Samsung doesn’t like them Sochi Apples

Madeleine Swain
6 February, 2014
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Samsung is getting upset about Apple again. And this time it’s all because of the Olympics and the pesky habit athletes have of whipping out their iPhones when they want to take selfies and crowd shots at one of the biggest sporting events on the planet.

Why the chagrin? Let’s start with a little bit of context. Friday sees the opening of the 22nd Olympic Winter Games, which is this year being held at Sochi, in the far south-west corner of Russia – about 37 kilometres from the Georgian border on the Black Sea coast.

The modern Olympic Games began in 1896 and the event was an amateur affair until the early 1970s, when, under the leadership of IOC (International Olympic Committee) president Juan Antonio Samaranch, international sponsors began to be involved.

Today, sponsorship at the Olympics is a big business. A very big business indeed. And it has grown exponentially in recent times. Between 1993 and 1996, Olympic marketing revenue from broadcasts alone was US$1251 million. By the three-year period of 2009 to 2012, that figure had more than tripled to US$3850 million. When you add in ticketing, licensing and all other factors, that figure soars to US$8046 million (all figures from the Olympic Marketing Fact File).

There are currently 10 major sponsors of the Olympics, working in four-year cycles – the Olympic quadrennium (which will, therefore, also cover the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics). They’re called The Olympic Partners or TOP and estimates have it that each of them invests somewhere in the order of $US30 billion over the four-year period. It is also believed that for every US dollar they spend in sponsorship fees, these companies must cough up another three or four bucks on advertising campaigns, new product launches and such like. Though this figure is disputed.

What cannot be disputed, however, is that we are talking about hefty buckets of cash. So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that when a corporation becomes one of the TOP, they want to protect their investment as best they can. And make sure that they get the maximum exposure possible for their brands and products.

Much has been written previously about companies trying to piggyback off the Olympics, by the use of sneaky or ambush marketing. It was a practice that drew strict policing during the London Summer Olympics two years ago, with businesses subjected to huge fines of up to $29,000 if they were caught cashing in.

But you can’t police the athletes themselves. And this is where Samsung is getting hot under the collar.

The 10 TOPs currently contracted to the Olympics are Visa, Atos, Dow, GE, McDonald’s, Panasonic, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Omega and… Samsung.

As part of its sponsorship deal, Samsung is giving every single competing athlete a free Galaxy Note 3. But there’s a catch. They must agree that if they use an iPhone to take snaps of the Opening Ceremony, they will cover up the Apple logo.

The plan was revealed by members of the Swiss Olympic team, who noticed the guidelines that were inserted into the athletes’ gift bags.

Brand ambassador, David Beckham

This doesn’t come out of nowhere, though. As Apple Insider notes, Samsung has had its fingers burned in the past. Just this last week, in fact. In 2012, the South Korean tech giant signed an exclusive deal with soccer great and underwear model David Beckham. But when it came to grabbing a shot of the action at last weekend’s Super Bowl in the US, who was whipping out his iPhone 5s to get the best shots? Yes, the photogenically gifted Mr B, of course.

There was a similar situation with the CEO of US phone carrier T-Mobile, John Legere, using Twitter to spruik Samsung’s latest phablet and Galaxy Gear watch… but doing so from his iPhone 5s.

Or Spanish tennis star David Ferrer also falling victim to the Twitter trap, tweeting, “Configuring S Health on my new #GalaxyS4 to help with training @SamsungMobile,” from his… you guessed it.

Apple Insider notes that, without knowing exact figures, “It is thought that Samsung spent at least US$100 million to sponsor the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.”

Can the company really be blamed for trying to protect such a major investment? Even if an iPhone with a band-aid or piece of gaffa stuck haphazardly across the back is still very clearly an iPhone and Samsung’s strategy does actually just look a little try-hard. Or as Island Hermit posted over at Apple Insider…



6 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Mike says:

    Sponsorship deals are sponsorship deals, nothing new in that. If you sign a sponsoship agreement it doesn’t take much intelligence to stick to the spirit and the terms of that deal. It’s understandable that it’s hard to police that sort of thing in an event like the winter Olympics, even if it is the poor cousin of the summer Olympics- But for someone like Beckham it’s telling. Doesn’t matter how much you pay an imbecile, they’re still an imbecile.

  2. Stephen says:

    so lets get this right the people being paid to carry Samsung Android devices actually use an iPhone – what does this really say about that platform from a usability perspective???

  3. Vulch says:

    Of course the athletes who have been given a Galaxy aren’t being paid to use them, they never asked for them, and if I was them I’d be telling Samsung to get stuffed! Samsung have no right to ask them to stick anything on to their iPhones.

  4. Carl says:

    Just have to reply to Stephen’s comment – Android is a more complex OS, that’s no secret. I’ve found in my travels that people who are into IT and the more serious side of technology gravitate towards Android devices (me included), the more average person who has better things to do with their time instead of nerding over their phone/tablet with all it’s customisability, capabilities and feature set gravitate towards the iOS devices.

    It seems the people that Samsung are paying to sport their phones fall into the latter category and probably even Android too complex to use.

  5. Jeff says:

    If it was me I wouldn’t have accepted the phone in the first place.Samsung must be desperate or greedy to impose this on athletes.

  6. Brent says:

    It also shows that the Beckham’s of the world, think they can get away with sending Tweets on a iPhone, because they have no idea on how the internet or twitter works.
    Everything you put on the internet, leaves a digital footprint, and with my Twitter Desktop client, in one of the views i can see exactly what other client was used, and what device, be it a Phone or a PC or a Mac. . .
    But back to the Title, covering up the Apple, is bringing more attention to Apple than letting it go. Because of this, it has produced so much more media than if they didn’t make a big deal about it, and now i know that more athletes use iPhones than they do Samsung Galaxy’s lol

    Now that is a imbecile !!!!

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