SBJ/October 3-9, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Samsung to offer ‘Six Degrees’ for Olympics

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In support of its U.S. Olympic team sponsorship, Samsung Electronics is undertaking an ambitious effort to connect Americans across the country to athletes through social media.

The U.S. division of the Korean company has developed a Facebook application it plans to unveil next year that will show Americans how they are linked to past and present members of Team USA. The app, which is being called the Samsung U.S. Olympic Genome Project, evaluates elements like where people are from and where they went to school and uses that information to compute the connections. For example, users who attended Brandeis University would see that fencer Tim Morehouse also attended the college.

Samsung executives describe it as the U.S. Olympic team version of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” or the first family tree to truly show Americans how they are related to the American athletes representing them in London.

“Everyone is interested in how they’re connected to athletes, and beyond the high-profile athletes, they don’t realize, ‘Hey, I went to college with a gold-medal fencer,’” said Ralph Santana, chief marketer of Samsung Electronics America. “This is going to enable you to unlock those connections. Through that notion of discovery, this weaves together a group of people who are all passionate about the Olympic movement.”

Samsung plans to promote the app at U.S. Olympic trials and other U.S. Olympic Committee events in 2012, encouraging consumers to participate by challenging them with the question: How Olympic are you? The program will be the centerpiece of Samsung’s Olympic marketing efforts in the U.S. for the London Games.

The app is being developed now and is set for a public launch in the first quarter of 2012. It will be available at Samsung.com/USOlympicGenome.

The success of the program will be contingent upon the participation of U.S. Olympians. Samsung and the USOC first approached athlete agents and national governing bodies in Colorado two weeks ago to explain the project and encourage them to get their athletes to participate.

Samsung doesn’t plan to pay athletes for their participation. Instead, it hopes that by showing Americans how they are connected to certain athletes it will compel people to become fans of those athletes.

“If you’re an athlete and you’re going into the Games, this gives you everything from a cheering section to a group who will support you in other ways,” said USOC chief marketer Lisa Baird. “Getting athletes to see the potential of [the Genome Project] is what we’re doing this week, next week and the following week.”

The program was developed by Samsung Electronics America and Team Epic.

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