    Xilla

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    Damon Hill mentions in his autobiography that SEGA were one of his personal sponsors and IIRC that accelerated the deal with Williams to a degree.

    I came across a recreation of Donington '93 for Grand Prix 4 a few years ago. Whilst most track modders tend to just switch sponsors around/change certain corners for the different seasons, the modder for 93 went as far as to include a Sonic model to represent the balloon!
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2019
  8. karlafalves

    karlafalves

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    As a huge Sonic fan since the beginning, I was gladly caught by surprised when I first saw Sonic's legs on Williams' car at that time (I think I was 11 or 12 yo). But I'm Brazilian and it was impossible for me to support Williams during Sega's sponsorship, with our timeless national hero belonging to another team :D But when he won this outstanding (at least for us ah ah) trophy
    you all can even imagine the joy and cheerfulness that invaded my little child heart back then <3
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2019
  9. Xilla

    Xilla

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    Senna's SEGA deal must have been a short one, as he didn't appear in SEGA's own F1 Heavenly Symphony for the Mega CD, although an option was included in the game to change the name and number of the unnamed driver representing him (Infact, Senna didn't appear in ANY officially licenced F1 games based on the 93 season, but his likeness could be chosen for the Create a Driver/Team feature in the SNES game F1 Grand Prix Part 3, which you could then transfer to McLaren using the Roster Edit option). F1 2019 as far as I know is the first official F1 game since his death to feature him.

    Here's David Coulthard's SEGA branded helmet from 1993, he was the test driver that year. No Sonic though.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2019
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  10. MrMechanic

    MrMechanic

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    It's honestly something I've never wondered about. Though I am a little curious now you've popped the idea into my head, might check to see if anyone has done an unboxing video of it since I don't want to open the packaging since it's one of those 'you have to destroy it, to open it' things.

    I was able to check the mini helmet though, that doesn't have a Sega copyright of any kind.
     
  11. Loop

    Loop

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    Formula 1 teams never put sponsor decals under the floor because it's the part of the car that gets the most damage in a season, with a lot of skid marks and degradation. I highly doubt Williams put SEGA there, but admit it was highly ambitious of SEGA Europe to suggest so. The Williams car that year had barely any possibilities of flipping over regardless thanks to their innovative active suspension mechanism that got banned the following year (which kinda ended up murdering Senna, but that's another topic), which meant the car was controlled not only by the driver but by the mechanics in the garage, basically making the suspension predict what the following moves on track were and never lift the car off.
     
  12. Sir_mihael

    Sir_mihael

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    What a blast from the past! I remember seeing a bit about this in Sonic the Comic but didn't know there was THIS much involvement. Thanks for making such a nice in-depth post about it.
     
  13. Xilla

    Xilla

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    Wonder what the chances of Codemasters including the FW15C with the sponsors intact in a future game would be. They normally include the FW14 each year.

    The deal Prost's own team had with PlayStation at the turn of the millennium led to the odd sight of the PlayStation logo appearing in F1 games released on the Dreamcast and N64!
     
  14. Loop

    Loop

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    It’s not 100%, due to licensing issues some sponsors on classic cars don’t get to appear in Codemasters’ games (Telefónica in the Renault, Aigo in the McLaren, HP in the BMW Williams). Considering SEGA is a (somewhat) rival publisher though...
     
  15. Loop

    Loop

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    [​IMG]

    Found this on my gallery, another source of the blimp... or as they call it, the Sega Airship?
     
  16. MrMechanic

    MrMechanic

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    Oh that's cool!

    The blimp is one of those things that you'd think there would be tons of video/photographs of.

    Sadly there's not a lot out there, of good quality at least.
     
  17. Overlord

    Overlord

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    That's from one of the UK Sonic annuals, I've got that in my bookcase somewhere. The piece about the Sega Grand Prix, I believe.
     
  18. Xilla

    Xilla

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    Look carefully and you'll see the Sonic balloon being deflated ;) (or maybe even being inflated)

    One of the channels I'm subscribed to that's been uploading alot of classic F1 content recently also just uploaded the full 1st Qualifying Session for the race, which was ran under heavy rain conditions so not much can be seen. Hopefully the 2nd one will be uploaded too as only a partial version exists on YouTube at the moment.

    Oh, and one of the other chassis is on display at a high end car dealership somewhere in Derbyshire:

    [​IMG]

    EDIT: The 2nd Qualifying Session has been uploaded. Of particular note is Damon Hill's interview at the 60 minute mark. Watch the BBC cameraman try his hardest to avoid the special guest!

     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2020
  19. MrMechanic

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    That is right up there with the time that the commentator on the darts championship tried not to promote "Sonic Theee Edge-Og."
     
  20. Asagoth

    Asagoth

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