Apple gets huge, free Olympic promotion as super swimmer Michael Phelps sports iPod earbuds

“There is one clear winner in the Bei-ca-ching advertising and branding sweepstakes,” John Scott G writes for Advertising Industry Newswire.


Scott G writes, “Yes, I know they don’t appear to be on any of the lists of official partners, sponsors or suppliers. Yes, I know they don’t seem to be purchasing any ads. But what is the one thing viewers keep seeing on such athletes as super swimmer Michael Phelps? The distinctive white ear buds of Apple’s iPod.”

MacDailyNews Take: We’ve seen Apple iPhone ads during Olympic coverage. Why they don’t air “Buy a Mac, Get a Free iPod” ads targeted to students and their parents is a vexing mystery, albeit predictable. For all of their marketing prowess, sometimes Apple can be maddeningly stupid.

Scott G continues, “This may be the finest example of product placement in world history. And it may have cost Apple absolutely nothing,” Scott G writes. “How do we know those ear buds are attached to an Apple product, I hear someone ask. Couldn’t they actually hook up to a Zune?”

MacDailyNews Take: Poor SanDisk. They are the clear-but-distant number two to Apple’s iPod juggernaut and have 3 times the market share of the woefully anemic Zune failure, yet they almost never get mentioned.

Scott G continues, “Couldn’t they actually hook up to a Zune? Well, no. First of all, Michael Phelps is a winner.”

“Second, and most important, it doesn’t matter if they’re hooked up to an Apple product, a Zune, or nothing at all (sorry to repeat myself). The point is that Apple owns the white cord and buds so when you see them, you think ‘Apple.’ I do believe they call that part of the branding thing,” Scott G writes. “It takes big brains but it doesn’t necessarily take a big budget.”

More in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “dslarsen” for the heads up.]

Gotta love it: “Couldn’t they actually hook up to a Zune? Well, no. First of all, Michael Phelps is a winner.”

Just pull the plug already, Microsoft. They would if they were smart. Of course, if they were smart, there wouldn’t be a Zune to discontinue in the first place.

It’s not just Michael Phelps, of course. Lance Armstrong sported iPod earbuds routinely during daily warmups throughout the nearly month-long Tour de France for many of his record seven wins. Many sports figures use iPods, not only for music, but to watch video of their respective sports, relax with a TV show or movie while traveling, etc.

Ubiquity offers excellent opportunities for free promotion.


  1. re: using white earbuds with Zune

    I now know two Zune owners. Both hate the iPod, as they view it as part of the “evil” Apple empire, with the DRM and making you use iTunes, etc. They would never rep Apple by using white earbuds.

    And, no, not even a hint of irony from them.

  2. Microsoft will be loath to “pull the plug” on Zune, at least directly, as that would be an admission that Apple bested them. They might spin off the division as, say, Zune Multimedia. (It would have a brief life before being quietly shuttered.)

    Or perhaps, recalling that several of their products failed to gain traction until the third iteration, they’re banking on Zune 3.0 to finally deliver something “good enough”. But, as Daniel Eran reminds us, Microsoft has no track record of succeeding in the consumer arena where it faces real competition. Where it has no market choke hold, it fails.

  3. @Raymond in DC

    I don’t know about that – Microsoft was pretty successful up against Palm in the PDA market. Of course, the PDA market is all but dead at this point, but nonetheless, they had some pretty competitive products and the only way Palm kept its head above water was to slash its prices and compete mostly on the low-end.

    Not to defend Microsoft or anything ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

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