Samsung UK marketing boss on ‘preparing the ground’ for Rio Olympics with rugby sponsorship push

Samsung has a long history of sport sponsorship and is using a tongue-and-cheek campaign ahead of the Rugby World Cup to cement its ties and lay the foundations for Rio 2016.

Samsung has taken a comedic approach to its RFU sponsorship, enlisting the talents of Jack Whitehall – already known in the sporting community for panel show A League of Their Own – to reach an audience beyond hard core rugby fans.

Six 60-second ads are themed around attributes of rugby that Samsung also wants to appropriate such as ‘Power’ and ‘Speed’. Whitehall is seen being taken through the rules of the game by former England rugby stars like Jason Leonard, Maggie Alphonsi and Lawrence Dallaglio, as well as taking part in training sessions. Additional content has also been shot in 360-degree virtual reality to provide an immersive rugby experience by way of a lesson with Whitehall.

“Comedy is the way of connecting with people,” Russell Taylor, Samsung UK’s marketing head told The Drum ahead of the campaign’s launch.

“It’s a great leveller and allows us to humanise rugby moments to get close to rugby stars and see the stars in a different way. [Whitehall] brings that out.”

Although it’s not a sponsor of the impending Rugby World Cup, the creative is nonetheless a shift in strategy from what Samsung has previously used to laud its association with global sporting moments. For the Fifa World Cup last year it had a star studded four-minute film showing a high-tech training regime against robot defenders while its 2012 Olympic campaign featured David Beckham leading people to the start of the games.

Samsung is hoping the light hearted tone of the Whitehall-fronted content in the run up to the Rugby World Cup will appeal to what it has dubbed ‘the big eventers’, those people who might not follow a sport religiously but will rally for a national team or event.

“We believe technology can bring fans closer to their passions and we think this campaign does just that. A completely integrated piece it allows us to deliver exciting content that will get people talking and thinking about rugby in a different way,” Taylor added.

Fish where the fish are

As with other recent sporting events in the calendar, investment in social media has been considerable. Content has been created for Twitter, Facebook and Vine while Taylor is also planning to harness the following of its England Rugby ambassadors, enlisting them for a wave of activity in over the coming months.

“The theme of our approach is ‘fish where the fish are’ so we will put out our content in the form that’s most interesting at the time its’ most interesting and connect with consumers around the games in a way the want to engage with us,” Taylor explained.

Finally, it has partnered with Vice for a branded content series called ‘Slow Motion’ where players have been filmed in high-quality resolution performing moves such as tackling and passing.

Preparing for Rio

Speaking on the year ahead, Taylor is fully aware of the shadow that has been cast across the sporting industry in wake of the Fifa corruption scandal as well as the allegations of widespread doping in Athletics. As he heads into Rio these conversations will undoubtedly heighten.

However. Taylor claims that any negativity towards the sports it supports has not impacted Saumsung as a brand precisely because of its long term association.

“We are seen to be genuinely supporting a sport and proving an experience for fans so we avoid any of those association that are inevitably going to occur at some point in some place. If you turn your mind back to London 2012, and the degree of cynicism and dismay, but what actually happened was people got behind the event and the brands,” he said.

Samsung, not satisfied with being “the name on a shirt anymore”, is looking to continue to build on the momentum from the coming months into its sponsorship campaign for Rio 2016 and will be using the learnings from the shift in strategy for RFU to shape its plans.

“Sport is not a passive experience anymore. People spend their lives talking about it and technology can enhance the experience. That’s where we’re uniquely placed to win, we’ve got a real opportunity to connect so we’ve started to prepare the ground."

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