Guinness is a popular Irish dry stout that lends itself to cliché ad images of ruddy-faced Dubliners drinking in pubs or a testosterone-infused sports bar with buff guys guzzling beer while gorgeous women with pearly white teeth, red lipstick and long perfectly coiffed hair laugh flirtatiously at their cleverness. What is totally unexpected in Guinness’s “Made of More” brand campaign is seeing nattily dressed men in the Republic of Congo going out on the town. Yet London ad agency AMV BBDO linked the Guinness ad series to a real group of dapper Congolese gentlemen, known in Central Africa as the Sapeurs – La SAPE or Society of Elegant Persons of the Congo. By day, the Sapeurs are ordinary workingmen – farmers, taxi drivers, laborers, and the like. But after work, they dress up in stylish and often colorful attire to express their own individuality and creativity. “Even if I don’t have money in my pocket, I only need to wear a suit and tie to feel really at ease,” said one. Despite living in an impoverished war-torn region, the Sapeurs abide by a code of honor that respects peace, self-dignity and politeness. They are role models in their community. They live by the beliefs expressed in 19th century poet William Henley’s Invictus — ”I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”
Guinness not only featured the Sapeurs in its “Made of More” advertising series, it issued a companion film, “Sapeurs: A Short Documentary.” directed by Hector Mediavilla. While at first glance, making Congolese Sapeurs the stars of a brand campaign for an Irish beer seems like an oxymoron, on second thought, the connection seems brilliant. “Made of More” refers to both Guinness stout and the people who drink it. For the Sapeurs, fine clothes are merely a means to lift their spirits, embrace optimism and enjoy the conviviality of friends. Or as the narrator of the documentary explains: “They have a simple philosophy: to defy circumstances and live with joie de vivre.” Not a bad brand message.