Cannes Lions

The Day Sports Stood Still

IMAGINE ENTERTAINMENT, Beverly Hills / NIKE / 2021

Awards:

1 Shortlisted Cannes Lions
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Overview

Entries

Credits

Overview

Background

Waffle Iron Entertainment provides Nike with the ability to invest in and support longer-form storytelling that champions its values and, where possible, features its sponsored athletes. The goal is not to promote “the Swoosh” or any particular product, but rather generate awareness and support for the power of sport and underrepresented stories therein. At the beginning of the 2020 global pandemic, the NBA decided to postpone its season, creating a domino effect that resulted in the postponement or cancellation of every major sports league and events like March Madness, The Masters and the Summer Olympics. Nobody ever contemplated a world without sports because it always seemed to persevere through every kind of crisis, but this was different.

Idea

Director Antoine Fuqua and NBA All-Star Chris Paul provide a unique window into one of the most challenging years the sports world has ever faced. Not only was Chris playing in the game that got cancelled due to COVID and brought the whole league to a standstill, as head of the NBA Players’ Union he was the person tasked with trying to bring it back. Just days after the NBA announced the postponement, we sprang into action to begin documenting Chris’s experience as well as other athletes across the world in every sport. Then, a very different tragedy occurred: the murder of George Floyd. Suddenly the whole country was forced to reckon with the grim reality of police violence and racism. The question for Chris and the rest of the sports world changed from “how” do we play to “should” we play at all.

Strategy

The strategy is to broaden the brand’s reach outside of traditional advertising channels and support entertainment projects that align with its core value and message. Through co-marketing efforts, the brand can then draft off the success and cultural resonance of the film to maintain its position as champion of bringing people together through sport.

Execution

“The Day Sports Stood Still” is an emotional deep dive into what it was like to be a professional athlete in 2020, not just coping with the global pandemic, but also the responsibility of athletes to utilize their platforms to speak out against racism. Directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Antoine Fuqua and produced by Academy Award-winners Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, this documentary recounts al the twists and turns from the day the NBA was postponed to the day it came back in “the bubble” in Orlando, FL.

Outcome

The trailer dropped wide on March 11, 2020 and the full film premiered on HBO on March 24th, available to its over 124 million subscribers. While most brand marketing efforts represent sunk costs, in *this case* the underlying investment turned a profit. It’s an entirely new model by which brands can engage with their audiences.

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