The work of the sports industry at Cannes proves that you don’t have to change the world to walk down La Croisette with a handful of Lions.

While most brands are trying to superficially change the world, the sports industry hopes to inspire it.

This week Pitch headed to the Cannes Lions Festival to connect with and be inspired by the best minds in our industry. As well as the beach sand and beer, we consumed the very best work that the creative industry has to offer, from Black Friday Boycotts to Brewery Fresh Fuel.

We were on the lookout for creative inspiration from our sector, searching for the best sports marketing from the last twelve months. What we found was the reigning champions, Nike and Adidas, and the number one contender, Under Armour, battling it out against the other heavy weight brands of the world.

Where are we all?

With the global sports industry worth more than $145bn, it’s not surprising to see great work in our sector standing out at Cannes. What is most surprising is how under-represented the industry was at the Festival.

Everyday at Cannes there are dozens of talks and sessions. Only about six of them during the course of the week were related to sport. Under Armour’s CEO talked about underdog marketing, Iris and Adidas spoke about the ‘slash’ generation, but that was about as interesting as it got.

Last year the Premier League sold its broadcast rights for a record fee. Shirt and stadium sponsorships for all sports in all countries are being sold for record fees. And more fans are watching sport now, than ever before.

So, surely the sports industry deserves a bigger seat at the Cannes Lions table. Something we hope to address next year.

Maybe we should earn it?

Brands are crowding the sports space. In the Premier League alone there are 258 different sponsor brands. The highest level of creativity is required in order for a brand to be distinctive.

It takes courage to win a Cannes Lion.

Maybe our industry is still stuck in the dark ages. Maybe entire marketing budgets are being spent on sponsorship rights. And maybe rights holders are holding brands back from doing anything courageous.

Maybe not.

We were lucky enough to create a campaign that has received multiple awards this year, including a Cannes Lions shortlist and a D&AD pencil. Switching Saddles for Betfair was one of the most courageous pieces of work we’ve ever done.

It was big, bold and in uncharted territory, and a lot of people had to work especially hard to make it happen.

So, let’s take inspiration from Cannes.

If Sweden can offer up its entire citizenship in aid of self-promotion and if Burger King can call for world peace, then we can follow the lead from the likes of Emirates and Heineken who challenge the average and try something new.

If it doesn’t scare you when you first hear it, then you’ll never win a Cannes Lion.

Who’s up for it?

Further Reading