Nike's 'Dream Crazy' Colin Kaepernick billboard wins Outdoor Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions
Although Nike’s “Dream Crazy” campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick first made big waves on social media, on the first day of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, it scored the top prize in Outdoor.
The Grand Prix-winning billboard from the campaign by Wieden & Kennedy Portland featured a black-and-white portrait of Kaepernick and the line, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything," mirroring Kaepernick and Nike’s now-famous tweet from last fall. It’s part of the brand's integrated campaign celebrating the 30th anniversary of the “Just Do It” tagline and ran in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.
The Outdoor jury, led by John Patroulis, the worldwide chief creative officer of Grey, cited the ad as the hands-down winner, with no other work coming close to contention for the top prize.
The festival allows for the Outdoor jury to award two Grand Prix, given the broad nature of the work, which can range from a simple poster or billboard to immersive experiences—anything that can be characterized as “not in your house,” Patroulis explained. But the jury only awarded Nike. Despite the range of work the jury saw, “we found that we were actually trying to give the others a chance against this one.
The single billboard answered all four of the criteria the jury had established for the winners: “It had to be simple and well-executed; it had to take advantage of context; it elevated the space in which it appeared, and it had to be perfect for the brand in the environment,” Patroulis said.
There was also an overall filter that the jury applied of “understanding the responsibility we have as an industry of being in a public space,” Patroulis said. “ We’re not invited in, so we felt we needed to award work that’s contributing somehow. It can’t detract.”
While the Kaepernick ad saw much of its impact in the social space, the jury said the outdoor execution made the idea even stronger.
The original tweet “was the most important social moment of the last few years,” Patroulis acknowledged. “But when you put it out in the world, as a giant, iconic image, it becomes real.” The context, too, was significant. “You have Colin Kaepernick staring down at [major U.S. cities], and society looking back up, at a black man, who has stood for something.”
Dan Dawson, CCO of Grand Visual in the U.K. added that even if it was a billboard, it became an “experience” of its own, inspiring even more tweets and conversation. “It was the thunderclap and became an immersive experience for everyone else. It almost became its own ambient campaign.”
Though the ads ran in the U.S., “It made a statement to the world,” added Paul Nagy, CCO at VMLY&R Australia and New Zealand. “That one image, they’ll be teaching ten years from now, not just in marketing books, but in history books,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s the greatest Nike ad of all time.”