Sega Spud Dive

Sega's various Dreamcast advertising campaigns are well documented here at the 'Yard. We've looked extensively at the efforts of the Japanese, American and European arms of the company to push the Dreamcast brand and also witnessed the mixed results. However, there is one publicity stunt that there is comparatively little information about online: the Sega Spud Dive.

No, we haven't gone senile - you read that right. The Spud Dive was an attempt to drum up media attention for the Dreamcast in the US right around the time of the Japanese launch in 1998, and involved members of the public literally diving into a 2000 gallon vat of cold mashed potatoes to search for the letters that make up the words 'Sega' and 'Dreamcast.' The prize for collecting the letters within the 45 second time limit? One of the first Dreamcast systems at the US launch, along with all the launch games and $1000 in cash. Not bad for swimming around in cold mash for less than a minute. According to this report from the LA Times, 100 people took part in the first Spud Dive held on Hollywood Boulevard on the morning of Monday 23rd November 1998. Sega of America spokesman Dan Stevens said of the event:

"We've heard of consumers in America who are already putting down money for the systems, so we planned an event where fans could win them now. Since it's Thanksgiving week, what could be more appropriate than mashed potatoes?"
Indeed Dan, indeed. Using that logic, maybe Sony or Microsoft should get people to jump into a vat of cold kebab meat, chips and lager next time they release a game on a Friday. Or even better, have a truck-load of said games stolen the day before release (topical joke - check). Snark aside, the Spud Dive held in 1998 seems to have been something of a success, and the local news media certainly lapped it up. Any publicity is good publicity, even if it does involve getting mashed potatoes in every orifice.

The winner of the first prize on that fateful November morning was Daniel Aguilar, and true to it's word Sega presented him with his prize almost a year later in September 1999. Peter Moore was the man who had the honour of handing Daniel his prize.
Taken shortly before Moore set fire to the factory and ran away to Microsoft
The story of the Spud Dive doesn't end here though. Almost two years later, Sega Spud Dive 2000 attempted to recreate the media frenzy of the original, and as documented in this assessment of the event, it was even weirder than the first:

As the holiday season approached, both the gaming and consumer media were focused on Sony PS2.  Sega’s objectives were to generate coverage for Sega Dreamcast to reinforce the Sega brand and send the message that consumers would do anything to get their hands on Sega Dreamcast, the wise alternative to the expensive, hard-to-find PS2. This coverage would increase consumers’ intent to purchase during the fourth quarter.

A stage, 2,000-gallon above-ground pool, and a fully-equipped PA system were secured for the event. Sega Dreamcast signage was prominently placed in various locations to ensure coverage.  In the hours leading up to the actual event, a lottery was held to select five participants for the contest.  Access also hired two actors to portray George W. Bush and Al Gore, who were still officially tied in their presidential race to ensure that media had an additional newsy angle with a great visual. Changing rooms and clean-up areas were also secured for messy contestants.
Spud Dive 2000 was basically an attempt by Sega of America to hi-jack sales of the newly-released PlayStation 2 right before the busy Thanksgiving shopping period...and the pièce de résistance of the whole shebang? Having two actors portraying Al Gore and George W. Bush hanging around the event in an attempt to loosely tie the whole potatoey clusterfuck to the presidential elections. Hats off to them for trying something fun and original, but you literally couldn't make this shit up. Sony are literally about to embark on a world-crushing campaign of destruction with the PS2, and meanwhile Sega have members of the public jumping into cold mashed potatoes while two jobbing lookalikes prance around telling political anecdotes.

A few months later Sega cancelled the Dreamcast.

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