Why Guinness’ Six Nations sponsorship is a masterclass in owning the moment

It’s a wonderful time of year when the Six Nations Championship provides part-time rugby enthusiasts, like myself, with the opportunity to drink copiously without fear of judgement, as we smother the usual disapproval of weekend benders with family-friendly patriotism, talks of gentlemanly conduct and middle-class banter.

As a habitual drinker of Guinness in London, I’m usually surrounded by lager drinkers who bombard me with opinions about the thickness and flatness of the Black Stuff as well as the classic line that it’s basically a meal in a glass. However, as I stood in Guinness Village in Flat Iron Square, watching England demolish France, I was acutely aware that there were very few people drinking anything else. It was almost frowned upon to stray away from the venerable stout, with those foolish enough to choose a bubblier alternative being mocked by their friends as they staggered back from the bar.

I couldn’t help but slip back into work mode as I noticed that people weren’t just drinking one or two pints for novelty value, being in Guinness Village and all, but continued to drink it for the entire match and beyond. Now, as a huge fan of the Black Stuff, I could put this down to the fact that it actually tastes sublime and people were simply building an appreciation for its amazing flavour and smoothness. However, as a marketer, it was fairly clear that there were a number of surreptitious strategic factors influencing consumers’ commercial choices.

As I looked around I started to notice the sheer density of brand messaging around us. The pint glasses. The pitch. The goal posts. The beer mats. The on-screen adverts. The point of sale activations. The tickets. The t-shirts. The screens. The banners. The ‘Free Pint of Guinness’ voucher you got on entry. Even people talking about the Guinness Clear hydration stations that were dotted about. The word Guinness was everywhere and it was drowning out any other brand, be it alcohol or otherwise. Of course, this is to be expected in a place aptly named Guinness Village but the level of exposure seemed to be replicated in every pub we ventured into after we left. It was seriously impressive, if not a little overkill, and made me question whether so much advertising was necessary and, if it was, why?

Well, if you work in marketing, there’s a fair chance that you’ve heard of the fabled Rule of Seven. For those who haven’t, the Rule of Seven was formulated by Dr Jeffery Lant who stated that, in order to effectively influence the purchasing decisions of a consumer, a brand needs to be seen by or have contact with the individual at least seven times within an 18-month period. In more modern times, it appears that the theory has been reinvented and rebranded as the eye-roll inducing ‘creative distribution tactics’. Whatever you call it, the idea quite simply revolves around targeting people with messaging, at multiple touchpoints, until you win over their loyalty.

However, given that every brand is trying to do the same thing, it’s an incredibly noisy world out there and it can be extremely difficult to be heard over the din of messaging as we all know. So, how do you ensure that you’re maximising your ROI and driving sales instead of squandering your creative at ineffective times?

You own a moment.

Now, as the title sponsor and official beer of the Six Nations, it’s obvious that Guinness is owning the championship from an international, industry perspective. And, as a beverage that can be enjoyed whilst watching, it makes much more sense for Guinness to sponsor the competition rather than its predecessor RBS.

What’s interesting is how Guinness is owning the Six Nations at a local level, through a combination of OOH, experiential and POS activations. Not only that but localised social media offers and reminders nicely tie the entire experience together whilst most pubs and bars push the brand messaging from their own channels in order to pull in the punters.

What’s more important is the effect that this exposure has on audiences and why it’s made Guinness, as a brand, synonymous with rugby. You see, the reason why the Six Nations is so special is the atmosphere. It’s the friendly side of competition that you don’t often get with football. It’s a high octane and brutal sport but the violence rarely ever transcends the pitch to infiltrate the fans. You have old rivals laughing and joking, huddled together in the quintessential home of British culture that is the pub. It’s the mid-day pints and the lazy afternoons, it’s walking into a warm bar from the bitter cold, the deathly silence before a player kicks a penalty or converts a try contrasted by the explosive, celebratory roars when he does. It’s human interaction at it’s very best. And through all of these wonderfully diverse and emotively-driven moments, one word is a constant. Guinness.

Hospitality industry experts have seen sales increase by up to 40% when a Six Nations match is on, compared with weekends without rugby. That’s insane. It shows just how big the opportunity is for an alcohol brand to dominate the market and use six weeks of rugby to boost profits and increase customer loyalty. With this in mind, it’s worth noting that in previous years the Diageo-owned brand sent out activation kits to teach pubs how to market the product to consumers, generating a 47% year-on-year uplift in sales in pubs that received the kits.

With hundreds of thousands of people flocking to bars and pubs to watch the Six Nations from 1 February to 16 March, that’s over a month’s worth of time to engage new and existing audiences, build relationships with consumers and shift an unholy number of pints. So, to return to my previous question, is so much advertising necessary and, if it is, why? The answer is absolutely.

If you’re looking to own special moments in people’s lives, you don’t want to leave any room for another brand to creep in at the side. And, in that respect, it looks like Guinness’ 2019 Six Nations has gotten off to a flying start… even if Ireland’s didn’t.

Harry Wright is a creative at Waste

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