• Transform magazine
  • June 22, 2024


Dispatches from Cannes Lions, part two


Olympic athletes are inspiring. They offer the world their drive, their success, their failure and most of all, their stories, in every Olympiad. At Cannes Lions today, they offered creative professionals their opinions on working with brands to achieve new heights.

The morning began with sports management agency Wasserman hosting a panel discussion with Olympic medalists footballer Abby Wambach and fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad alongside chair of the Los Angeles 2028 organising committee Casey Wasserman. Together, they discussed the ways in which storytelling brings sport and brands to life – particularly during the Olympics.

Wambach said storytelling allows sports to bridge the gap between consumers and brands. Wasserman agreed, “The US Olympic team is the single greatest marketing platform for women.” Wambach related her experiences on the field at the Olympic Games with the challenges businesses are facing internally in terms of fostering environments in which women can become successful corporate leaders. “All companies, all brands have to figure out who they are value-wise,” Wambach said, then they should carry that ethos throughout their internal culture.

The panellists also spoke about the ways in which brands can become involved with sports. Muhammad discussed her desire to seek better representation in children’s toys as a motivation to helping Mattel develop a hijab-wearing Barbie. Additionally, Wasserman noted that the IOC will be working toward better relationships with athletes, their existing brand partners and the Olympic brand partners. Because athletes often have their own existing brands now, “The IOC can’t be seen as being an impediment to that,” Wasserman said.

Those themes were picked up later in the day when a panel featuring Olympic medallists Adam Rippon and Mikaela Shiffrin and chairman of advertising and client partnerships for NBCUniversal, Linda Yaccarino, discussed brand partnerships during the Games. “With the business side of the Olympics, social media brings a whole new level of competition, but actually it brings a whole new level of opportunity,” Yaccarino said, citing branded content as one of those opportunities. She said taking advantage of that required a long-term approach, like that taken by NBC Olympics to develop the next generation of Olympic lovers through content and branded content. She added, “It’s all about the marriage of the storytelling of the Olympics and the storytelling of the marketer.”

But, Rippon and Shiffrin warned, if it’s not an authentic partnership, fans will not buy into it, meaning athlete-brand consistency is of the utmost importance.

Later in the day a session on eSports discussed the question of authenticity in further detail. Speakers from Superunion, Mercedes-Benz and sports league ESL discussed the challenges and opportunities inherent for brands in a passionate, connected community like that of eSports. Further reporting on gaming brands and brand partnerships can be found in Transform magazine’s second quarter issue. Subscribe here.

Part of the Cannes programme is the distribution of awards to those campaigns that excel in various areas of creativity. The design category was awarded on Tuesday night, with recipients winning for their excellent packaging, creative approaches and inspiring experiences. However, as one of the judges said, most of the winners were able to define their entry with one key image. That approach to judging put brand agencies and brand strategy projects at a significant disadvantage to their advertising, PR and experiential brethren. This resulted in a shortlist comprised of excellent work, underpinned by design, but lacking a maturity of brand strategy or development. The gold winners are as follows.

Promotional item design

Gold – Lacoste and BETC Paris: 'Save our species'


Gold – PFLAG Canada and FCB/Six Toronto: 'Destination pride'

Digital installation & events

Gold – Double A International Network and Six Tokyo: 'Obsession for smoothness'

Gold – Intel Corporation: 'Intel drone light show at the Olympics'

Digital & interactive

Gold – Aides and TBWA\Paris Bolougne-Billancourt: #Sharethelove

Environment & experience

Gold – Intel Corporation: 'Intel drone light show at the Olympics'

Special editions & promotional packaging

Gold – Ehinger Kraftrad and Serviceplan Munchen: 'The Archaeologist'

Creation of a new brand identity

Grand prix – Plastic Oceans/LADBible and AMVBBDO London: 'Trash Isles'