Past Campaigns – Guinness – Never Alone & The Right Path


As we’re a new site but want to be an overall resource I felt it might be good to showcase some of what I feel are the best ethical marketing campaigns from the past, this one is from Guinness and was released in 2015 to coincide with that years Rugby World Cup.

The Guinness Rugby Never Alone and Right Path campaigns were developed at AMV BBDO.

Never Alone

In the build up to the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Guinness released two commercials which showcased two of the sports most beloved players, who had both overcome challenges.

“Never Alone” features former Welsh captain Gareth Thomas talking about how he his sexuality to his teammates. Gareth’s talks about how his greatest fear was never the opposition he faced on the pitch, but public perceptions and reactions to him coming out. This film celebrates the courage of Gareth and emphasises the support shown by his teammates.

Gareth Thomas, said: “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. That team becomes like your family – the closest thing to you, and to hide that secret from the team was horrible. The support that my teammates showed when I came out was truly remarkable – my sexuality didn’t matter to them at all. I am very proud about my rugby playing career, but I am more proud of the fact that my teammates supported me to play rugby being Gareth Thomas, being the person that I am, 100%.”

Creative team Mike Crowe and  Rob Messeter described their approach, “Part of the key is to figure out what the best stories to tell are, and the other thing is to not get in the way of those stories by layering on too much creativity.”

“We wanted to live up to the heritage that AMV had with Guinness. And for us that was often a visual spectacle that makes that memorable. But every time we tried to go down that route it felt contrived. So then you ask – how can you create something that still has an epic quality to it yet doesn’t lose any of the authenticity?”

Emphasis was placed on ensuring Gareth’s story was told as naturally as possible. In developing the script Crowe and Messeter had spent a lot of time watching interviews with Thomas. This was then adapted when they met him. So his interview was a mixture of a pre-prepared script, and carefully considered prompts.

The biggest debate in the production came around language. As Messeter remembers, “We had a debate about whether we used the word ‘gay’ in the commercial. It was such an unusual thing to make a commercial with this story, that we felt if you didn’t use the word ‘gay’, we were trying to tip-toe our way around the subject. We didn’t want it to feel exploitative or sensationalist.”

The Right Path

“The Right Path” tells of the past history of  Ashwin Willemse. When he was younger he found himself at a crossroads,. one path was with a notorious Cape Town gang, and the other was to play, and eventually reach the pinnacle of rugby. The film celebrates the choice that he made to defy his circumstances, and with the encouragement of those around him, he became a popular South African player eventually winning 19 caps for his country and becoming a World Champion in 2007.

Ashwin Willemse, former South Africa rugby player, said: “Me becoming a Springbok was something I never perceived to be possible growing up. I made some wrong decisions when I was younger and fell in with the wrong crowd. But even during that time I always had the gift of rugby. Without rugby, and the incredible support of my teammates and family, I most probably would have ended up either in prison or in a coffin six foot under. What they taught me is that we can defy the odds, we can be better than we ever imagined, all you need in life is just a small little light that can give you a new direction, and that for me was rugby.”

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.”

Longer form

Both ads were taken from slightly longer mini documentaries:

These are two fantastic examples of a company targeting their product’s demographic while engaging in ethical advertising, and what’s more they worked on different levels. During the tournament more Guinness was drunk than the official Rugby World Cup sponsor Heineken. But arguably the biggest success was the response online, as the YouTube comments for “Never Alone” demonstrated:

“True hero, it’s not hard to come out when you have nothing to lose, the real tough thing is to come out when you risk your whole life, your passion, and your family. This guy is a real man!”

“Gareth does Wales proud. Thank you Guinness and Gareth for this beautiful message of hope.”

“Inspirational! Well done Guinness. A brand that stands out from the rest. Can’t express how happy this makes me feel that a company has put itself out there in such a proud situation.”


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