Apr 27, 2010 at 04:44 PM
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How an iPhone App Got Olympic Status by Building a Sponsor-Friendly Feature Set

Popular tech blog, TUAW.com, has a fascinating look at how a little known iPhone app-maker got official status for their "mobile guide" at the Vancouver Olympic Games. Xomo, which the story says is a company built around the idea of creating "disposable" event apps for iPhone, started developing the Mobile Spectator Guide without sponsors on board and "before the games knew they would want an app." Creating the app strictly on spec was a risky proposition, but one that paid off -- with a little luck.

"Bell, one of the games' sponsors, announced right around that time that they would be selling the iPhone in Canada, so it made much more sense for them to help sponsor an iPhone app. But Bell also sold other phones, so they told Xomo that they wanted the guide to be multiplatform. In response, Xomo hired Java and .Net teams to create versions of the app for Blackberry and Windows phones as well."

And how did Xomo go about marketing an iPhone app at a Samsung-sponsored Olympics?

".. because Samsung was the other major sponsor of the Olympics, the agreement was that the word "iPhone" couldn't actually be used in any of the promotion. Xomo had to say that the app was available on "popular smartphones" or otherwise go around the issue. Likewise, Samsung required that Apple couldn't actually feature the app in the App Store, and Apple was disappointed, but because they did want to support the Olympic app, they complied."

Great read -- and a good lesson. Sometimes properties, rather than looking for standalone sponsors, may come out better off by positioning themselves as activation platforms for other, and often larger, sponsorship investments. Afterall, it's a lot easier to spend on an activation, when you've just sunk millions of dollars into the sponsorship rights!