Kids Go HoJo with Sega

From Sega Retro

KidsGoHojo logo 1995.png

Kids Go HoJo with Sega was a Sega of America-sponsored advertising campaign for the American hotel/motel chain Howard Johnson's, produced by Californian marketing firm Strottman International[1] and run during the summers of 1993, 1994, and 1995. As one of the first promotions in the hospitality industry to so prominently combine licensed characters with marketing directed at children (in this case, using Sonic the Hedgehog to advertise on-site Game Gear rentals), the campaign was a commercial and critical success, and still enjoys a positive legacy in the marketing community.[2]


Kids Go HoJo with Sega saw a significant amount of television-based advertising.

Born from a venture between Sega of America and the American chain of hotels and motels Howard Johnson's, Kids Go HoJo with Sega was a unique summer promotion - intended to increase room sales at the company's properties by making the chain seen more enticing to the children of possible guests. The promotion ran in all Howard Johnson's across the United States of America and Canada over three periods: From May 24th through September 6th, 1993[3][4][5], from May 27th through September 5th, 1994[6][7], and from May 27th through September 4th, 1995.[8][9] During the promotion, all the company's hotels, motels, and inns were equipped with life-size cutouts of Sonic the Hedgehog displayed in the lobby for guests to take souvenir photographs with.

Sega provided Howard Johnson's properties with Sega Game Gears and a small library of games for guests to play at no charge. Through the Kids Go HoJo Fun Club, children were also provided with a collectible series of the chain's FunPacks (small collections of activities and toys meant to entertain restless children during long stays) containing Sega-themed puzzles and games, and a free one-year subscription to Sega Visions magazine. Additionally, a pair of VHS promotional features were available to rent or purchase - Sega Game Gear Tips Volume 1 and Sega Game Gear Tips Volume 2.

Game Gear rentals

Standard models of the Sega Game Gear were available as free rentals to guests and their children, along with a small selection of games. Guests were required to place a significant safety deposit with the property, usually $150[10] (the system's full price[11]) but in some cases were required to leave up to $300 with the hotel, in the case the child damaged or lost the system.

The following Game Gear games were available for rent through the campaign:


Kids have a tremendous amount of influence - far more than you would think - in choosing a hotel.

Kids Go HoJo creator Barry Parish[7]


Kids Go HoJo was created by Howard Johnson's vice president of marketing Barry Parish[12][13] in late 1989 to early 1990[14] to address the company's stodgy image and slipping occupancy rates[13] - playing to the decision-making power of guests' children by way of amenities specifically catered to them (like video game arcades and children's activity packages). While not an unheard-of concept, Parish consolidated all the necessary ideas and business practices under one unified branding, and proceeded to advertise the chain not just to parents but to their children as well. Notably, the children's material would feature the branding and likenesses of America's most recognizable franchises, such as The Simpsons and The Flintstones.[7][15][16]

Seeing its run in early 1990[17], Kids Go HoJo soon became a renowned success, and Parish sought to further capitalize on this momentum by collaborating with one of the largest rising names in the American video game industry: Sega of America (and particularly their world-famous mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog.) Parish made the necessary agreements with Sega, and contracted Irvine, California-based[18] advertising agency Strottman International to produce and coordinate the majority of the promotion - the New York, New York-based advertising agency Christy McDougall Mitchell[19][20] would produce the campaign's television advertisements. Responsibilities for the campaign largely fell to one of Strottman's marketers, Michael Berreth, who was significantly involved in the creation and development of Kids Go HoJo with Sega[21][22][23] (later receiving a CSPA award for his efforts[24]).


The 1994 Sega-themed FunPack.

Kids Go HoJo with Sega was supported by a $3,500,000 advertising campaign, including commercials on national television, print advertisements, and radio promotions, as well as grassroots promotions in smaller advertising areas.[3] Howard Johnson's hotels were outfitted with Game Gears available for rent, alongside a bevy of Sega-themed children's material provided through the chain's Kids Go HoJo Fun Club and their FunPack activity packs.

The campaign was largely a success, with Howard Johnson's seeing a notable 9% increase in room sales and becoming the leader of its respective consumer lodging market.[13][25]


Kids Go HoJo with Sega's success was soon noticed within the hospitality industry, and within the next two years, at least nine other brands launched similar programs.[15] For its accomplishments with the campaign, Strottman International was awarded the CSPA Award of Excellence for Best Worldwide Traffic-Building Promotion.

While altogether a successful campaign, Howard Johnson's name recognition eventually began to fade, and the chain would lose much of its former marketshare over the next two decades. With the advent of video sharing websites, uploaded copies of the promotional VHS tapes Sega Game Gear Tips Volume 1 and Volume 2 began to appear, and later became minor viral sensations - often to a point where many only know the hotel chain through this poorly-received promotional video alone. Despite the campaign's unflattering modern associations, it still enjoys a more positive legacy in the marketing industry, and is remembered as one of the more notable and successful hotel advertising campaigns.

Magazine articles

Main article: Kids Go HoJo with Sega/Magazine articles.

Promotional material

Main article: Kids Go HoJo with Sega/Promotional material.

Press releases


Photo gallery

Main article: Kids Go HoJo with Sega/Photo gallery.

External links


  1. (Wayback Machine: 2021-10-26 17:10)
  2. (Wayback Machine: 2022-11-29 11:41)
  4. Press release: 1993-02-23: Make room for Hedgehog (The Record from Hackensack, New Jersey; page 39)
  5. Press release: 1993-07-18: FAMILY HOTEL DISCOUNTS GET SUMMER BOOST
  6. Press release: 1994-04-10: Hotels Aim Their Deals At the Kids
  7. Press release: 1995-05-07: PRACTICAL TRAVELER; Hotels Offer Deals and Toys
  8. Press release: 1995-07-16: AUTISTIC CHILD IS A CONFIDENT VIDEO GAME ACE
  10. GamePro, "May 1991" (US; 1991-xx-xx), page 16
  12. 13.0 13.1 13.2 File:Howard Johnson Case History (by Barry J. Parrish).pdf
  14. 15.0 15.1
  15. (Wayback Machine: 1997-04-08 05:34)
  18. (
  19. Press release: 1997-01-08: HOJO ADS SAY "FEEL AT HOME"
  20. (Wayback Machine: 2001-05-20 17:17)
  24. (Wayback Machine: 1997-04-08 05:59)