By Joan Leotta
Viral videos infect us with laughter, touching moments, and fun. Guinness beer recently released an ad that has gone viral at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwndLOKQTDs. This ad touches the heart of many and at the same time promotes a picture of people with disabilities as active, vibrant individuals.
“Basketball”: The ad
Whether you drink beer or not, you have probably seen the Guinness video showing a group of guys playing basketball in wheelchairs. The video has caught on with thousands of people who simply love the image of human interaction. Whether it will translate into more sales of Guinness is yet to be seen, but certainly the video has struck a chord with many, and the Guinness name will likely be indelibly linked to that positive viewpoint.
Doug Campbell, Brand Director at Guinness, says, “Our goal creatively was to be uplifting and we were drawn by people who do inspiring deeds, not for the glory, but because they possess a depth of true character.” He names BBDO New York as the agency behind the ad.
“This ad exemplifies the essence of that character and male kinship,” he says, showing “ordinary people demonstrating support for their buddies in a natural, unheralded way.”
The ad was originally intended for the US market only, but has become so popular that Guinness is airing it in Jamaica, Great Britain, Ireland, and Canada. Recognizing the broad appeal of the ad’s message, Campbell notes, “This ad is not about disabled sports, per se. Rather, it is about the kinship and loyalty among good friends that inspires people to do things they might not otherwise do to support people they care about. It depicts a group of friends playing basketball together and how people inclusively rally around their friend in a meaningful way.”
The promotion highlights a Guinness credo in that it “exemplifies friendship, inclusion and camaraderie,” says Campbell, “everything in which Guinness believes.”
Guinness says it did not intend the ad to go viral and did not pay for additional promotion of the ad through YouTube as some companies do. However, the efficacy of viral videos is well documented. A 2010 Inc. magazine article by April Joyner (http://www.inc.com/magazine/20100201/using-viral-video-to-boost-sales.html/1) explored the value of using videos to promote products and add positive associations to a company’s message. For example, the article describes the success of Smule, a Palo Alto, California, maker of iPhone apps. The company produced two demos for its Ocarina app, which lets the iPhone function as a kind of flute. Those videos attracted a combined 1.5 million viewers. According to Joyner’s article, “The videos’ successes have translated into brisk sales for Smule. Ocarina is one of the iPhone’s top-selling apps, having been downloaded more than 1.5 million times, at 99 cents each.”
Joyner also documents a case more similar to Guinness’, in which a video was produced not so much to promote a product but to communicate what the brand represents. Her article describes videos produced by robot maker Kiva Systems that have “value beyond tracking by sales increases.” In the article, Mitch Rosenberg, Kiva’s vice president of marketing, is quoted as saying, “These types of videos are primarily for fun, but the secondary effect is that people hear about a practical way to use a robot.”
In the case of Guinness, the ad is a strong fit for the company’s overall outlook. According to Campbell, “‘Basketball’ is the first execution in our recently launched ‘Made of More’ campaign.” However, although the campaign may be new, the desire to express support for great character, passion, and drive is centuries old.
“For Guinness, these values have been core to the brand for more than 250 years,” says Campbell, “when Arthur Guinness first decided to experiment with a different kind of beer that would offer more character and flavor than other brews on the market.”
The way that the video was made underscores the firm’s commitment to inclusion. According to Campbell, Guinness sought input and received support from the Reeve Foundation throughout. They consulted with this leading research and advocacy organization for people with spinal cord injuries in order “to ensure that no offense would be caused while creating the ad,” Campbell relates.
“Their President and CEO, Peter Wilderotter, has shown his full support for the ad,” Campbell says, “and applauded Guinness for raising awareness of spinal cord injuries in a way that puts a spotlight on the everyday challenges of living with paralysis.”
Guinness also incorporated feedback and guidance from Joshua Campos, himself a disabled wheelchair basketball athlete and coach. “Campos is the coach of a wheelchair basketball team affiliated with the LA Clippers NBA Basketball Team,” Campbell explains. “He’s been an active competitor for more than six years. That intimate knowledge of the game kept us honest and, in our opinion, helped make for a memorable, authentic story.”
While the company has not yet documented the number of views, Campbell notes, “Overall, we have received overwhelmingly positive responses to the ad. People, disabled or not, seem to understand and appreciate the message.” He continues, “Guinness thanks everyone who has watched, shared with their friends, and shown their support.”
Success with this video is just the beginning of Guinness’ plan to give back to the community. The next part of the “Made of More” campaign is a recently-launched initiative to help raise $1 million in support of local firefighters. Campbell says, “We believe that firefighters also embody the spirit of ‘Made of More.’” In partnership with The Leary Firefighters Foundation, from now until St. Patrick’s Day adult Guinness fans can purchase commemorative firefighter-themed t-shirts benefitting that Foundation on www.GUINNESSGivesBack.com, the online hub for all philanthropic efforts surrounding the brand’s commitment to local firefighters.
Just like the Basketball ad, the firefighter campaign satisfies Guinness’s impulse to celebrate character, passion, and drive. “Made of More” may prove Guinness to be not just a beer of strong character, but the brew of choice for ale drinkers of the same quality.
Edited by Mary-Louise Piner.