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Experiencing the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity: Insights from the World of Sports Marketing

Mike Miura and Ryan Grippo Highlight Their Key Insights From Cannes Lions 2024

This past week, we had the privilege of attending the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, a prestigious event celebrating the best in creative communications. Last year, we were honoured to represent Canada in the Young Lions Marketing competitions, securing gold in our category. This year, free from the pressures of competition, we immersed ourselves fully in the festival’s offerings. As representatives of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), we focused our attention on marketing trends in the sports industry, attending a variety of sports-centred events. 

Athlete Endorsements and Authentic Partnerships

A significant theme in this year’s festival was the critical importance of authenticity in athlete endorsements. The key takeaway was clear: if athletes do not genuinely use or care about the product they endorse, the audience will recognize the insincerity, leading to poor content performance.

One standout example of authentic partnerships was Travis and Jason Kelce’s role in Garage Beer. The drink is marketed as the “Beer Flavoured Beer,” appealing to small-town values and die hard football fans. Their endorsement was organic and aligned with their personalities, enhancing the brand’s appeal.

Additionally, Jason Kelce’s partnership with Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, driven by his genuine enthusiasm for the product, exemplified successful authentic marketing. The famous tagline, “I put that $#!T on everything,” resonated well with audiences, including a hilarious mention of using the sauce on cereal and candy.

We also witnessed future endorsements in the making. During the session “The Kelce Effect,” Jason turned an impromptu skit into a call to action for soap brands. In a hilarious back-and-forth between the Kelce brothers, Jason doubled down on his infamous statement that no one needs to wash their feet or legs, saying, “Pits & bits with a bar of yellow Dial soap is all you need to feel clean”. The joke concluded with a call out to all soap companies, inviting them to reach out to him for future partnerships. Interactions like this highlight how spontaneous and genuine moments can evolve into effective marketing opportunities.

Joe Burrow’s session further emphasized the value of authenticity. He discussed his approach to partnerships, prioritizing deals with companies that align with the values of his charity, the Joe Burrow Foundation. His commitment to giving back underscores the importance of meaningful and genuine partnerships.

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Women’s Sports – A Necessity Not a Novelty

Sessions at the Women’s Sports House and Sport Beach delved into the exponential growth and impact of women’s sports across the world. They highlighted the significant financial and societal benefits of supporting women’s sports, backed by compelling data and proof points.

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“Welcome to The Party: The Expansive Reach of Women’s Sports on TikTok and Beyond.” featured LSU Tigers basketball star and rapper Flau’Jae Johnson, TV and podcast host Joy Taylor, and e.l.f.’s Patrick O’Keefe, in conversation with TikTok’s Harish Sarma. Flau’Jae shared how she is paving the way for the next generation of young women–empowering them to be anything they want when they grow up. She shared a powerful encounter with a young girl who told her she wanted to be a doctor and a professional basketball player, drawing inspiration from Flau’Jae’s successful career in both rap music and professional sports. Joy Taylor challenged the audience to “Stop treating women’s sports like a novelty,” Highlighting that the quality of play and business results in women’s sports are being proven every day by thousands of females across the world. 

A notable panel at Women’s Sports House featured industry leaders such as sports TV personality Katie Nolan, Formula One driver Lando Norris, Mclaren CEO Zak Brown, McLaren CMO Louise McEwen, and ICE CMO Stephanie Dobbs Brown. They discussed the success of McLaren’s new women’s driver, Bianca Bustamante. Her social signing announcement outperformed that of Lando Norris, underscoring the potential of women’s sports to capture audience interest globally.

Lando Norris emphasized the importance of grassroots adoption to grow women’s F1, noting that while most male drivers start racing at ages 6-8, women have fewer opportunities, resulting in adoption at ages 10-12. This discussion highlighted the need for more youth-driven programs to foster talent in women’s sports.

Final Takeaways

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity provided us with invaluable insights into the evolving landscape of sports marketing. Authenticity in athlete endorsements and the undeniable growth of women’s sports emerged as pivotal themes. These experiences not only enriched our understanding but also inspired us to implement these learnings in our work at MLSE. The festival underscored the power of genuine connections and the potential of underrepresented segments–guiding us toward a more inclusive and impactful approach to sports marketing.

Mike Miura,
2023 Global Young Lions Competition Gold Medal Winner
Manager of Commercial Marketing Strategy at MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment)

Ryan Grippo
2023 Global Young Lions Competition Gold Medal Winner
Manager of Strategy & Innovation at MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment)

Cannes Lions, Highlight

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