Loeb & Loeb – In discussing the debate surrounding Ortiz’s selfie with the President—whether it was a spontaneous snapshot or a paid marketing stunt on behalf of Samsung—this article looks at the legal issues surrounding brands’ use of celebrities and famous people such as President Obama, and the questions raised about whether such acts are deemed commercial speech or non-commercial speech protected by the First Amendment.
David Ortiz, known affectionately as “Big Papi,” is larger than life. As a clutch hitter for the Boston Red Sox, Ortiz’s swing is only matched by his big, friendly personality — both of which have served him well.
With a reported $5 million in commercial endorsements, his brand relationships are as varied
as JetBlue airline, Vitamin Water makers Glaceau and food company Wise Snacks.
But it was Ortiz’s deal with Samsung that caused more talk recently than his spring training batting average. When the World Series-winning Red Sox went to the White House to meet President Barack Obama, Big Papi requested a selfie with the president.
Of course, Ortiz sent it out on social media. And, of course, the selfie was retweeted and publicized
and picked up all over the world.
At the time, everyone in attendance — even the president — laughed off “the Big Papi selfie”
(as Obama labeled it) simply as classic Ortiz — a bold move by a bold man.
Or was it? The day before going to the White House, Ortiz had signed a deal with Samsung
to be their “social media insider.” Samsung retweeted the image to its 5.2 million Twitter followers
and otherwise publicized that the Papi-presidential selfie was taken with a Samsung Galaxy
Note 3 smartphone.
Coverage of the deal in the sports media prior to the White House visit also indicated that
Ortiz would be “tweeting and sending photos on Samsung’s behalf” at the White House, leading many to believe that the Obama selfie was a paid marketing stunt — something both Samsung and Ortiz deny.