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Samsung's Olympic Genome Project Exits Beta

Will add donation capabilities next week
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Samsung rolled out an Olympic-themed Facebook app today, which lets users connect with past and current Olympians as though they were Kevin Bacon.

The new app, dubbed the Olympic Genome Project, was first unveiled in beta form at SXSWi. Via the new app, Facebook users can literally cross-reference their Facebook profiles with info submitted by Olympians. 

Ralph Santana, svp and CMO of Samsung Electronics America, said the consumer electronics manufacturer devised the campaign because consumers want to know how connected they are to the Olympians but don’t have a mechanism for unearthing any ties.

“It’s hard for people to make those connections in the Olympics because what you know about them are the two or three athletes who are being promoted by NBC during that two-week window,” he said. “So you know about Michael Phelps, but you don’t about the fact that maybe there’s somebody from my hometown who medaled in [fencing].”

And beyond finding out that a member of Team USA’s rowing team also likes Mad Men, as consumers connect with more Olympians they earn points and badges. The points are tallied on leaderboards so consumers can see how they stack up with other users or just those who are also their Facebook friends. 

Users can beef up their rankings by completing activities within the Facebook app that will connect them to more Olympians or add to existing connections. Activities range from answering questions such as what is your favorite movie or TV show, completing trivia quizzes or checking in at Olympics venues as the competitions get under way.

Samsung will also run questions of the week that consumers can answer in order to enter a weekly giveaway of its products. Santana said users would not be able to segment subgroups of their friends to create pools akin to March Madness brackets.

The profile information submitted through the app will not be reflected in a user’s Facebook profile, Santana said, although users can update their Facebook profiles and have that new information reflected in the app. Users can also access the project through a mobile site outfitted with the app.

Michael Nicholas, chief strategy officer at Roundarch Isobar (part of Aegis Media’s Team Epic that worked with Samsung on the initiative), said the project’s gaming aspect ended up overshadowing the six-degrees angle for visitors who tested it during SXSWi, with session times averaging five to six minutes.

Added to the game design, users can also earn tokens that can be put toward rewards like a trip to the Olympics in London (or future games in Sochi, Russia, or Rio de Janeiro), a Samsung Galaxy Note smartphone or a Visa gift card to be redeemed for Team USA merchandise.

To further ties between consumers and Team USA, on April 18 Samsung will add the ability for users to donate money to the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Samsung is supporting the project with a social-centered media strategy. Starting today the company will run ads on Facebook, on social gaming platforms and within mobile and tablet apps.