The Cannes Lion 2019 saw some of the most groundbreaking strides in advertising to date. With a wide focus on innovation and social issues, the winners this year were a reflection of what resonated the most with consumers and what the face of marketing communications is in 2019. I will breaking down one of my highlights!

A notable winner this year was Nike’s Dream Crazy campaign featuring activist Colin Kaepernick. His activism on racial equality in the US has been a divisive point of conversation. Kneeling during the national anthem and attracting direct opposition from President Donald Trump, Kaepernick was blacklisted from joining the NFL but received a lucrative sponsorship from Nike. As a bold endorsement of his activism Nike taking a stance on a controversial issue, but ultimately standing by their decision in the face of both ample support and backlash.

The company saw its stock market value fluctuate heavily during this time, just as it saw a spike in online sales and support from celebrities across the cultural landscape. It was a risky move but their platform was used to take a definitive stance on a divisive political issue. Although losing support from a number of consumers, Nike won the Cannes Lion and a newfound brand loyalty from consumers who appreciate the message.

Winning an award cannot determine the true legacy of this campaign, only time will tell whether the risk was worth its wins and loses. What is undeniable however is the history which this campaign is alluding to by inviting Kaepernick to be part of it. Race is a sensitive subject to tackle in a campaign, but by making an informed decision, Nike is positioning themselves with a movement advocating for equality for a long time.

It speaks to the longevity Nike is aiming for and what they are willing to lose to help achieve justice and social equality. They are here for the long haul and they hope that we as consumers are here with them for that journey.

The most compelling quote in the Nike ad reads “Believe in something.. even if it means sacrificing everything.” Ultimately the ad poses a larger, more existential, question to both consumers and companies, perhaps one that wouldn’t be as pressing outside this new age of information: What do you believe in? And what are you doing about it?

PS: I’ll be breaking down some of the other winners, in the coming weeks, as means of finding trends and highlighting new innovative work in comms!