The Guinness wheelchair basketball commercial is probably one of the best TV commercials to ever air. I still think about it all the time, and I just looked it up on YouTube and watched it and got a lump in my throat. Let’s explore why it’s so good.
In short: It’s one of the best 60-second stories I think I’ve ever seen, one that’s really not about beer at all, but just what it’s like to be a young man in this world. And it’s told as cinematically as a 60-second ad can be.
It opens with a basketball headed for a hoop and an amazing soundtrack in the background — The Cinematic Orchestra’s “To Build a Home” — and then, for the next 37 seconds, follows six guys playing full-court wheelchair basketball. They elbow each other, they yell at each other, they growl and show their teeth, they throw each other to the floor. They are men competing, and you’re not even sure if they like each other all that much.
At the 37-second mark, the basketball continues, but now there’s a voiceover layered on top of the soundtrack, saying just two words: “Dedication. Loyalty.”
Then we see the guys laughing and whooping and the game has ended. One of them, a guy wearing a black t-shirt and with black hair and earrings and a strong jaw, goes, “You guys are getting better at this!”
Then there’s what takes every good story to great: A twist. A surprise. Something that makes you cover your mouth and if you’re a man you pretend not to cry and you get goosebumps: One by one, the men unbuckle seatbelts and footlocks and rise from their wheelchairs. One of them points to the guy in the black t-shirt and says, “Next week, buddy.” Another stands out of his wheelchair and claps the guy on the back.
The voiceover goes, “Friendship,” as there’s a very quick shot of five empty wheelchairs.
All of the guys except for that guy in the black t-shirt walk out of the gym. The guy in the black t-shirt is in the middle of them, rolling along. They’re all drenched in sweat. One of them jumps up and grabs the rim and another whirls his finger around his head and they all sort of swagger.
And now — we see in the next shot — they’re going to the bar, and they’re going to just drink some beers and laugh and finish off a great Saturday, just a bunch of guys hanging out together.
Makes me really wish I liked Guinness.