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Brand Strategy Sports & Fitness Olympics

Why Samsung is championing surf, skateboarding and breakdancing at the Olympics


By Hannah Bowler, Senior reporter

July 1, 2024 | 8 min read

As part of The Drum’s Sports & Fitness Focus, we sat down with Samsung’s marketing chief to find out why the electronics company has put surf, skate and breakdancing at the center of its Olympics sponsorship.

Skate, break and surf images with Open Always Wins written over the top

Samsung Olympic 2024 slogan 'Open Always Wins' / Samsung

Long-standing Olympic sponsor Samsung is to champion the subculture sports of surf, skate and break as part of its wider comms mission to show the brand stands for ‘openness.’

This summer in Paris, surf and breakdancing will make their Olympic Games debut, joining skateboarding, which was made an Olympic sport in 2020. Samsung has made deals with each sport’s governing body, supporting athletes and creating content in partnership with them.

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Historically, Samsung’s marketing was to promote itself as the best, the fastest and the most innovative in its category. But now, executive vice-president and head of marketing at Samsung Electronics, Stephanie Choi, tells The Drum: “The brand ethos and the value we stand for is openness.”

“Up until now, Samsung was more focused on being a brand that represents the latest innovation and the best innovation,” says Choi. But ‘Open Always Wins’ is a new brand platform for the Olympics that isn’t about celebrating being the best or the first, but having an open mind.

“We believe with an open mind, a lot of what comes with that is more experiences, more diversity and more connections. That is what the brand stands for. It’s not about always winning, in terms of having to win a gold medal, but it’s about the fact you are participating and meeting new people.”

Samsung’s Olympic marketing reflects this by championing newcomer sports and underdog athletes. For the Paris Olympics and beyond, Samsung has signed deals with the World Surf League, Street League Skateboarding and the Pro Breaking Tour, a breakdancing league.

“Surfing, skateboarding and breaking, though proudly unique, share a foundation. An open mindset to try new things, the determination to push the limits of what’s possible and a culture of inclusivity that embraces everyone lie at the heart of each sport.”

Samsung has created a number of campaigns and experiences to engage athletes and fans in the run-up to the Olympics and throughout the games. Samsung is also hoping that by supporting these newer Olympic sports, it will help to engage younger generations. “I know there have been comments around how the Olympic games aren’t really for the new generation. But for a lot of the younger generation, these sports are really neighborhood sports that they do with their friends day in and day out. So, it could be a great motivation for those people to look up to the athletes in the Olympics.”

The biggest project to come out of the deal with the leagues is Samsung-produced documentaries that tell the history of the sports and their journey to the Olympic Games. The three films, The Next Wave, Concrete Dreams and Breaking Boundaries, are told from the perspective of the athletes and talking heads from within the sports communities.

“Just having the understanding of the journey that these sports took to get to this place today, Samsung wanted to celebrate that and shine a light,” Choi says of the films. “I don’t think these stories are as told to the mass public as we would like, so we wanted to help be the amplifier.”

World Surfing League

The Next Wave profiles the surf community in partnership with the World Surfing League. Beth Tepper, vice-president of strategic partnerships at the league, tells The Drum: “We are very particular about the brands that we partner with because of our ethos as a league.” It was vital for the surf league that the films were told from the perspective of the athletes themselves and were authentic to the community. “It wasn’t telling them what we wanted them to say; it was from the heart,” says Tepper. “It was also very much about the communities that are in Tahiti and Australia and all over the world.”

As surfing enters the Olympics for the first time, Tepper says there was pressure bringing a community sport to the “big stage.” “These films talk about how we’re going to keep that community spirit forever. Even though we are going to be on the big stage, that vibe is still very much a part of cultures and the films celebrate those cultures.”

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Skate & Break

Samsung’s partnership with Street League Skateboarding marks its second foray into sponsoring the sport. Last year, Samsung signed a deal with Skateboarding GB, the UK’s skate association, with Olympic winner Skye Brown fronting the partnership. In December, to launch its latest flip phone, Samsung built a skate park in Shoreditch, London. Across two weeks, the brand hosted events in the park, including movie nights, a fashion show and live music.

For Samsung’s tie-up with breakdancing, the Breaking Boundaries film was also supported by a Samsung-hosted breakdance workshop with Team GB athlete Karam Singh last month. Choi teases that there would be other similar activations in the run up to the games.

The founder of the Pro Breaking Tour, Chris Wright, says of the deal with Samsung: “Over the past decade since our tour’s inception, we’ve witnessed an incredible evolution in our sport and culture. Now, we’re gearing up to make history with our Olympic debut and we’re excited that Samsung is on board to amplify this pivotal moment in our sport’s journey.”

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