The 2024 Young Lions Competition registration is open until February 11, 2024! The competition is an exceptional opportunity for Canada’s young creatives to showcase their talent and compete for the chance to represent the country on the global stage at Cannes, France. In preparation for this exciting competition, we turned to past winners for their insights and tips to inspire this year’s competitors. We spoke to Mike Miura (MM), Manager, Commercial Strategy and Creative, and Ryan Grippo (RG), Associate, Commercial Strategy, both MLSE and won Canada’s first-ever Gold in the 2023 Young Lions Competition Marketers Category.
Tell us a bit about yourself – who you are, where you work, and what you do (30-second elevator pitch!)
MM: I work at MLSE as a Manager of Commercial Marketing Strategy, where I focus on developing marketing strategies that align the goals of our professional sports team brands (The Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, TFC, and The Argos) with our corporate partners’ goals. My team brings creative campaigns to life through TV, social media, and other digital content. Outside work, you’ll find me playing various sports, fishing in Northern Ontario, or planning my next outdoor travel adventure abroad.
RG: I’m part of the Commercial Strategy and Operations team within Digital Labs at MLSE. Before MLSE, I received an Economics degree from DePauw University (Indiana), where I was Captain of the Varsity Baseball team. At MLSE, my main goal is to ensure our department’s financial success as a technology vendor while assisting our executives in their marketing/business development efforts & ensuring our partnership agreements are met from a tech perspective. Outside of MLSE, I coach a youth baseball team, love to travel, & enjoy playing a variety of sports, including golf, hockey, & football.
Last year, what was your approach going into Young Lions? Would you change it now?
MM: 2023 was our first time competing in Cannes Young Lions, so we had limited expectations and wanted to have some fun with it. That being said, in preparation for the competition, Ryan and I spent considerable time reviewing previous competition submissions (available on the website). We studied best-in-class creative work from various marketing awards across the industry. We also prepared templates and studied our brand plans to be prepared for any situation that came our way. The saying “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” holds true for this question. Provided we were able to succeed in the competition with a healthy balance of fun and preparation, we would likely take a similar approach in future years.
RG: Our general approach to the competition was less about winning and more about enjoying the process. Young Lions was a chance for Mike & I to work together again, as we spent the first six months at MLSE working very closely but hadn’t done so in about a year. We focused on giving each other the respect & space to maximize our different skill sets to create the most well-rounded idea, ultimately leading to the best outcome. I consider myself the more analytical and perceptive team member, while Mike is highly creative and intelligent and generates dozens of ideas in a pinch. We knew that we shared strengths in both presentation & public speaking settings, which was critical to success in the competition. I wouldn’t change the approach; our greatest strength was giving (and receiving) super honest feedback to each other in all aspects of our work to land the best presentation.
Tell us the most rewarding or memorable moment about competing (either domestically or globally)?
MM: Both times Ryan and I found out we won the competition (domestically and internationally) were unforgettable moments. Investing so much time and energy into your work makes you eager to hear the results. Many thoughts race through your head, especially just an hour before the announcement – did we do enough? Did we make a mistake somewhere? It’s challenging to describe the incredible feeling when the positive news came and we got to step on stage. A bonus was winning the trip to France, where we were welcomed by warm weather and beautiful beaches and attended the world’s largest marketing conference for the final round of the competition – another unforgettable moment.
RG: Seeing our names on the big screen, with Canada and Gold above them, in a beautiful venue with hundreds of people around in the South of France, will always be the most surreal moment. We always joke that when we were growing up, playing various sports recreationally, the ultimate dream was to represent Canada in the Olympics. That ship sailed for us both some time ago, so we’ll enjoy a Young Lions gold as our ultimate country-representing moment. A huge thank you to the amazing Globe & Mail team for making the entire experience possible.
Accepting an award on that stage alongside some of the most talented marketing & creative professionals in the business is still a crazy feeling. – Ryan
From contacts to promotions, how did Young Lions open up new career opportunities for you in 2023?
MM: Our international case centred on a climate change campaign for the international NGO, New Zero World. After the competition, their remarkable team invited us to COP28 in Dubai, where we spoke at two events and connected with influential leaders. MLSE was highly supportive, celebrating our achievement and providing opportunities to share our ideas with senior leaders across the organization.
RG: Winning locally & in Cannes opened up many opportunities, including an invite to UN COP28 in Dubai, where we shared our ideas & strategies with other young creatives looking to make a global impact through creative campaigns. We’ve since been invited to speak at a few local conferences and workshops in the marketing and sports industries, which were made possible by friends or coaches of the Cannes Young Lions program. MLSE was also extremely supportive throughout the entire experience. They celebrated the win across our organization and gave us a platform to share our ideas with senior leaders. We’re very grateful for the “build on” opportunities from Cannes facilitated by MLSE.
What is a key tip you would give a competitor who is hungry for the win this March?
MM: A key to our victory was that Ryan and I worked well together. We had different strengths and weaknesses, and we genuinely enjoyed each other’s company (most of the time). Most importantly, we could challenge each other to excel. Since the competition takes place over 24-48 hours on the weekend, selecting someone you feel confident working with for extended periods is crucial.
RG: Don’t limit yourself to executable ideas within your day-to-day job; competitions like this are great opportunities to illustrate the art of the possible without worrying about corporate guardrails. Also, pick a partner you’re comfortable giving honest feedback to. I attribute a lot of our success to our ability to take input from each other & incorporate it into our final presentations without feeling like the other person was constantly criticizing us.
Finally, what would you say to someone on the fence about competing in Young Lions 2024?
MM: Winning a trip to the South of France and attending The International Festival of Creativity was a career-transforming experience. This opportunity alone is a strong motivator, but numerous other benefits come with participating in this competition. The Young Lions competition allows you to test, improve, and hone your marketing skills, boosting your confidence to apply those skills in your everyday work. Take the leap and enter the Cannes Young Lions competition – it has the potential to reshape your entire career trajectory!
RG: I was on the fence about competing! Everyone is busy, and weekends are precious, but I couldn’t be more grateful to have taken the opportunity. It’s been a truly transformative experience & improved my marketing skills significantly. Even if we hadn’t won, I would have been grateful to have competed; it was an awesome opportunity to generate new ideas for our brands and get to know a colleague better.