Sunday 27 April 2014

Guinness was Good for Cycling

Back in the mid-80's one of the biggest backers of cycle sport in Ireland was the country's best known company, Guinness. The hard work of a few smart operators in the Irish cycling scene cultivated contacts in the company, and its advertising agencies, converting their interest in the sport into hard cash to back clubs and races.

Dublin's Emerald CRC, the home of many of the top riders in the country at the time, was sponsored for many years by the Guinness-owned brands Carlsberg and Fosters.

But the Guinness brand itself also backed several races enthusiastically. And when the Guinness marketing department got behind a race great things could happen. I did a college placement in the company in 1987 and spent several days that summer postering the city's pubs with ads for upcoming Guinness backed races. But, as well advertising in the pubs Guinness could also generate TV coverage.

These two videos are testament to both their clout and their willingness to back the sport as a whole, rather than one narrow branch of it.

The first video is of one round of the 1986 Guinness Cyclo-Cross series, held on a frosty day in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. Irelands cycling scene was relatively small in those days and there was no such thing as specialists so this race features many of the top road men of the day, particularly Joe Barr, Julian Dalby, John Sheehan and Raphael Kimmage.

The second video is coverage of the Guiness 2 day Cycle Race, also in 1986. This race featured two stages. The first was 78 miles from Cork to Limerick followed the next day by a long, flat 117 mile slog from Limerick to Dublin.

The race features some of the biggest names in Irish and UK cycling at the time including Ian Chivers, Joe Barr, Aidan Harrison, Gary Thompson, Laurence Roche, Jamie McGahan, Ger Madden, John McQuaid, Oliver McQuaid, Terry McManus, Doug Dailey, Andy Wilkinson, Anthony O'Gorman with many more familiar faces, both riders and officials, making an appearance.