Entertainment Lions For Sport > Excellence in Sports Entertainment


RETHINK, Toronto / YWCA / 2022


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Why is this work relevant for Sport Entertainment?

Whether it’s funding, records, TV slots or advertising campaigns, the sports world focuses on male athletes as the default, and women athletes as a secondary other. This disparity in the perception and treatment of men’s and women’s sports is part of a systemic problem affecting everything from representation and media coverage to pay equity and opportunity for female athletes. To confront this issue, we went to the top and added an M to the four biggest, most established men’s sports logos in North America. Using a simple device to challenge the status quo of professional sports and effect systemic change.


With alarming disparities in media coverage, compensation for athletes, and funding for facilities and leagues, it’s no wonder that 1 in 3 Canadian girls drop out of sport by adolescence, compared to just 1 in 10 boys. Because gender equity is at the core of the YWCA's mission - it guides all their programming and advocacy - tackling the lack of representation and opportunity for women in sport was a natural fit.

The YWCA wanted a campaign that didn’t just advertise what they do, but actually did it in their advertising. This campaign advocated for gender issues the way the YWCA does everyday, but through advertising. It started a conversation highlighting broadly relevant issues like pay equity, opportunity, empowerment, representation and health and wellness through the lens of sport.

Describe the creative idea

We wanted to start a conversation about gender inequity in sport. So, we asked the question: why are men’s sports just called sports, when women’s sports are called women’s sports? The answer: because men’s sports are the default, leaving women to be considered second, if they’re included at all.

So, we did something about it. We added the M to the iconic logos of men’s sports leagues to match the W, which often serves as an asterisk marking women’s sports as separate, different, and less worthy. We targeted the logos of the four biggest men’s leagues in North America with corresponding women’s leagues and launched with a video to kickstart the conversation. Then we gave people all the tools they needed to spread the word, including M branded sweaters and gear, free downloadable badges, and digital stickers to hack logos on Instagram.

Describe the strategy

YWCA wanted to continue their track record of fighting for gender equity; this time, through the lens of women’s sports. With no media budget to support this, we knew that the creative idea had to be something buzzworthy, that people felt empowered to talk about.

To this end, we chose to add the M to the four biggest men’s leagues in North America with corresponding women’s leagues, and of course, fan bases. Then, we targeted key sports figures, both male and female, who were known for being vocal about gender equity. Their early support helped us expand our reach organically.

We created multiple ways for supporters to spread the word, with sweaters and stickers in the real world, free downloadable badges, and digital M stickers so people could hack logos on Instagram, all tied together with the call to action and hashtag #addtheM.

Describe the execution

The campaign was launched on YWCA social channels across Canada with a video that told the story of the initiative, and featured videos of our supporters showing their support. Our supporters also posted the launch video on their social channels to help amplify the message. Following, we shared the post with other professional athletes, sports media companies, and other vocal gender equity activists asking for their support of the initiative. To ensure the message went far and wide, we pitched the story to media outlets to further the conversation.

To empower people to engage with the campaign, we created a microsite where fans could read more about the initiative, and download the logos for themselves. We also created digital Instagram stickers so that people could add the M to league logos as they encounter them in real life.

Describe the outcome

We made a simple change to league logos to highlight a very complex issue, one that, for far too long, has gone undiscussed.

Add The M made headlines across the globe in over 170 publications, achieving a total overall reach of over 60 million impressions at the time of writing.

Soon, people around the world started to add the M to more league logos - the Women’s Football Fan Collective added the M to the English Premier League, as well as other leagues and cups.

Best of all? We started a conversation with absolutely no paid media support behind it, achieving an earned media value of over 26,000% above our investment.

We let girls around the world know that their achievements, both within sports and beyond, matter. This is the first step to levelling the playing field, and we've got a lot more work to do.

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