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How to win a Cannes Lion for entertainment for sport: be kind, useful & fearless

We go behind the scenes at Cannes Lions to hear why the winners of Entertainment Lions for Sport were selected. Episode Four founding partner Teddy Lynn offers a look at why the judges awarded the grand prix and other top trophies, as well as where the clear opportunities are for 2022.

I have been on many great and inspiring juries over the past 20 years, but this year’s Entertainment Lions for Sport was the most thoughtful and considerate one yet. We never met in person, only over Zoom, which could have been painful. But it wasn’t. The jury and the work made the method of meeting irrelevant. And it served as a reminder that for all the chatter about the importance, relevance or proliferation of awards shows, one thing is certain: judges take their roles seriously and the integrity with which discussions and deliberations are held is unquestionable.

Our president, Ben Hartman, set a thoughtful and inclusive tone early, inspiring us to find the work that only the passion of sport could produce. But it was Nike creative director Andy Walker who introduced a Barack Obama quote – “Be kind. Be useful.” – as one of his filters for looking at work. I wasn’t familiar with the quote, but when I looked it up, I found that it also included: “Be fearless.” That seemed to me to be a perfect descriptor for how we evaluated all of the amazing entries. And they were amazing. Here’s why.

Our two selections for Grand Prix certainly delivered on this quote. House of Lapland’s ‘Salla 2032’ Summer Olympics bid was all about kindness to the world around us. Its brilliance was the fact that an Olympics bid from a tiny frozen town in Northern Finland was both absurd and yet plausible.

We loved Asics’s ‘Eternal Run’ because Asics didn’t just invent a new sport; it was blind to the age or gender of its competitors. To win this race, runners needed to only outrun their own personal limits.

Every piece of work we loved, and there were many that also delivered on fearlessness. Whether it be ABInBev’s ‘Rewatch’ from Argentina or BT Sport’s ‘Unscripted’ out of London, both were fearless in their willingness to actively challenge a norm. ‘Rewatch’ addressed the gender disparity in women’s soccer head on, doubling down on the decision to broadcast the championship game in prime time despite negative social chatter.

‘Unscripted’ demonstrated fearlessness by challenging our industry’s desire to rely more heavily on data as the answer. A scripted football outcome proved that sometimes data is definitely not the answer, but simply a provocation. And a third Gold Lion winner, Budweiser’s ‘The Future Official Sponsor’, took on the real issue of the gender pay gap in football. For each of these, we chose to award action over awareness. As Gabi Mostert, another of my brilliant fellow jurors, said: “I love work that pisses people off.”

But not everything about being on this year’s inaugural Entertainment Lions for Sport jury was inspiring:

  • Despite looking at more than 600 pieces of work, half of the work was soccer and dozens of sports weren’t represented at all.

  • Many products and categories were also absent, as beer brands dominated the entries.

  • We saw almost no work from Asia.

It’s easy to speculate as to why each of these situations exist, especially over the last two years. But until there is a greater range of work in this category, these awards will not be reflective of the true passion for sports around the world. This also presents an extraordinary opportunity.

Sports are one of the last truly live and mass experiences that exist. I would encourage more brands in more countries to make better use of sports as a platform to reach their customers.

There is no formula for winning Entertainment Lions for Sport. Great work wins, and I couldn’t have told you what was great until I saw it. But when creating, one could do much worse than to live by six simple words: “Be kind. Be useful. Be fearless.”

Teddy Lynn is a founding partner of Episode Four, a boutique content agency, and served as a member of the jury for Entertainment Lions for Sport at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

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