Cannes Lions: Direct winners 2023 

The Grand Prix goes to Adidas and FCB Toronto for Runner 321

The Direct Lions Grand Prix at Cannes was awarded on Wednesday to Adidas’ Runner 321 campaign, by FCB Toronto.

Launched on World Down Syndrome Day, the Runner 321 campaign tells the story of Adidas’ first sponsored athlete with Down Syndrome, Chris Nikic.

Nikic is a triathlete, marathon runner and the world’s first Ironman with Down Syndrome, and the campaign saw Adidas reserve bib number 321 for Chris to race with in the Boston Marathon.

The number 321 refers to Trisomy 21 (tri-21) – the medical identifier for Down Syndrome.

The Grand Prix-winning campaign is aligned with Adidas’ Impossible is Nothing series, an ongoing initiative to uplift people from underrepresented groups through sports.

Where To Settle, an initiative from Mastercard and McCann Poland which was awarded a Gold Lion, was also in contention for the Direct Grand Prix, said jury president Chaka Sobhani (global CCO of Leo Burnett). ‘They’re both incredible campaigns. [Where to settle] had measurable results and is scalable,’ she said, adding that the fact that the idea is applicable on a global level ‘just blew our minds. It was a real Sophie’s Choice because we absolutely loved both of them.’

Ultimately, Runner 321 just tipped the scales because it was already a ‘global’ idea, while Mastercard’s initiative is at a comparably early stage. ‘That doesn't take anything away from [Mastercard],’ she said. ‘I would love to see how it becomes a global idea.’

Overall, the jury was impressed by the breadth and variation of the work, said Sobhani: ‘It’s become one of the most creative and innovative and broad categories. We saw everything from product design to technology innovation, to experiences, to activations, to PR.’

And while there was an incredible array of purpose-driven work from charities, NGOs and brands across the board, it was refreshing to see levity in the work, too, said Sobhani. ‘[There was] a huge body of work that was very light, had joy at its heart and was there to entertain and to reward people with experiences and events in a way that raised a smile.’ This levity is reflected among some of the Gold Winners, such as Oreo’s Oreo Cheat Cookies campaign and Marmite’s Baby Scan campaign.

Sobhani also addressed the buzz around generative AI. ‘Last year it was the metaverse, this year it’s AI,’ she said. ‘I think the canvas just gets bigger, and we've got to learn how to use it properly with an idea of the heart of it. And then it becomes a tool for our creativity, as opposed to creativity itself.’

Gold Lions Winners /

Oreo Cheat Cookies, for Oreo (Mondelez Europe), by Saatchi & Saatchi, Dusseldorf

Baby Scan, for Marmite, by Adam&eveDDB, London

Prêt à voter, for Solar Impulse, by Publicis Conseil, Paris

The Postponed Day, for Laclec, by Grey Argentina, Buenos Aires

Oreocodes, for Oreo (Mondelez Europe), by VMLY&R Commerce, New York

Where to settle, for Mastercard, by McCann Poland, Warsaw

Anne de Gaulle, for Fondation Anne de Gaulle, by Havas Paris

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