#FromTheVaults – ‘Guinness is Good for You’ Advertising Sign, 1960s

As we say farewell to the Guinness Six Nations (for the time being, at least), this month’s featured object from our collection is a Guinness advertising sign from the 1960s. Made from large wooden boards, the rugby-themed advertisement features the famous Guinness toucans along with the brand’s well-known advertising slogan.

2003-479 Guinness Sign

The sign, measuring 91cm in height and 182.5cm in width, shows two toucans standing on a rugby pitch with a rugby ball at their feet. The sign is constructed using wooden cut-outs – the toucans and ball are raised from the background to give a three-dimensional effect. This has left parts of the sign vulnerable; a pint of Guinness once represented balancing atop the rugby ball is now unfortunately damaged. The toucan on the right wears a red Wales jersey. He is shown flipping a bottle top decorated with an image of a harp, the Guinness logo since 1862. The green jersey worn by the toucan on the left – also featuring the harp emblem – alludes to the brewery’s Irish origins. In large red letters in the top left-hand corner of the board is the famous slogan, ‘GUINNESS IS GOOD FOR YOU’, first used in 1929.

In the 1930s, the Guinness family had hired the advertising firm S.H. Benson, which employed the English draughtsman John Gilroy as a poster artist. The family specified that they did not want a ‘vulgar’ advertising campaign with the focus solely on beer. Instead, they wanted the new adverts to appeal to families whilst highlighting the beer’s purported health benefits. Unable to decide what an ideal Guinness-drinking family should look like, Gilroy is said to have been inspired by the sight of a sea lion balancing a ball on its nose at the circus. He went on to produce around 100 adverts and 50 posters for Guinness featuring bears, ostriches, pelicans, kangaroos, crocodiles, tortoises and – most famously – the toucan, who was often depicted balancing a pint of Guinness on his beak.

The sign was made in the 1960s and was originally one of three displayed at Twickenham Stadium – a second sign is also in our collection. On this sign, the toucans wear jerseys representing Ireland and New Zealand, and the carefully-balanced pint of Guinness remains intact. By the mid-1960s, the three signs were installed high up behind the West Public Bar, situated towards the north end of the old West Stand. They were taken down and put into storage in the late 1980s, around the time that Guinness switched advertising firms and stopped running their zoo-themed adverts. However, the ties between rugby and Guinness have remained strong and today the brewery is the title sponsor and official beer provider of the Six Nations Championship.

2003-478 Guinness Sign

We hope you have a very happy St Patrick’s Day! Needless to say, please drink your Guinness responsibly…

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2 Responses to #FromTheVaults – ‘Guinness is Good for You’ Advertising Sign, 1960s

  1. keithgregson says:

    Over 70 and in a form of isolation ( after the Falcons v Bedford match!) but managed a can of Guinness and a glass or two of Bushmills stout edition before spending a couple of hours playing Irish music on the whistle and mandolin!. There must be many of us oldies in the same boat so if you would like me to send a gratis copy of my online book on Sunderland RFC and the First World War please get in touch. As it is online I am always looking at ways of improving it. My e-mail address is keith.gregson.t21@btinternet.com and website http://www.keithgregson.com. Keep well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. keithgregson says:

    Sorting out virus isolation tasks and have nominated brushing up my Spanish on a daily basis so am delighted to see the tour of Rugby in Spanish turning up in the recent comments section. I will certainly be looking at that in the near future!


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