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Volume 20 No. 42
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USOC performs a flip on Genome Project

The U.S. Olympic Committee recently sent athletes a new form asking them to opt in to Samsung’s Genome Project, a marketing initiative that’s the subject of a lawsuit from 18 Olympians who allege the company used their images without permission.

Athletes are now being asked to opt in to Samsung’s Olympic activation.
The opt-in form represents a reversal of sorts by the USOC and its sponsor Samsung. The organization and company initially allowed athletes only to opt out of the marketing initiative, which is a Facebook application that allows users to see how they are connected to past and present Olympians and Olympic hopefuls.

Samsung, whose Genome Project is its lone U.S. Olympic activation for the London Games, declined to comment on the opt-in form because of ongoing litigation.

When the program was launched, Samsung Electronics America chief marketer Ralph Santana said, “This is all grounded in the insight that people want to know how they’re connected to Olympians. This is a unique manifestation of what people are looking for.”

The marketing program has raised questions in Olympic circles since last fall when it was first revealed to athlete representatives. The agents questioned how the program would use personal information about athletes and whether Samsung would pay athletes for the use of their names and likenesses on the website.

The company sent an opt-out form to athletes before launching the Facebook app April 9. Those who didn’t opt out were included in the app, including stars such as Michael Phelps, Dara Torres and Mark Spitz.

A group of 18 Olympians sued Samsung on April 25, alleging the company did not have permission to incorporate the athletes’ names and photos into the Genome Project. Among the list of athletes suing are Torres, Spitz, Greg Louganis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Aaron Peirsol and Cullen Jones.

Some athletes have endorsements with Samsung competitors. Torres, for example, has a deal with Hewlett-Packard.
Samsung has pulled the names of the athletes who filed suit from the Genome Project. As of press time, Samsung had not posted to the site since April 25, the day the lawsuit was filed.

The company declined to say how many athletes are featured on the app and how that total compares to the number of athletes featured before the lawsuit.