Over the past two years, Samsung's director of media and partnerships Amber Mayo has worked with a nimble team of three at Starcom MediaVest Group—made up of Chip Johnson, Madison Bohunicky and Lerna Terpanjian—to integrate its brand and product into pop culture.
In total, the phonemaker has run more than 40 different initiatives since June 2012, most of which span television and sporting events. While each of the executions is different, all are aimed at rethinking the traditional product placement.
Samsung ran its first live commerical, which plugged a Samsung Galaxy S III device in a skit on Jimmy Kimmel Live in June 2012. In July and August, similar integrations happened on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Then in August, the brand teamed up with Craig Ferguson from the Late Late Show.
Collectively, the ads garnered more than 15 million viewers.
The Notre Dame versus Navy football pre-game in September 2012 marked the first time CBS Sports used a Samsung device to capture photos from the game. The 30-second segment aired during CBS Sports College Football Pre-Game content.
Samsung also worked with Fox to run four 30-second vignettes across the National Football League, college football and World Series games. The spots ran 40 times during fall 2012.
The Korean electronics company has worked with multiple TV shows over the years to feature products in programs, including NBC's The Voice, The CW's Hart of Dixie and ABC's Nashville.
Vignettes in all three programs in November and Decemeber 2012 utilized talent from the shows. The on-air integrations also built up some online buzz. The Nashville integration resulted in 12.5 million digital impressions from online-exclusive content.
Digital Envelopes at Awards Shows
One of Samsung's most well-known integrations is with awards shows, starting with the 2012 American Music Awards. The brand swapped out traditional paper envelopes and presented awards using Galaxy Note 2 devices. The integration spurred 17 media articles and more than 8 million impressions after the show aired.
Since then, the strategy has evolved but still focuses on integrating the actual devices into the shows. During the 2013 Billboard Music Awards, Taylor Swift fans held their mobile phones together to reveal a photo mosaic.
At the 2014 Latin Billboards, Samsung homed in on the hispanic market. The brand created a new Milk Music app that was integrated into the mobile app category.
The event claimed to be the first time that a live call-in event swapped out land lines with mobile phones. The cast of HBO's The Sopranos were integrated in the show and raised more than $50 million for the Robin Hood Relief Fund.
Super Bowl XLVII
Despite all of Samsung's out-of-the-box executions, sometimes a good old TV ad does the trick, even if it does cost nearly $4 million.
In 2013, Samsung ran a two-minute ad after the two-minute warning starring LeBron James, Seth Rogan and Paul Rudd. After the game, the spot racked up more than 25 million digital video views.
2013 was the first year Samsung tried to inject some product magic into the Oscars.
A series of six spots starring Tim Burton aired during the Oscars to show off how the devices can double for both personal and work use and depicted an office of app developers who created a fictional game called Unicorn Apocalype.
The ads racked up 3.1 billion digital impressions, and the show was the most-watched entertainment telecast in three years.
After the ads ran, Samsung developed an actual Unicorn Apocalype app, although apparently it was not well received.
Samsung's partnership with Jay-Z in 2013 is one of the brand's highest-profile deals, costing an estimated $5 million.
In exchange for downloading an app that was exclusively available to Galaxy S III, Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note II devices, music fans could download Jay-Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail album 72 hours before it went on sale.
Samsung, the NBA and ABC also ran a three-minute TV ad during the NBA Finals. The spot was set to run in the stadium at the same time as the broadcast ad.
The campaign resulted in Jay-Z's album going platinum in one day while raking in 2.6 billion impressions and 55 million video views across eight countries.
2013 MLB Postseason
The 2013 Samsung NoteSeason Experience campaign asked fans to craft creative headlines for the MLB's photo of the day. Winning captions were featured on MLB.com's content the next day and also included prizes like tablets and tickets to a World Series game.
MLB claims the campaign resulted in the most engagement the brand has ever seen on a Twitter contest.
NBA In-Game Integration
Last year, Samsung started replacing traditional game assets—like score cards and coaching materials—with branded tablets and monitors as part of a multi-year, $100 million deal. For example, the devices are now used for instant replay reviews and game prep.
2013 NBA Opening Night
As part of a sponsorship around the 2013 NBA Opening Night, Samsung set up a digital activation outside the American Airlines Arena, where the Miami Heat play.
Samsung asked fans to post selfies on Twitter with the #TogetherWeRise hashtag. The 10,000 pictures were then collected into a video mosaic outside the stadium.
The campaign won R/GA a Grand Clio Sports Award this year (Adweek and the Clio Awards are owned by affiliates of Guggenheim Partners.)
Known as the World's Most Famous Selfie, Samsung's integration between Ellen DeGeneres and this year's Academy Awards is arguably the brand's most buzzed execution to date.
According to Mayo, two celebrities were planned to take a selfie with DeGeneres, but instead, a group of 11 actors huddled around the talk show host as she snapped a tweet using a Samsung device. The picture then took off on Twitter, nabbing more than 267 million impressions.
Later, the team at Twitter turned the tweet into a poster to hang in the San Francisco headquarters.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) March 3, 2014
In addition to the Jay-Z and Unicorn Apocalypse mobile apps, Samsung has also built apps for several of its other sports-related media deals.
From May to June of this year, Samsung developed the LeBron James app to let fans follow the NBA star, who is notorious for shutting down social media during the playoffs. The app displayed game recaps and an inside look at James' workouts, fashion, meals and favorite music. The LeBron James app was downloaded more than 375,000 times with more than 9.5 million sessions (it was removed from Google Play after the playoffs ended).
Back in April, Samsung carved out an exclusive branded section within the NBA Gametime app for the 2014 playoffs, which included custom lock screens and wallpapers. Seventy-two percent of Samsung devices with the NBA Gametime claim to have utilized the custom content.
A similar initiative in August integrated with the MLB At Bat app during baseball season. More than 200,000 Samsung devices accessed the branded section.
MLB Instant Replay
When the MLB launched its new review system this year that lets umpires review close calls, Samsung signed on as the official sponsor.
Samsung's deal includes product integration, branding during live games and ownership of the @MLBReplays Twitter account, which has amassed more than 36,000 followers.
Samsung's branded moments popped up on more than 630 instant replays during the second half of baseball season.
2014 MLB All-Star Week
Samsung loaded up the field at this year's MLB Home Run Derby with Twitter Mirrors—devices that capture content from events and then upload it to the social site.
In addition to the on-field technology, Samsung set up a similar initiaitive for Vine on the red carpet for the All-Star Game and in the stadium.
This year's All Star Week raked in Samsung's highest average social engagement to date—12.36 percent—and included more than 12 million impressions.