Guinness takes the Rugby World Cup prize

Their 'Never alone' film captures the game’s atmospheric brutality, but delivers a sting in its tail

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With the opening game taking place on Friday, this week will be all about Rugby World Cup fever. Well, that’s the plan of those working for rugby’s governing bodies and the handful of brands that have invested millions in promoting the event in recent weeks.

By now you will have seen a slew of new advertising and PR campaigns designed to  prompt us to quaff more foreign lager, stout and sports drinks.

The enthusiasm apparent in the campaigns is perhaps understandable when one recognises some of the UK’s biggest advertising agencies are run by rugby nuts: Ian Pearman (AMV BBDO, which advertises Guinness); Charles Vallance (VCCP, O2); Ben Fennell (BBH, Samsung)

But the result is a mixed bag of campaigns. Some, such as Land Rover (“We deal in real” by RKCR/Y&R) and Lucozade (“Strictly for home nations only” by Grey), are clunky and predictable, while O2’s effort – where people carry England stars on their shoulders – is overly literal and absurd.

For sheer entertainment, the trophy goes to Samsung’s “School of Rugby”, where Lawrence Dallaglio (actually now a director of BBH Sport, the agency that made the campaign) and Martin Johnson have fun teaching comedian Jack Whitehall the basics of the game. It has a dry wit and enduring social media potential. Perhaps most memorable however, is Guinness’s “Never alone” effort. The film captures the game’s atmospheric brutality but delivers a sting in its tail with former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas explaining his biggest challenge was telling his team-mates that he was gay.

This is a brave approach by Guinness, when it would have been tempting to promote its distinctive brew via macho sporting clichés.