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The worlds of both Beer and Rugby project a traditional, stereotyped view of what it means to be a man. And beer advertisers reinforce that view with clichéd representations of ‘men’ that are out-dated and strictly heterosexual.Guinness, however, celebrates those with the confidence to carve their own path. So for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, we used advertising to challenge the representation of men and confront prejudice towards gay men.To do this, we told the story of a man who famously represented all the gender stereotypes of men, while being in reality, the complete oppositeStrategy:Guinness’ ‘Made of More’ brand platform is more than just an endline, it’s a philosophy. It’s about embracing bold choices, inspiring its drinkers with stories of people who act with integrity, and celebrating strength of character – all facets of what it means to be a modern man.When you look beyond the machismo, rugby is as much about mentality as it is physicality. With Guinness’ longstanding association with rugby (over 50 years intimate knowledge of the game) we were in a unique position to go deeper and challenge the stereotypes about rugby players.Gareth’s story is an embodiment of the Made of More attitude: the triumph of his inner qualities of courage and resilience in the face of adversity, and the empathy and acceptance of his teammates and indeed the wider rugby community. It issues an implied challenge to the world: if this was possible in rugby, why not everywhere?Outcome:The reception from the public was outstanding, with a 99% positive approval rating.The ad was seen by over 23 million people online alone, with a further 23 million views offline views. Over 1.4 million people went on to watch the documentary.People who viewed the ad described how it had ‘pushed boundaries’ and recognised the bravery and great strength embodied by Gareth Thomas.International sports stars like Eoin Morgan, Jamie Heaslip and Brian O’Driscoll shared their support online, and Gareth Thomas appeared on the Late Late Show in Ireland, reaching approx. 30mill people with his story and message of support and strength for all gay sportspeople. The host Ryan Tubridy described the campaign as having ‘struck a chord with the nation’. But most importantly it has reopened a conversation about the readiness of all sports, however macho, to accept, support and rally around players, irrespective of their sexuality.Execution:Our film told the story of Gareth Thomas – the world’s first openly gay sportsman. The film pivots around the moment Gareth came out to his closest Wales teammates – a moment he describes as being in equal measure terrifying and relieving as he experienced their total acceptance. A 5-minute documentary located on YouTube told his wider life story, narrated in Gareth’s own words. This showcased the pain of his life ‘in the closet’ that nearly drove him to suicide, and the immense relief he experienced having been accepted as a gay man by his teammates, his country and the public alike. The spot was played around RWC games, and launched alongside the YouTube documentary one week before the tournament started. Both films ended with the following poignant line, summarising the universal thought captured in the story: ‘Gareth Thomas. Thought he was alone. Always part of a team’.Brief with projected outcomes:In sport, vulgarisms like ‘poof’ and ‘queer’ have always been part of the camaraderie or ‘banter’. It’s almost unknown for a successful sportsman to come out as gay while playing. When the tough and 100% masculine Wales & Lions Rugby team captain Gareth Thomas came out, it challenged both male gender stereotypes and prejudicial views about gay men. Our Rugby World Cup campaign celebrated his story to encourage those struggling with gender confusion and to promote a positive shift in society’s attitudes to men coming out as gay.
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