Sleeman brews infamy

The brewer's first national TV effort in over five years recounts five generations of Sleeman family history.

The name Sleeman is one that many Canadians will recognize as a reputable family brewery. What they will come to know is that the name is also associated with piracy, smuggling, philandering and even Al Capone.

A new campaign from the brewer, developed by Toronto-based Dentsu with media handled by Carat, has lifted the veil on the Sleeman family history, noting that every case is packed with five generations of beer brewing infamy. A 60-second commercial launched this week, part of Sleeman’s first national TV effort in over five years, tells the tale of ancestral Slyman pirates (as in ‘Sly-Man’) who scuttled ships of the coast of Cornwall, England. Changing their name to Sleeman, they eventually moved inland and opened taverns. Thus was born the Sleeman brewing legacy.

‘We didn’t want to change Sleeman, but we did want to present the story behind the brand in a new and more energetic way,’ explains Jeff McCrory, strategic catalyst at Dentsu Canada. ‘We think this campaign is the right balance of quality delivered through heritage, and personality delivered through notorious characters.’

A speckling of 15-second spots help to spin the Sleeman yarn, recounting how John H. Sleeman ventured to the cold wilds of Canada, founding the Sleeman’s brewery in Guelph, Ontario, and how one of his two sons became mayor of the city, staving off prohibition whilst the other lived the philandering life of a successful brewer’s son. And of course, how Al Capone would smuggle Sleeman’s beer in from Canada to Chicago during prohibition.


The story will continue to unravel throughout the month of May as more elements, including print ads, in-bar coasters and posters, tent cards and new caps will appear in market leading up to the May 2-4 long weekend.