Samsung's Rio campaign is an unexpected flag-bearer for sports sponsorship

The humour in Samsung's "School of Rio" cleverly weaves together the tech brand and the Olympics, writes Vicki Holgate, executive planning director of FCB Inferno.

What has Samsung got to do with the Olympics? Change the brands and this is the fundamental question faced by so many strategists presented with new sponsorship opportunities. Samsung found a really clever way of answering it, resulting in "School of Rio" being the most-liked campaign in the Adwatch survey. Sponsorship is a brilliant way of reaching an audience.

But the key to making it work is to make it make sense to people on the street. There needs to be some relevance or some shared values or expertise between the brand and the event. All too often, a brand is shoehorned into some idents. It looks clumsy and undermines the brand’s credibility (if it is even noticed).

On the face of it, Samsung doesn’t have more than a passing relevance to the Olympics. But to its credit, it didn’t shy away from this. The Samsung "School of Rio" campaign creates a connection through relevant, interesting and, crucially, humorous content. We are treated to an insight into our Olympians’ and Paralympians’ training regimes. Humour is critical to our acceptance of these stories.

Humour (done well) bypasses our rational filters, allowing us to more easily accept information as relevant and believable. The combination of Jack Whitehall (genuinely very funny) and athletes playing it straight (making them genuinely funny) is brilliant. It’s the only sponsorship campaign that I have ever actively sought out online. The additional layer that "School of Rio" brings is the overt connection to the products.

They have identified the four parallels between a Samsung handset and the athletes’ performance – resilience, stamina, elegance and protection. To our man in the street, it brings another layer of relevance to the sponsorship. Samsung has raised the bar on sponsorship communication. Smart thinking and brilliant execution.