You remember that selfie at the Academy Awards with all those stars that got retweeted a bazillion times? That was a Samsung marketing deal. The company sponsored the March 2 Oscars telecast and trained Ellen DeGeneres on how to take a picture using the Galaxy Note 3.
Something similar can be said about David Ortiz’s apparently impromptu selfie with President Barack Obama at the White House ceremony on Tuesday honoring the Boston Red Sox for their 2013 World Series victory.
But was it actually impromptu?
It turns out that Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal reported on Monday that the Dominican-born slugger had just inked a deal with the phone manufacturer to be its MLB “social media insider.” The Journal reported that “when the Red Sox visit the White House this week to commemorate their World Series victory, "Big Papi" will be tweeting and sending photos on Samsung’s behalf.”
Apparently, the news did not spread like wildfire, because Big Papi complied, but nobody seemed to realize it at the time.
Ortiz presented the president with a Red Sox jersey with “Obama” on the back. As they were getting ready to pose for official White House photos, Ortiz reached into his pocket and pulled out his Galaxy phone, saying, “Actually, do you mind if I take my own?”
Pres. Obama smiled and said, “I think he wants to do a selfie.”
Obama ought to know, having had some experience with others asking to take selfies with him.
“Yes, sir. Yes, sir,” Ortiz told the president.
Ortiz took the photo while news organizations snapped pictures of him snapping the presidential selfie. According to the Boston Globe, Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes yelled, “Cha-ching!” immediately after.
Then Ortiz tweeted the selfie to his 636,000 followers, which was promptly retweeted by Samsung Mobile US to its 5.25 million followers.
When the press started to realize the promotional aspect of the photo on Wednesday, the U.S. mobile phone arm of the South Korean conglomerate issued a statement: "When we heard about the visit to the White House, we worked with David and the team on how to share images with fans. We didn’t know if or what he would be able to capture using his Note 3 device."
Oops. Seems nobody told the White House that the chief executive was about to become a marketing tool.
When BusinessWeek asked spokesperson Jay Carney about it on Tuesday, Carney replied via e-mail, using a common acronym for “president of the United States.” Carnely wrote: “POTUS did not know.”
Time for some backpedaling. On Thursday, The Boston Globe asked Ortiz point blank, “Did Samsung pay you any more money for taking that photo?”
“No way, man,” Ortiz answered, basically sticking to the line that there wasn’t anything premeditated about the selfie.
“I gave him the jersey,” Big Papi explained, “and the photographers were going to take their pictures and I thought, really at the last second, maybe I should snap a shot with my phone while I have the chance. It had nothing to do with no deals.”