Cannes Lions

Converse Unity Laces

JOE PUBLIC UNITED, Johannesburg / CONVERSE / 2022

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Demo Film






Over 3 million African migrants live in South Africa, seeking a better life. Unfortunately, it’s one of most hostile destinations in the world for them. They’re blamed by locals for taking away jobs, resulting in murders, displacement and over 40 000 foreign-owned shops being abandoned. Foreigners live in constant fear of xenophobic attacks. Converse wanted to add its voice to the call to stop xenophobia. The brief was to drive a positive message of unity on a day – Africa Day – that celebrates all that unites Africans as opposed to what divides us. A message that leverages a common ground - Africa’s love for Converse. The challenge: how does Converse do this is an authentic way that stays true to the brand, and with a limited budget of €7000?


The target audience was South African Converse shoppers – primarily youth (16-26 years old), all genders and all races. We started off by identifying the African countries that have the most expats living in South Africa and used their flags to inspire lace designs, with one half of the lace representing an African country and the other half representing South Africa. When laced, two countries become intertwined, symbolising African unity. As a brand beloved by all Africans, especially the iconic All Stars, what better vehicle for such an important message. We brought Unity Laces to life on Africa Day (25 May) through in-store posters. Each installation was made up of two giant posters, joined together with larger-than-life Unity Laces.


The strategy asked for a creative solution that would show this interconnectedness shared by ALL Africans. Africa Day takes place on May 25 every year, however no one really takes notice. With xenophobia casting a dark shadow over South Africa, we decided to launch on the day that all Africans should be celebrating. The approach was to focus on a channel where we could make the biggest impact with a tiny budget – Converse Stores. This would allow us to be highly targeted in our communication and go directly to consumers with our message. Thus, the target audience was Converse shoppers – primarily youth (16-26 years old), all genders and all races. The Unity Laces posters sparked conversation around xenophobia, and on purchasing Converse, customers received a free pair of Unity Laces. By simply by wearing and sharing their Unity Laces, fans spread the message: Stand United against xenophobia.


To bring Unity Laces to life in-store, we created a range of posters (1460mm in height by 1120mm in width), each featuring half an image of a Converse sneaker. We punched out the eyelets and replaced them with real, larger-than-life metal eyelets. We manufactured massive replicas of Unity Laces, and used these to ‘lace’ 2 posters together (a total of 2240mm in width) to symbolise 2 different African countries uniting. We created 5 variations, each one showcasing an African country (namely: Nigeria, Ghana; Zimbabwe; Swaziland and Zambia) uniting with South Africa. The posters were installed in-store and launched on Africa Day on the 25th of May. The campaign ran for a month.


The posters sparked conversation around xenophobia, and on purchasing Converse, customers received a free pair of Unity Laces, inspiring fellow Africans to celebrate their differences, embrace African unity and stand united against xenophobia. This initiative saw an increase in sales of new Converse All Stars by 80% in the first 7 days (vs. the same period year prior). The installation also achieved valuable earned media in both traditional media channels as well as through consumers’ social media platforms. Our aim was to create awareness around the need to end xenophobia - we exceeded this target by far – we created a national conversation, and Unity Laces continue to fuel the conversation by being worn proudly on a daily basis.

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