Guinness dropped its Super Bowl spot on Thursday, an inspiring 60-second ad created in partnership with independent agency Quaker City Mercantile that features football legend Joe Montana.
The ad, Guinness’ first Super Bowl spot in nearly a decade, has Montana asking viewers, “What does it mean to be the greatest of all time?”
“You can try to measure it in yards gained, wins won, records set,” he continues. “But it’s about more than the numbers. It’s about how you come back from a bad play, or the hardest year ever,” he says as the camera zooms out on an empty restaurant with a “Sorry, we’re closed,” sign.
The ad is the culmination of a partnership with Montana that kicked off with a series of uplifting spots last summer as part of a multi-year partnership with the University of Notre Dame to become an official beer of the Fighting Irish (Montana is a Notre Dame alum).
Unlike many brands that are taking a humorous approach to the game this year, Guinness felt addressing the pandemic and the devastation it has caused restaurants and bars was on brand, said Jay Sethi, CMO of Diageo Beer.
“We think that it’s wonderful that we’re going to see funny ads. We do need some relief,” he said. “But we also need some powerful messages that keep us grounded and inspired, and remind [us] to be responsible and look out for each other.”
Guinness has been creating advertising in response to the crisis since the pandemic hit. In March, the brand released a spot called “Don’t worry, we’ll march again” in response to cancellations of Saint Patrick’s Day parades across the globe.
“Guinness has been around for 260 years,” Sethi said. “We’ve seen a lot, been through a lot, and have that resilience, but we also have optimism. We get on with it.”
The ad puts that resilience on display, as Montana, wearing a Guinness half-zip, speaks over inspiring footage of him getting back up after a bad tackle during a game. “One voice tells you to stay down, take it easy,” he says. “Another one says, get up, show your teammates — and your neighbors — hey, we got this.”
Montana was involved in writing the copy for the ad, Sethi said, particularly the line: “Here’s to the greatest player we don’t know yet; the greatest play we haven’t seen; the greatest beer you maybe haven’t tried.”
“He reminded us of the fact that so many people haven’t tried Guinness [in the U.S.],” Sethi said. “That’s a line we wouldn’t have written without him.”
While this is Guinness’ first Super Bowl spot in almost 10 years, the brand doesn’t see its return as setting a precedent for the future. Rather, it saw Super Bowl LV as a unique moment in time, with the current political climate and having Montana as a brand spokesman.
Despite the struggle that continues to face the restaurant and bar category, Guinness’ sales were up 12% this year overall, and sales of its canned beers were up 28%, Sethi said.
“The on-premise business has been hurt in a significant way, but you can control what you can control,” he said. “Consumers are enjoying beverages at home more, and Guinness is growing as a part of that repertoire.”
The ad will air during the game on CBS on February 7 in San Francisco, Orlando and Chicago, and during CBS’ pre- and post-game coverage in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Orlando, Chicago and Boston.