Samsung’s aggressive celebrity social media marketing strategy took a bit of a hit this week when the White House recoiled after learning that the selfie Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz took with President Barack Obama had promotional strings attached.
Ortiz, the 2013 World Series MVP, snapped the picture with a Galaxy Note 3 on Tuesday during the Red Sox visit to the White House, and posted it on Twitter, where he has 636,000 followers.
Someone — looking at video, it doesn’t appear to be Ortiz — said “Cha-ching” as Big Papi took the shot. The tweet has been retweeted more than 41,000 times.
What an honor! Thanks for the #selfie, @BarackObama pic.twitter.com/y5Ww74sEID
— David Ortiz (@davidortiz) April 1, 2014
Samsung’s social media team was ready, sending a native retweet of Ortiz’s tweet seven minutes later and promoting it. That tweet — Big Papi, Big Selfie — has 471 retweets of its own. The social team also interacted with Twitter users who were talking about the photo and when asked, noted the make of the phone:
By any measure, it was a social media home run. Except for the fact that the White House doesn’t like to be pulled into commercial promotions, and the administration didn’t realize that Ortiz had recently signed a promotional deal with Samsung.
“As a rule the White House objects to attempts to use the president’s likeness for commercial purposes,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said. “And we certainly object in this case.”
Although Samsung had suggested that Ortiz use the Note 3 to take and share photos from the White House visit, Ortiz denied that the selfie was planned ahead of time.
“That was one of those things that just happened,” Ortiz told the Boston Globe. “I gave him the jersey, 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.”
That rings true considering what Samsung USA CMO Todd Pendleton said at the 4A’s Transformation conference last month. Describing Ellen DeGeneres’ world record selfie at the Academy Awards as a “planned unplanned moment,” Pendleton said the company strives for authenticity by avoiding rigid scripts.
Here’s video of the moment: