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In recent years, the drinks industry has seen a rapid rise in the popularity of independent beers produced in microbreweries in small quantities and sold to a new generation of drinkers who like a story behind the drink in their hand. This craft beer category is estimated to be growing at around 79% a year.*

Legendary international beer brand GUINNESS, positioned as a more sophisticated alternative to lager, wanted to address this explosion in attention-grabbing, progressive beers.

GUINNESS challenged its agency partner  to develop the existing ‘Made of More’ communications platform and provide the brand with conversational currency i.e. give people something interesting to talk about over their GUINNESS. But what?


AMV BBDO took a step back and asked: “If the objective here is to make the brand more interesting by providing stories that will be enjoyed and shared, shouldn’t we simply ask ourselves, what makes an interesting story?”

There followed a phase of desk research identifying a long list of elements that make a good story. These were whittled down and refined to produce five criteria that GUINNESS stories needed to fulfil:

Truth – real stories have greater substance and integrity

Lesson – something important you feel you discover from the story

Conflict – a struggle or challenge that has to be overcome successfully

Characters – people others can relate to and empathise with, particularly protagonists

Setting – it needs to be memorable

The stories also had to strengthen the perception of GUINNESS whose brand values are substance, character and integrity. The reasoning was that, if GUINNESS consistently celebrates these values in others, people would associate the same values with GUINNESS.

The GUINNESS communications platform ‘Made of More’ had launched in 2013 with two films, ‘Clock’ and ‘Cloud’ – fictional stories of inanimate objects doing extraordinary things. Now the platform definition needed to evolve to reflect how GUINNESS wanted to tell real, human stories that reflect the values of the brand.

With that in mind, ‘Made of More’ was redefined as a platform that celebrates people with the confidence to carve their own path. A beer with more, celebrating people with more.

Halfway through 2013, the search began for the first true story of substance, character and integrity, designed to provide conversational currency to a new generation of drinkers. This search led the campaign team to Central Africa and a group of characters called the Sapeurs.

Sapeurs are members of La Sape (Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes), a social movement centred in Brazzaville, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With origins dating back to a defiance of French colonisation, the Sapeurs are blue-collar workers who, in colourful contrast to their surroundings, transform themselves into debonair gentlemen, dancing and strutting in celebration of style and elegance.

The extraordinary Sapeurs embody the values of substance, character and integrity shared by GUINNESS. They overcome a struggle, namely their environment. They hold a life lesson, namely not allowing your circumstances to define who you are. And they are people from an interesting place who are easy to empathise with. They were chosen as the subject of the first new GUINNESS ‘Made of More’ campaign launched in 2014.


People feel they have greater conversational currency when they have additional information about a subject. This principle was applied to the Sapeurs branded content campaign.

The standard 90-second and 30-second TV ads were made and aired, however these only provided a snippet of the Sapeurs’ story. The full story – ‘The Men Inside the Suits’ – was presented in a five-minute documentary on YouTube.

The online versions of the ad included links to the documentary, effectively making the ad a trailer to the full story.

People who watched the ad and clicked through to the documentary actively sought more and were rewarded with more – in terms of both the extra information itself that they could propagate socially and a deeper connection with the Sapeurs content (and, by extension, the GUINNESS brand).




The GUINNESS Sapeurs branded content campaign proved that, while brands need to tell stories, those stories don’t need to be about the brand in order for them to enhance brand performance. Rather, they need to adhere to a set of ‘good story’ criteria, reflect the values of the brand in order to pay into brand equity, and be presented in ways that maximise their conversational currency.

In addition to the results overleaf, there was significant evidence of people talking about the Sapeurs campaign. For example, the Google search term ‘Sapeurs’ spiked hugely at the time, a number of groups parodied the campaign, and the GUINNESS sales team were inundated with calls from pub landlords requesting permission to hold their own Sapeurs’ nights in pubs.

Among other awards since its launch, the campaign won a Wood Pencil in the Branded Content & Entertainment category at the D&AD Awards 2015.

We are proud to celebrate the Sapeurs who, through their attitude and style, demonstrate that no matter the circumstance, you can always choose who you are. The longer form content allowed us to fully tell the story of this truly unique and inspiring group of people.

Nick Britton, Marketing Manager, GUINNESS, Western Europe

The Sapeurs have such an incredible story that we felt that it needed to be told in a longer content format and in their own words.

Nadja Lossgott and Nicholas Hulley, Sapeurs campaign creative team, AMV BBDO

This case study was originally published in the BOBCM Special D&AD Edition collaboration, co-edited by Justin Kirby and Greta MacFarlane.

About the author

Justin Kirby is a consultant, educator and thought leader with a 20+ year career in industry as a digital strategist, producer and entrepreneur. He chairs and speaks at conferences around the globe, judge industry awards, and advise brands and agencies.