SBD/April 26, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Olympians Suing Samsung Over Wrongful Use Of Their Names, Photos On Genome Project

Agents last fall began questioning using athletes on app without permission
A group of 18 Olympians yesterday sued Samsung, alleging the company did not have permission to incorporate their names and photos into its “Samsung Genome Project.” The list of athletes suing includes Dara Torres, Mark Spitz, Greg Louganis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Aaron Peirsol, Cullen Jones and Jessica Hardys. The “Genome Project” is Samsung’s primary '12 Olympic marketing platform in the U.S. It is a Facebook application that allows users to see their connection to past and present Olympians. The app was developed by Team Epic and supported by the USOC. Agents began raising questions last fall about the idea of featuring athletes on the app without their permission and without compensation. Some athletes have endorsements with Samsung competitors. Torres has a deal with Hewlett-Packard. Samsung gave athletes the chance to opt out of the program, but many athletes did not respond to the opt-out request. When Samsung posted information about athletes on its Genome app on Facebook, the 18 athletes joined forces, hired attorney Rich Foster -- the former head of USA Water Polo -- and filed a lawsuit. The suit does not specify the damages the athletes are seeking. Most of the athletes are represented by PMG Sports, a N.C.-based agency led by Evan Morgenstein. The story was first reported by Bloomberg.

NAMES REMOVED: USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said in a statement, "The USOC and Samsung launched the U.S. Olympic Genome Project so that Americans can find connections with Team USA athletes. We did not launch the project to commercialize athletes' names in any way. We have honored the requests of the athletes who have filed suit to remove their names, as we offered to do months ago, and of course we will remove any athletes that do not wish to be listed." Samsung issued a statement saying, "Samsung is disappointed by the lawsuit filed around the U.S. Olympic Genome project. The Genome Project is a unique program that benefits Team USA by connecting fans and U.S. Olympians. We have collaborated closely on this program with the United States Olympic Committee over the past year and followed USOC procedures in communicating with the athletes. Athletes have had the opportunity to voice their opinions on the program and to control their participation. Samsung will continue to support Team USA and the spirit of the Olympics in our efforts.”
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