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Armchair fans | Rugby spectators take a ride on the Samsung Slider

•    Manually-operated seat allows riders to follow the on-field action

•    Seat was first used at Australian rugby union game

•    Samsung used the Slider to promote a new TV range 

Armchair viewing has just taken on a whole new meaning.

The Samsung Slider – part sofa, part miniature train – is a mobile seating unit which moves up and down the pitchside at sporting events, reaching speeds of up to 20mph.

On show at Twickenham Stadium for the recent HSBC London Sevens, it allows the fans on board to follow the fastest winger as he hares down the touchline and hear the impact of every crunching tackle. 

Promoted by England stars Joe Launchbury and Jonathan Joseph in the build-up to the event, it provided 180 lucky fans with the ultimate rugby viewing experience. 

“Across the weekend of the HSBC London Sevens the Samsung Slider was a tremendous success,” says Simon Massie-Taylor, chief commercial officer of the Rugby Football Union (RFU). 

“It’s great to work with our partners to bring new, innovative ways to enhance our fans experience and the Samsung Slider has proved that.

"We’re always looking at ways we can enhance the experience rugby fans have when they attend Twickenham Stadium and the Samsung Slider is a prime example of a partner coming to us and adding real value to the day in a unique way.”
 
The electronics giant became an RFU partner in 2014, and its campaigns have included the Samsung School of Rugby, featuring comedian Jack Whitehall and former England stars Martin Johnson, Lawrence Dallaglio and Jason Robinson, during the 2015 World Cup. The Slider is its latest innovation.

“The concept came from our Australian team, which first used the Samsung Slider at an Australia v New Zealand Bledisloe Cup rugby union match in 2014,” explains Ben Blanco, head of sport and entertainment marketing at Samsung Electronics UK.

“It gives fans a unique vantage point for sporting events. It’s something that has never been done before and we decided we wanted to run it in the UK.”

The Slider made its UK debut during the 2016 HSBC London Sevens and returned this year. For both events, the four-seater unit was at capacity for all 45 matches, giving fans an unprecedented pitchside view of the action.

“The Slider is ideally suited to the fast-flowing style of rugby sevens, and allows fans to keep up with the end-to-end spectacle,” says Blanco.

“Also, because of the breaks between games, it is easy for us to get a new group of fans on board, allowing as many people as possible to experience the Slider over the weekend.

“We don’t allow broadcasters to use it because we want it to be a truly unique view for the people who ride on it – the best seat in the house.”

No admission charge

Perhaps surprisingly, there is no admission charge for the Slider – entry is for fans who win competitions run by the RFU and Samsung.

“We organised competitions across the weekend at Twickenham, such as ‘tweet your seat’, plus there was a Samsung experience in the West Stand car park where we ran a quiz,” explains Blanco. “Additionally, the Daily Telegraph ran its own competition and the RFU used the Slider to reward England fans. 

“That said, once people could see it in operation, some fans came down to the ‘holding pen’ where fans wait before getting on board, and offered us money to go on it! But there is no revenue associated with this for either Samsung or the RFU – it’s all part of our partnership.”

The payback for Samsung is brand exposure. “We took photos of every fan who used the Slider, which we tweeted and emailed to them,” says Blanco. “We had great social media take-up, with 2,500 mentions of Samsung Slider on Twitter alone across the weekend. 

“The campaign is around our new HD Premium QLED TV range – the Slider is about providing a view never experienced before, so there is obvious synergy with the QLED product message.” 

Logistics considerations

Samsung is now keen to take the Slider – the only one of its kind in the UK – to other sporting events. 

“We have been approached by other events, venues and rights holders around the country,” says Blanco. “Wembley Stadium has just had health and safety sign-off for the Slider, which is great. But there are safety and logistics considerations for venues interested in using it – some Premier League grounds, for example, do not have enough space between the front row of seats and the touchline to accommodate the Slider. 
 
“Also, we don’t want it to be a niche experience for a select few people,” says Blanco. “Rugby sevens lends itself well, because we can change people over between games, allowing lots of fans to get a ride. It might work well with NFL, which obviously is hosted by Twickenham and Wembley, because of the stoppages in play.

"You can imagine the Slider tracking the movement of running backs. Other options could be horse racing or the pit lane at Formula One.”

Meanwhile, it’s become an established part of the sevens experience at Twickenham – and may soon appear at other games at the stadium.

The RFU’s Massie-Taylor says: “The HSBC London Sevens provides the perfect platform for the Samsung Slider. We’re looking forward to working with Samsung to see when we can use the Slider again.”

EXTRA: How the Samsung Slider works

The Samsung Slider was built using a lightweight aluminium superstructure, similar to that used for airliners. It is 5m long and 1.73m wide and – at Twickenham – ran along an 80m custom-built track. It is capable of reaching speeds up to 20mph. 

The Slider is powered by an electric winch, and operated by a driver who is based on the half-way line.

“The driver has two ‘spotters’ who sit alongside him, anticipating where the play will go and advising him when a change of direction is required, to keep the fans on board alongside the action,” explains Blanco. “The driver also needs to make sure the starts and stops are gradual for obvious safety reasons.”

All fans are buckled in to the ‘racing car-style’ seats, and each one has an emergency button. There is also a 135-laser ‘safety curtain’ which immediately stops operations if the track is breached during play, for example, if the ball falls onto it. 

The Slider can be raised or lowered on the track, in the event that it blocks views of spectators sat behind. “At Twickenham, we made 100 per cent sure that we wouldn’t impact on views, or require the RFU to take out seats,” explains Blanco. “If we’d needed to reduce the number of fans who could come in, it would have been counterproductive.”

Social media

  • 180 Slider ‘Riders’ across the weekend
  • 2,452 mentions of #SamsungSlider
  • 2,366 of these were ‘Tweet your Seat’ entries to win a seat on the Slider
  • 4.2m impressions across social media over the weekend

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