Guinness and the Six Nations: a winning combination

Guinness and the Six Nations: a winning combination

7 Feb 2024

It was about 20 minutes before the kick-off of this year’s Six Nations, in the rugby mad city of Marseilles, that the great Brian O’Driscoll, former Ireland and British & Irish Lions captain, and now ITV pundit, said: “The Six Nations never fails to deliver. It’s the best annual competition in the world, there’s no doubt.”

And with 130m people tuning into the 2023 Championships alone and an ever-increasing global viewership, who are we to question the Championship’s record try scorer?

Since 2019 it is Guinness that has been the title sponsor of the Six Nations, with its name emblazoned across every piece of official branding. At the end of last year Guinness renewed its partnership with the Men’s Championship for a further six years and also announced that it would be the official partner of the Guinness Women’s Six Nations

The impact of the sponsorship on the brand has been remarkable, especially post-COVID. While Guinness has a 60-year affiliation with rugby, having been the official beer of the Six Nations since 2007, in the last three years, Guinness’s performance has taken off.

When Diageo announced its Half Year results in January, the world’s business media were all taken by Guinness’s continued growth:

  • It has enjoyed a 24% year on year increase in organic sales across Europe
  • Guinness is now the number one beer in the UK (having been named the biggest pint in pubs in 2023)
  • In London alone 1 in 9 pints sold are Guinness

But while many measures of sports sponsorship success are attached to increased visibility and sales – truly iconic partnerships are about something more.

Few events are followed with the level of passion, devotion, and fervour as the Six Nations. And one could use the very same attributes for Guinness. In each other, the Six Nations and Guinness have found the perfect dance partners.

Rory Sheridan, Head of Partnerships in Diageo Ireland, who led the team that put together the original pitch to win the Six Nations sponsorship back in 2018, puts it thus:

“Rugby is a sport that has a spirit of honesty, decency, goodness, mutual respect and bringing people together. The essence of the sport mirrors that of Guinness, the values of Arthur Guinness, who believed that good business was doing good. We do have the perfect partnership.”

There is something about the passion fans have for their country that permeates communities – feeling of togetherness across rugby clubs, local pubs, bars and homes. Nielsen consumer research from 2023 backs this up: it states that 90% of Six Nations fans believe that Guinness has great traditions and heritage, while 74% said it is great for drinking with friends.

Guinness now invests in every level of rugby – from grassroots, to clubs, to regional and provincial teams, up to internationals. And now as official partner of the Women’s Six Nations (which starts on 23 March) it is perhaps this authentic commitment to the sport and its fans that makes it work so well. As Rory Sheridan puts it: “Rugby is unique as a sport, in that it has the power to unite people like no other. The Guinness Six Nations is the epitome of this unity.”

Great partnerships also enable and facilitate innovation and the growing success of Guinness 0.0 has been driven in part by the Six Nations partnership, with the 2022 and 2023 tournaments proudly showcasing on and side pitch advertising for 0.0.

According to Nielsen, 32% of Six Nations fans claimed they have tried Guinness 0.0% for the first time due to the sponsorship of the Six Nations, while 55% claimed they would consider purchasing Guinness in the future.

An increasing number of pints of 0.0 are being purchased in stadiums on matchdays as well. According to Diageo figures, the Ireland versus England Six Nations game in 2023 (held on St Patrick’s Day weekend) saw sales of 0.0 increase in the bars of the Aviva Stadium by over 400%, compared with sales at the previous year’s game on St Patrick’s Day weekend; while these figures may come from a low base it shows the thirst is there. It perhaps is no wonder that only three years after launch 4% of all volume brewed at the Guinness St James’s Gate brewery is Guinness 0.0.