Talking Rugby with Diageo

Rugby has always been an important part of the Guinness promotional programme.  From the Guinness Series in November through partnerships with all of the home Rugby Unions and advertising that captures the spirit of the game, it is a brand and a sport that have a long history together.

The expansion of the Guinness PRO14 this summer to include two teams from South Africa is part of an ambitious plan for the Championship that might not have been possible without the heritage and credibility which it got from the brand three years ago.

Switching from a PRO12 to a PRO14 in the middle of a six-year partnership required a good deal of support on the part of the sponsor but it was clear when we sat down with Guinness Sponsorship Manager for Europe Rory Sheridan this week that this was never in doubt.

“Like every business, we have to work within budgets and this has meant extending our involvement across two more teams half way around the world.”

“We have had to engage with our Diageo team in South Africa to bring them up to speed with how much potential this expansion has.”

“We shared the story of what the PRO12 was and what their vision in terms of the future is and they got very excited very quickly.”

“Having our local partners on board and fully bought in to activating with the Southern Kings and the Toyota Cheetahs gives us the freedom to support and promote the teams, the games and the character of the Championship in the way we would always want to.”

“It will be to promote Guinness as we would not want to dilute the brand which has global reach in terms of its close association to the sport over many years.”

“Africa has always been a significant market for the business and while South Africa is not as big a single market for Guinness as a single brand as it is in other sub Saharan African markets such as Nigeria, Kenya, Namibia and Cameroon, this gives us a significant foothold within the rugby audience in the country.”

“It’s a new opportunity for our teams to encourage sampling in stadia and other venues, and with the Championship running through the whole of the Rugby season that is a really great asset to have.”

The Guinness Series is coming up on the horizon now as well with South Africa, Argentina and Samoa coming to the Aviva Stadium this year.

“Our plans are already well advanced to activate around those matches.”

“The Six Nations will also be a major one for us and our partnerships with the Irish, English and Scottish Rugby Unions.”

“And of course we have our partnerships at home with Leinster and Munster who will be flying the flag in the Guinness PRO14 as well as in the European Champions’ Cup again this season.”

“Rugby has been good for Guinness and we would argue that Guinness has been good for Rugby too.”

“We’ve been operating in the sport for north now of 25 years and the relationships we have with our customers through these strong partnerships are very important.”

“The game against the All Blacks last year was a record for us in terms of the business.”

“Being so closely associated with these big rugby days is how we connect. Going to the ground or to the pub with your mates and sharing these amazing experiences, with Guinness as part of that.”

It’s not all about Rugby though. The new Guinness GAA ad focuses on the importance of the volunteer in the GAA and that has a particular resonance for Sheridan whose own father won a GAA Presidents Medal earlier this year for the work he has done down the decades in terms of building up particularly the Ladies Football section in Kilmacud Crokes in Dublin.

Down the years Guinness has always maintained the sense of being ‘More Than’ a brand, ‘More Than’ a product. They have done so through clever advertising such as those spots with Munster’s win over the All Blacks or Japan’s win over South Africa at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

They do not step lightly into partnerships but when they do they do so with intelligence and real commitment. The Guinness PRO14 will benefit from that.

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