From its humble beginnings on the Emerald Isle to its incorporation into multinational alcohol conglomerate Diageo, Guinness has remained loyal to its Irish heritage. The brand celebrated its 250th anniversary last year, with a series of bar-focused events across the globe. Most of the time though, Guinness's event activity is tied up in sports, predominantly rugby, as a result of its sponsorship of the Premiership.
Guinness recently extended its sponsorship of the Premiership for a fifth year, having signed up as a partner in 2005. According to senior sponsorship and events manager Lee Bailey, the bulk of Guinness's events take place around the games because they provide an ideal opportunity for the brand to engage with its target age group of 25 to 44 year-old men.
"The beauty of these events is they are happening anyway, so we can focus on enhancing the experience rather than creating one ourselves," says Bailey.
Prior to the start of the 2009/10 season last September, Bailey and his team were keen to create an event that would raise awareness of it opening.
"We wanted to drum up a bit of interest and let everyone know the rugby season had started again," he explains.
He employed retained sponsorship agency Synergy to produce an interactive rugby event at Broadgate Arena in London's Square Mile, offering the public a chance to win a pair of tickets to an opening fixture by participating in one of three Guinness-themed games.
Synergy enlisted the help of Global Games, who came up with the concept of Guinness Power Pass, Guinness Rugby Reflex and Guinness Ticket Grab. The coaches and captains of four high-profile teams involved in the season's opening games also came along, challenging each other and advising participants on how to get the best scores.
"People could see how quickly they could pass a ball and test their reactions," says Bailey. "The whole area was branded and we had promotional staff handing out flyers around the perimeter driving people in."
As part of Guinness's sponsorship deal with the Premiership, it has the rights to sponsor one game per season at the home ground of each club. To maximise this opportunity, Bailey and his team produce a series of smaller interactive events, known as the Guinness Premiership Festivals, to engage with fans.
In an effort to further enhance fans' experience at the games, Guinness recently penned a deal with Sky Sports to provide supporters with branded portable radios, allowing them to tune in to live Sky Sports commentary.
"The feedback we have had from this has been absolutely fabulous," says Bailey. "We are already placing a repeat order so we can do it again before the season ends."
Last year was a landmark for the brand, with its 250th anniversary falling on 24 September. The day was renamed Arthur's Day in honour of the drink's creator Arthur Guinness. Celebrations kicked off in the bars and pubs of Dublin, sparking further celebrations across the globe, from New York to Lagos.
"Drinkers filmed themselves making toasts and could upload their videos onto the Guinness website," says Bailey.
He marked the occasion by giving fans a chance to get involved in the London Double Header at Twickenham - two London derby games that act as the curtain raiser for the season.
"We hired a digital wall from Lumacoustics that fans could sign," he explains. "We also set up a promotion offering a pint of Guinness for £2.50."
Guinness uses its sponsorship of the Premiership to endorse Diageo's responsible drinking campaign. For the past two years, Bailey and the team have run the Guinness Premiership Responsible Drinking Weekend in partnership with Premier Rugby, the umbrella organisation for the top teams.
The idea is to bring Guinness's 'ref's bar rules' to life through rugby-themed games, showing fans how drinking impairs their vision and reactions.
To highlight the importance of hydration and eating while consuming alcohol, Guinness ambassadors hand out free water and 'bite to eat' vouchers, along with designated driver packs - containing key rings, bumper stickers and vouchers for food and coffee - to fans driving to the game.
Last year Bailey enlisted the help of Guinness Premiership stars Paul Sackey and Dan Hipkiss, and chef Antony Worrall Thompson, to raise the profile of the campaign by creating a pie that was handed out to fans to encourage them to eat between drinks.
Bailey is now preparing for the Guinness Premiership final on 29 May: "We're going to create a Guinness Village in the west car park at Twickenham Stadium, incorporating Power Pass, Rugby Reflex and the responsible drinking games. We'll also have Guinness bars to entertain fans."
He adds that events are likely to play a bigger role in Guinness's marketing strategy over the next decade. "It's easier to bring the brand to life using events than any other medium," he says. "Events will continue to be a priority for us, specifically those bigger-than-us occasions where we can enhance guests' enjoyment. After all, Guinness is about providing an enriching experience."