Not many organisations have the opportunity to launch a new division in a highly competitive industry with the Olympic Games as a major customer.
For Samsung Electronics, the official wireless communications partner for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, just that has happened.
In 1997, the organisation signed an agreement with the International Olympic Committee to become a worldwide Olympic partner. Under the agreement, Samsung would provide communications equipment to the Olympic Summer and Winter Games from 1998 until 2004.
In June 1999, a year out from the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, Samsung Australia launched a local telecommunications division to rival long-time communications companies such as Nokia, Ericsson and Motorola.
Today, with the Olympics sponsorship as a major driver, Samsung's new telecommunications arm has formed strong relationships with Australian carriers, including Telstra, Optus and Hutchison, and has reported $60 million in revenues over its first year.
"A lot of marketing has been leveraged through the Olympics. It would have been difficult to come to market without that," said Les Chapman, Samsung Australia's director of telecommunications.
"Having the Olympic sponsorship has enabled us to introduce incentives to dealers. . .and build better relationships with the carriers, especially Telstra."
Additionally the sponsorship has increased consumer awareness of Samsung, he said.
According to Chapman, under its contract with SOCOG, Samsung is providing more the 20,000 communications devices including Special Edition Olympic Games mobile phones, two-way radios, pagers and fixed line phones. SOCOG is distributing the devices to athletes, officials, staff, media, the Australian Olympic Committee and Olympic partners, Chapman said. At the Nagano Winter Games in 1998, Samsung provided 13,000 devices.
The Special Edition Olympic Games mobile phones are available in two models - GSM (SGH-2400) and CDMA (SCH-620) and were launched to the public in May and July respectively.
"They have been designated the official Olympic mobile phone. . .and have been accepted by the public," Chapman said.
According to Chapman, 40 Samsung service points have been established in Homebush Olympic Park, Olympic venues and the Olympic Village offering maintenance and support services to users of the phones and other devices.
Engineers located in Samsung's head office in Homebush will repair and recycle phones to replenish stockpiles located at the service centres, Chapman said.
In the lead up to the Sydney 2000 Games, Samsung has worked closely with other technology providers, including network provider Telstra and IBM.
"We worked in partnership with Telstra to make sure our products meet their specifications," Chapman said.
According to Chapman, Samsung also worked closely with IBM earlier this year on the possibility of introducing WAP-enabled (Wireless Application Protocol) mobile phones, an idea that was later shelved for unknown reasons.
In addition to providing equipment for the Games, Samsung has also developed several marketing initiatives to leverage its Olympic sponsorship contract. According to officials, the company planned to invest a total of $US200 million for its worldwide marketing initiative from 1999 to 2000. This included a $10 million " Go To Sydney" campaign launched in May across 13 countries.
In Sydney as part of the campaign, centres showcasing innovative products including an MP3 phone, TV phone, camera phone, and internet phone have been established at the Olympic Village, Olympic Park and The Rocks. Additionally a initiative launched at the Nagano Winter Games in 1998 known as "Share the Moment" has been launched offering three minute phone calls to anywhere in the world for visitors to the centres.