TO promote its Galaxy mobile devices, Samsung Electronics is taking, fittingly, a galactic approach, with an international marketing campaign that blends science fiction with soccer fandom.
Central to the campaign is a series of videos, shot in a moody, otherworldly style reminiscent of “The Matrix,” that establish the premise: Earth is being invaded by aliens, and the only way to save the planet is to beat the invaders in a soccer match.
On Nov. 1, Samsung released the first video in the campaign, which features the retired German soccer legend Franz Beckenbauer, who tells an interviewer that he will be serving as the manager for the planet-defending team, called Galaxy 11, which he is commencing to field.
“It’s ironic that after all this time it will not be our militaries or our science that will be our salvation,” says Mr. Beckenbauer gravely. “It will be football that saves the planet.”
The video has garnered more than 3.7 million views on YouTube. Another uploaded 10 days later, in which Mr. Beckenbauer anoints Lionel Messi, the Argentine soccer star, as captain of the team, has been viewed more than 5.2 million times. Since then, one or two more players have been announced each week in short videos, the last being Cristiano Ronaldo, of Portugal, in a video on Dec. 13 that already has received more than 1.2 million views.
Uploaded on Wednesday was a four-minute video, “The Beginning,” the longest thus far, which included clips of television anchors announcing the alien invasion and of the team members being gathered from all over the globe. The video ends with the team suited up in black astronaut uniforms in a hangar before a title card, “Football will save the planet,” and the address of a microsite for Galaxy 11.
Creative duties for the campaign were shared by R/GA, San Francisco, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies, and Cheil Worldwide in Seoul, South Korea (Samsung is based in nearby Suwon). Direction on the video uploaded Wednesday is by Reynald Gresset, with cinematography by Arnaud Potier and special effects by Eight VFX.
Samsung, which declined to reveal expenditures for the campaign, spent $265 million to advertise Galaxy devices in the United States in the first nine months of 2013, more than the $230 million it spent in all of 2012.
The videos are not commercials but rather what is known in marketing parlance as branded content, with the soccer players and actors prominently using Galaxy devices. Featured repeatedly is the futuristic looking Galaxy Gear smartwatch, which is worn like a wristwatch and functions as a companion device to a Galaxy smartphone or tablet, and from which James Bond aspirants can make calls, record conversations and shoot photographs and video.
Hoon Kang, who manages sports marketing efforts at Samsung, said showing devices being used in a dramatic context — even one as far-fetched as athletes training to compete against extraterrestrials — can resonate with consumers more effectively than commercials that demonstrate products more deliberately.
“Mobile technology is getting more complicated and can be very hard to understand sometimes,” Mr. Kang said in a telephone interview from South Korea. “Through the football videos, we want to show our key functionality and key technology in an emotional way.”
Samsung recorded its highest worldwide shipment for smartphones to date in the third quarter, 88.4 million, up from 56.9 million in the same period of 2012, an increase of 55.4 percent, according to Strategy Analytics, a research firm. Samsung leads the worldwide smartphone market, with a 35 percent share in the quarter, followed by iPhone maker Apple, with a 13.4 percent share.
While television viewership and game attendance for professional soccer games in the United States lags many other countries, the future shows promise. Among children from 6 to 12 years old, 17.1 percent play soccer at least once a year, slightly less than those who play basketball (17.6 percent), but more than those who play baseball (13.4 percent), tackle football (4.5 percent), or hockey (1.1 percent), according to a 2013 report by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.
Among the 13 players on what Samsung is calling its dream team is one from the United States, Landon Donovan, who plays for the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The players, who according to Samsung have nearly 200 million followers on Facebook and Twitter, are contractually obligated to post comments about the Galaxy 11 videos, which has led to several going viral.
Rob Smiley, the executive creative director of the R/GA San Francisco office, said that some future iterations of the Galaxy campaign, while viewable on devices like iPhones, would be most impressive on Samsung devices, though he declined to more specific.
“We don’t want to penalize anyone for using another device,” said Mr. Smiley. “That said, we do have plans for some of the content to be more robust and interactive if you view it on Samsung technology.”
The story will continue to unfold until the third quarter of 2014, according to the brand, which declined to be more specific with dates, and will end with the soccer dream team squaring off against a team of aliens. With the promotion unfolding over the better part of a year, Mr. Smiley said the impact would far exceed that of a viral video or two.
“This is not a one-and-done campaign,” Mr. Smiley said. “What we’ve done is looked at this almost as a franchise with a group of superheroes, and with story lines that develop over chapters.”