Diverse, Topical, Enlightening and Entertaining, These Were the Best Brand Storytellers of 2019

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Every year for the past four years, Adweek’s Arc Awards have honored the best in brand storytelling. And we find that each time, the bar is set higher and higher. As audiences become more sophisticated, the variety of platforms multiplies and the number of brands rises, the ability to originate and execute powerful stories becomes that much more vital. We don’t know what amazing brand stories the coming year will bring, but we do know that this year’s honorees have certainly set the challenge. —Kristina Feliciano

Agency: Creators League Studio
Client: PepsiCo
Campaign: Gatorade, Cantera 5v5
Award: Best Use of Long-Form Nonfiction Serial/Series

Great talent can come from the humblest places. Having founded the Global Gatorade 5v5 Soccer Tournament, an annual five-a-side soccer tourney for 14- to 16-year-olds from 23 countries, Gatorade has a pitch-side view of the raw talent, passion and dedication to the sport—even in the face of adversity—that comes from youth soccer leagues.

That perspective led the brand to create Cantera 5v5, an original long-form documentary series that tells the story of five aspiring athletes from around the world. “We wanted the audience to understand that Gatorade 5v5 is an important part in the development of the kids that take part in the competition,” says Jill Leccia Monsalve, senior marketing director, head of sports, nutritional and functional beverages at PepsiCo Latin America—noting that cantera, which means quarry in Spanish, is a term used for junior divisions and refers to how talent is developed, much like an artist coaxes a statue out of stone.

“Over the years many players that participated in the competition started playing professionally. We realized we had great human stories that deserved to be told,” she says. “Through the stories of Gisela, Daniel, Rodrigo, Yahya and Flavia, we were able to tell young athletes out there that there are kids like them all over the world, and inspire them to keep sweating for the sport they love.”

The five-episode series, which was showcased during the Tribeca TV Festival, was directed by multi-Emmy- and Peabody-winning filmmakers Jeff and Michael Zimbalist and produced in partnership with All Rise Films and PepsiCo’s in-house content unit, Creators League Studio. —Rae Ann Fera

Agency: UM Studios
Client: Johnson & Johnson
Campaign: 5B
Award: Best Use of Long-Form Film

In an effort to highlight the important work that nurses do and solidify the company’s position as a long-standing advocate for the profession, Johnson & Johnson created the feature documentary 5B. Produced by UM Studios and J3, UM’s dedicated media unit for Johnson & Johnson, the film tells the story of Ward 5B, the first AIDS ward in the United States, which opened in 1983 at San Francisco General Hospital, and the nurses and caregivers who treated patients with respect and compassion during a time of great fear and uncertainty.

“It was a bold proposal,” says Brendan Gaul, UM Studios’ head and global chief content officer. “A few minutes into our initial conversation, [the] client stopped us, saying she’d heard enough. Incredibly, the client had been on the ground at San Francisco General Hospital, inside Ward 5B, delivering whatever Johnson & Johnson products could potentially help the patients in the early AIDS crisis. Needless to say, the clients were all in and our journey was underway.”

5B was an official selection at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2019 and was acquired by Verizon for domestic and international cinematic release. It screened at 17 Pride celebrations across the country and is being incorporated into nursing curricula. The film even influenced Hollywood, as 20th Century Fox licensed portions of recovered archival footage of the ward to use in the hit movie Bohemian Rhapsody.

This story first appeared in the March 9, 2020, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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