The Sleepover: 5 Questions With Guinness Storehouse’s Colette Coughlan

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The Guinness Storehouse x Airbnb A Night At experience

Late last year, we profiled the Guinness Storehouse, named the #1 tourist attraction in Europe for bringing the Guinness brand history and experience to life. This year, the Guinness Storehouse made history for the brand with an online contest in partnership with Airbnb’s “Night At”  global series.

As promoted on its own website, on Time.com and around the world, the contest was a Guinness-lover’s dream come true, as Time noted:

“The legendary brewery has teamed up with Airbnb to offer a beer enthusiast and a friend a fabulous (and free) night in the Guinness Gravity Bar, which will feature a “perfect pint”- shaped bed, a panoramic view, and a Guinness tasting bar with a private butler. Plus, the experience will include getting keys to the Guinness Storehouse and access to the St. James Gate Brewery, as well as a six-course meal complete with Guinness pairings. (This is, after all, for an enthusiast who won’t tire of only one brand.)”

Applicants for the Airbnb Night At version of a branded sleepover had to answer the simple question, “What makes you the world’s biggest Guinness fan?” The winner got a chance to step into the brand founder’s shoes and hold the keys to a legacy filled with hundreds of years of history. The invitation received a phenomenal response from across the globe—far exceeding expectations. The competition saw a New Yorker become the first person ever to stay overnight at the Home of Guinness.

“The lucky winner will be stepping into our founder’s shoes and given the keys to a legacy experience that’s filled with hundreds of years of history,” said Paul Carty, Managing Director of the Guinness Storehouse, ahead of the co-branded campaign with Airbnb. “We’re proud of Guinness’s heritage, and as the competition is a once in a lifetime event, it was important for this first Irish Airbnb ‘Night at’, to provide the winner with everything a Guinness enthusiast would appreciate.”

The memorable experience enjoyed by the lucky Guinness fan (and companion) started with a welcome by Domhnall Marnell, Guinness Storehouse Beer Specialist, before being handed the keys to the Guinness Storehouse (which is about to double in size) with rare access into the heart of the legendary St. James’s Gate Brewery, the production site that has been home to the Guinness Brewery since 1759, when its owner Arthur Guinness signed a lease for 9,000 years.

There were, naturally, house rules to be observed:
• Of course we are in the home of Guinness, but please drink responsibly.
• No dancing on the bar, even if it is an Irish jig (sorry!)
• Lights out. Well, it is all about the view.
• No smoking, or lighting candles. It’s a place filled with history but we also move with the times.
• No pets. You might think you can, but unfortunately you cannot bring a toucan.

Colette Coughlan - Guinness Storehouse brand managerFor more insights on crafting the once-in-a-lifetime brand experience, we spoke with Guinness Storehouse brand manager Colette Coughlan (right):

How did the Airbnb promotion come about?

The Guinness Storehouse “Night At” competition was all about the making of history. Building on the success of Airbnb’s “Night At” series which transforms iconic spaces into homes just for one night, we knew we could do something special at the Home of Guinness and create a unique sleepover experience at the Guinness Storehouse that would be like no other.

We wanted to give the contest winner a chance to step into our founder Arthur Guinness’s shoes and hold the keys to a legacy filled with hundreds of years of history, making them the first-ever residents at the Guinness Storehouse. Through our strong partnerships with Airbnb, Tourism Ireland, incredible local Irish designers and food suppliers and the entire Guinness Storehouse team, we were able to bring this vision and once-in-a-lifetime experience to life.

How was the experience designed for the winner?

First, we completely transformed the iconic Gravity Bar into a luxury penthouse space and topped it off with a VIP experience that left no detail unattended. We outfitted the Gravity Bar, known as the “jewel of the crown” at the Guinness Storehouse, with a Guinness tasting bar and private butler, a “perfect pint”-shaped bed, a pool table and giant telescope for a night under the stars. The space was curated by renowned interior designer Graham O’Donnell and featured a balance of contemporary Irish craft furniture alongside original Guinness artifacts from the Guinness Archives.

As part of the experience, we arranged to give the winner rare access into the heart of the legendary St. James’s Gate Brewery, a private tour of the Guinness Storehouse, a six-course dining experience designed with Irish ingredients and Guinness pairings and the opportunity to create their very own Guinness brew.

Next, ahead of St. Patrick’s Day, we listed the seven-story visitor attraction as a unique pop-up residence on Airbnb’s website. We invited would-be residents to tell us what makes them the “world’s biggest Guinness fan” for the chance to stay the night in the unique loft space. Beer fans and adventure-seeking travelers had 10 days to enter, and we were overwhelmed with the level of enthusiasm around the contest.

The contest response was phenomenal with more than 40,000 entries across the globe, and incredible media engagement online, on broadcast, and on social media.

So did the prize-winner’s experience work out as planned?

The overnight was everything we wanted it to be and more. We were thrilled to welcome our “Night At” contest winner, James, and his travel companion and wife, Kaitlin, through the gates as the first-ever residents of the Home of Guinness, and make history for the Guinness brand. James’ passion and knowledge about the Guinness brand was apparent in his contest entry, and it was a delight to host him for a unique experience that provided everything a Guinness enthusiast would appreciate.

Has it made your team think differently about other ways to get more experiential and open the brand, whether through different types of partnerships or new kinds of digital experiences?

The “Night At” contest at the Guinness Storehouse confirmed our belief that people today are seeking out unique, meaningful experiences and to engage with brands they love in an authentic way. We are excited to keep the momentum going by seeking out new ways we can use new platforms and channels as a vehicle to inspire and celebrate Guinness’s brand heritage across the globe.

Any advice on how to get the most out of partnering with Guinness Storehouse? What do you look for?

In everything we do at the Guinness Storehouse, we aim to celebrate the heritage and story of the iconic Guinness brand. Our partnership with Airbnb was a perfect vehicle to pair a modern travel brand with the Guinness brand which is steeped in history, and create an opportunity to make history together in a fun way.

For us, storytelling and experience is key, as our visitors’ experience unfolds across seven floors, bringing together the best of the brand’s history, iconic advertising, unique culinary and beer tasting offerings, educational elements, and of course, the famous Gravity Bar.


Get more insights in our Q&A series and suggest a Q&A via editor@brandchannel.com.

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