FOR GUINNESS drinkers everywhere, and I'm sure that includes a lot of people reading this, today is probably a day that has been circled on a calendars for a long time.
It is, of course, Arthur's Day. This day celebrates the birth of Arthur Guinness and asks us all to raise a glass to Arthur at 17:59 tonight.
Already it is a red letter date for Diageo, which owns Guinness, and is one of the top three growth drivers for the Guinness brand. Tanya Clarke, the head of marketing for Guinness and Smithwicks, explains more.
"From a marketing perspective, Arthur's Day is different to other sponsorship deals we would have because it is a Guinness event first and foremost. For example the Guinness Rugby Series in November is very important to us but it is a more traditional event in that we are 'piggy-backing' on the event. The rugby is the reason why it's so popular in the first place."
"With Arthur's Day, however, everything is centred on the celebrations. The Guinness brand has ownership of the whole day, from start to finish, so it's very important for us."
So how did the day come about? And judging by the success of last year, why didn't it happen earlier?
"It started off last year really as just a way of celebrating the 250th. It was a great success but we didn't necessarily go into it with plans to run it beyond 2009." "As everyone knows, however, it was a fantastic day and in the feedback we got after it there was a real appetite for it to be run again. One survey showed that 93pc of consumers wanted us to run it again and the pubs were very keen for us to do it as well.
"The big difference between this year and last is we've been able to expand the events beyond Dublin. This year we have events in Galway and Cork which is important for us and even in places where there are no formal events planned, we still hope there will be a lot of interaction with the public."
Arthur's Day, of course, is just one of many marketing events Diageo use for the black stuff. Guinness is one of the biggest advertisers in Ireland and with sales static, the temptation has been to row back on advertising spend for the stout. Ms Clarke, however, says that would be counter-productive.
"The one thing that the recession has done is make us as focused as possible on our aims. Who are we targeting? Why is this campaign more effective than another? Return on investment is a key factor now across the industry.
"Guinness is one of our flagship brands worldwide so its important that it is especially strong in Ireland. Advertising is essential to maintain its position at the head of the market."