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[Weekender] Korean firms use Olympics as sales booster

The Summer Olympic Games that kicked off Friday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, are a bonanza for major Korean businesses that have suffered from sluggish domestic consumption for years.

Companies across industries are aggressively rolling out marketing events to appeal to consumers around the world during the 17-day international sports event. 

Models pose with gold medals to promote a giveaway event dubbed “Lovely Korea Festival” at the Lotte Department Store headquarters in Sogong-dong, central Seoul. (Yonhap)
Models pose with gold medals to promote a giveaway event dubbed “Lovely Korea Festival” at the Lotte Department Store headquarters in Sogong-dong, central Seoul. (Yonhap)

Samsung Electronics unveiled the Galaxy S7 Edge Olympic Games Limited Edition last month, featuring the five colors of the iconic Olympic rings – blue on the back camera, red on the power button, green on the volume rocker, and yellow-gold on the home button.

The world’s largest smartphone maker and official sponsor of the Rio Olympics began selling the special edition on July 18 in five countries – Korea, Brazil, Germany, China and the United States – releasing just 2,016 units of the edition in each market.

Buyers of the Olympic edition will be given Gear VR headsets that will allow them to experience sports in virtual reality. Through a draw, one hundred consumers will get Samsung’s wireless earphone set Gear IconX.

“The special edition carries our hope for Korean athletes’ outstanding performance,” said a spokesman at the company. “For our consumers, it will be a good chance to get a special version of the smartphone.”

For about 12,500 athletes in Rio, the company will dole out the gadgets and Gear IconX, as freebies in partnership with the International Olympic Committee.

Hyundai Motor Group is taking advantage of the Olympics to promote its brand to global consumers by providing free Wi-Fi in areas in the vicinity of the Christ the Redeemer statue. Hyundai Motor Brazil, the automaker’s local branch, has an exclusive right to use the image of the statue among foreign carmakers in the country.

Some conglomerate owners are showing closer support for national players.

SK Group chairman Chey Tae-won, head of the Korea Handball Federation, visited the Taeneung National Training Center early July to cheer on national team players. The group offered 300 million won as incentives.

Hanwha Group chairman Kim Seung-youn met with shooters at a shooting competition hosted by the group on July 5. Hanjin Group chairman Cho Yang-ho also made a visit to the athletes’ village last month and granted 100 million won.

Local department stores are offering a plenty of discounts, giveaway events and festivals to bring in more consumers during the upbeat days.

Lotte Department Store will hold a 200 million won gift card event for the next two weeks. The winner’s prize starts at 10 million won, but the more gold medals Korean players win, the more the prize will be worth, as it will be multiplied by the number of the medals.

“The gift card event is capturing significant attention from local consumers,” said a PR staff at the department store. “And we are positive about higher sales in August helped by these Olympic events.”

Sport brands including Nike, Adidas and Fila will offer up to 60 percent discounts at five Lotte Department Store branches under the so-called “Fighting Korea Sports Special Event.”

Lotte sponsors the Boxing Association of Korea for this year’s Olympics. Under the sponsorship, the retail giant will grant 20 million won for any medal won in the boxing tournament, and 10 million won for all players regardless of whether they win.

Shinsegae Department Store is cheering with food. The retailer will hold Summer Food Festival at all branches until Aug. 21. During the event, consumers can enjoy three kinds of food by global food chains including Vecchia & Nuovo, Johnny Rockets and Dean & DeLuca for 15,000 won.

It is also offering special discounts for watermelons, pork belly packs, grapes and home-grown sirloins steak. 

By Song Su-hyun (