Cannes Lions

Simone Biles: Pause is Power

THE COCA COLA COMPANY, Atlanta / COCA-COLA / 2024

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Overview

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Overview

Background

During the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, Simone Biles — considered the greatest gymnast of all time — shocked the world when she withdrew from competition. Simone was held up as a symbol of gymnastic perfection, and the pressure she felt — from the world and herself — was too heavy a burden. She needed to take a pause and get her head right.

But instead of support, she was condemned as weak, unpatriotic, and damaging to her team.

Yet, this moment of vulnerability revealed a deeper strength: the courage to prioritize mental health over medals, setting a powerful example for athletes and spectators alike. And the wait was worthwhile. Because when Simone returned to competition in 2023, she came back stronger than ever.

Powerade stood by her side when few others did, recognizing that Pause Is Power. Simply put, together with Simone, we wanted to prove that the haters were wrong.

Idea

This is a platform whose validation has been years in the making. Simone’s powerful return to competition has proven the namesake and underlying truth of the campaign: Pause Is Power.

In this film that crowns the campaign, we watch Simone Biles perform a vault, the very same movement that caused her to have "the twisties" during the Tokyo Olympics 2020 and subsequently withdraw from the competition.

While she twists in the air, we see her trajectory from Tokyo 2020 to Paris 2024. In each scene showing Simone's personal life, the camera movement mimics Simone's movement in the air. The voice-over is Simone herself, talking openly about her struggles and her return as an improved athlete and human being.

It shows how Simone took a break to regain her power and come back stronger than ever, establishing new personal and world records and qualifying for Paris 2020.

Strategy

The world didn’t know when or if Simone would return to the mat. And when others cast doubt (and shade), we knew the truth of what she was doing. She didn’t take a pause for the sake of it. She took a pause so she could come back stronger. And that’s exactly what she’s done.

Since returning to competition, Simone has proven that you’ll never maximize your full potential if you’re not mentally at your best. She has crossed the globe, dominating competition after competition, proving that pause IS power.

Execution

Working with an athlete like Simone, we looked for partners Kim Gehrig & Somesuch to bring the perfect combination of top-tier work, sensitivity and care. We fixated on intricate elements within a short runway to produce a highly technical, multiple camera shoot in Simone’s home gym in Houston.

We worked with Simone’s team to find time best considering her training routine. We pulled together a highly comprehensive plan inclusive of body doubles, stunt doubles, stand-ins and rig setups to work within the space limitations on the actual shoot day.

We launched this campaign across Powerade’s owned social and PR channels directly following Team Coca-Cola’s Olympic athlete announcement. The Vault premiered across global channels, with local markets following with cutdowns native to their social platforms.

We quickly reached scale through the work as well as the overall message, launching completely organically to resonate with audiences in the most authentic way.

Outcome

Our goal was to advance the mental health dialogue in sports, a discussion sparked by Simone Biles in 2021. We would never take full credit for her achievements, but since partnering with Powerade, she has become a global advocate on this issue while helping drive the business. And by celebrating her comeback, we’re capping a years-long journey that proves the power of pausing.

Powerade:

-“The Vault” garnered 125M+ earned media impressions in a single week.

-15% brand value growth — to $4.3B.

-4% increase in high frequency purchasers — to 14.3M.

-An all-time high market share in Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina.

-Higher awareness (+8.3 pts) and consideration (+5 pts) vs Gatorade in EU.

Biles:

-Increased mental health speaking engagements (GMA, AAPA, Global Wellness).

-53% increase in social conversations around Simone and mental health.

-A 10-point increase in Q-Score positivity for Simone among Gen Z since partnering (16 to 26).

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