Schoolboy errors: Jack Whitehall stars in Samsung's comedy 'School of Rugby' spots

Samsung is hoping to win over non-rugby fans with its new 'School of Rugby' ads, which star comedian Jack Whitehall.

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The idea is to demystify the sport ahead of the Rugby World Cup, with Whitehall as the baffled everyman trying to grasp the rules under the scornful eye of rugby legends including Martin Johnson and Lawrence Dallaglio.

In a series of six films, Whitehall learns about the core elements of the game, taking part in a line-out against Johnson and being tackled by Maggie "the machine" Alphonsi.

The campaign is part of the wider build-up for the Rugby World Cup, with several brands capitalising on the fact that England is hosting the tournament.

An insular game

Russell Taylor, Samsung’s chief marketing officer in the UK and Ireland, told Marketing that the spots should appeal to would-be rugby fans who find the game and its rules "insular".

Taylor said: "There are two real audiences, in a way. There are the rugby fans who know everything about rugby. It can be a closed world in many ways, you know the players and the rules, you play it, you follow it, and all the finer points of rugby are clear to you.

"But there’s a whole swathe of people who want to get involved, who don’t understand the rules, the manoeuvres or the language."

Much of the campaign’s appeal lies in Whitehall’s fundamental likeability and his chemistry with the usually dour players.

Taylor said: "Sometimes he gets the edge on our sporting legends."

He added: "What we’re trying to do is bring rugby to people who want to be interested in it, with a knowing nod to those who truly love the game.

"There are some references to famous incidents that might go unnoticed by others. And there’s a wonderful chemistry between the old players and this approachable comedian."

Hijacking the Rugby World Cup?

The new campaign caps the first year of Samsung’s sponsorship of the RFU, struck last October.

As official consumer electronics and smartphone provider to England Rugby, Samsung isn’t actually a Rugby World Cup sponsor – hence no mention of the tournament in the campaign.

We didn’t come into this and go, let’s hijack the World Cup

Rugby World Cup sponsorship rules limit what non-sponsors can do during the tournament, though Taylor insists this isn’t a disadvantage.

He said: "Last year, we made a conscious decision that the best time for us to be activating was once we had a campaign which engaged with fans.

Samsung’s sponsorship gives it 700 screens at Twickenham Stadium, among other benefits, meaning the brand has had time to build an association with the sport.

Taylor added: "We didn’t come into this and go, let’s hijack the World Cup. This is a moment where rugby will be top of mind in the UK, and it feels like a very sensible moment to be engaging."

The School of Rugby campaign will run for eight weeks on TV, with three spots debuting on Sky Sports during the England vs Ireland match. They will also run at Twickenham stadium during the game.

Samsung will also release brief tutorials on social by its three rugby amabassadors, George Ford, Jonathan Joseph and Joe Launchbury.

It has also shot 360-degree video of the School of Rugby campaign for fans wanting to watch Whitehall’s shenanigans through Samsung’s Gear VR headset. Finally, there’s an online hub  hosting related content, plus additional game trivia.

Brand: Samsung

Agency: BBH Sport