Guinness goes for poignancy in ad campaign featuring rugby stars Gareth Thomas and Ashwin Willemse

Guinness is launching a campaign to promote its deep-rooted rugby ties ahead of the sport's World Cup that will develop its recent focus on integrity and character.

With the rugby world cup just around the corner, Guinness has launched a new campaign which tells the uplifting real life stories of Wales legend, Gareth Thomas, and former South Africa winger, Ashwin Willemse, and how their teammates were there for them when they needed them most.

The two short documentary ads were created by advertising agency Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, in collaboration with internationally renowned Australian director, John Hillcoat, whose credits include “The Road” and “Lawless”. They shine a light on the lives of Thomas and Willemse as they recount their battles to overcome the most difficult periods in their lives. The ads provide a personal insight into the challenges they faced and how they overcame them with the support of their teammates.

Thomas, former Wales captain discusses his struggle in hiding his sexuality while captaining Wales and how he was able to eventually open up about it thanks to the help of his teammates. In the ad, titled “Never Alone” he says: “I went into battle on the pitch every week, but the battle I was going through personally was ten times worse because I was keeping a secret from the team. The support that my teammates showed when I came out was truly remarkable – my sexuality didn’t matter to them at all.

The other ad is titled “The Right Path” and features Willemse, former South Africa rugby player. It tells the story of his troubled childhood and how he fell in with the wrong crowed, selling drugs for a notorious Cape Town gang before being saved by his teammates.

Nick Britton, marketing manager for Guinness Western Europe, said that the films “perfectly demonstrate the values of integrity and character that are both core to the sport of rugby” adding that the empathy and support they received from their team are “remarkable stories that we are proud to celebrate.”

Along with the two adverts, Guinness is also releasing two short documentaries, which explore Thomas and Willemse's stories in more detail. These short films look at their stories in more detail and provide additional insight from the former players on the events. The ad featuring Thomas can be viewed in full above while Willemse's story can be viewed here.

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