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Brand Strategy Influencer Influencer Marketing

Brands are starting to see the power of Cannes Film Festival

By Maira Genovese, Founder & president

MG Empower


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May 24, 2024 | 7 min read

Marketers may be gearing up for Cannes Lions festival next month, but Maira Genovese says that you’re missing a trick if you’re not also looking at the town’s iconic film fest, which wraps this weekend.

A beach screening at Cannes Film Festival

Is Cannes Festival the right place for your brand? / Cannes Film Festival / Zhifei Zhou via Unsplash

About 10 years ago, in the early days of my journey within the influencer marketing industry, I received a hesitant reaction from a client when I suggested taking an influencer – then known as a ‘blogger’ – to the Cannes Film Festival red carpet, instead of a major celebrity. Despite initial reluctance, they decided to proceed. It became the first of several successful branded activations I have led at the festival since then.

Throughout this time, a lot has changed. The innovative approach I introduced back then – disrupting the traditional ways of working with digital talent; moving beyond the social media space – is now a common part of marketing strategies. While a continued focus on A-list celebrities highlights the event’s premium approach, brands have realized the festival’s reach extends beyond the gowns.

How Cannes has welcomed influencers

Over the decade since that first activation, I've led projects ranging from interactive and immersive beachside lunches to behind-the-scenes livestreaming with influencers. These activations reflect the event’s potential for brands willing to explore the atmosphere of the French Riviera and think outside the red carpet box.

The evolution of social media during this time has also helped Cannes build its own brand, making the event not only aspirational but also positioning the city as a must-visit destination. This aligns perfectly with social media platforms’ push for entertaining content to keep audiences scrolling – a trend deepened by the arrival of TikTok.

Entertainment has become a soft power for marketers, enabling brands to build strong cultural associations and become relevant players in society beyond their product portfolios.

What stands out on the Croisette

Increasingly, what helps brands stand out among the Cannes crowd is moving beyond product placement strategies. Storytelling is key, and influencers do it well. By creating narratives around the allure of the Cannes experience, and aligned with brands’ values and aesthetics, these creators can bridge the gap between a brand and its target audience, inviting them to be part of the event through high relatability.

Above all, storytelling works when it’s consistent with the brand’s overall positioning. I've seen plenty of brands develop collaborations exclusively for Cannes – and that’s fine, but it needs to make sense within the broader story being told to consumers outside the festival weeks. That’s something high-jewellery brand Chopard (the festival’s long-term official partner) has been excelling at.

For high-fashion labels, the established relationship with the cinema industry has been greatly enhanced over recent years, with more maisons engaging their creative agendas in film production each edition. However, the increasing global appeal of the festival – also aided by the evolving social media landscape – has made it a key moment in the marketing calendar for other industries as well. This year, brands like Nespresso and Campari designed immersive IRL experiential spaces to complement their partnership with the festival, along with red-carpet moments, digital content, private events and influencer marketing.

These brands embraced integrated strategies to strengthen brand positioning, creating a strong story between brands and the cinema universe – a not-so-obvious bond, perhaps, but one that works with the prime recognition they've been nurturing.

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A relatively untapped marketing playground?

As Cannes continues to evoke this exclusive and luxurious connection, it has become a marketing playground for brands to tap into a different spectrum of consumers. The latest Kantar marketing trends 2024 report highlights the rise of “premiumisation” as a strong market movement, valuing specific customers – something the festival embodies.

For many brands, proximity to the red carpet helps build a perception that can justify price increases, as long as it’s part of a consistent strategy.

Investing in an entertainment-focused business model is not easy. My experience working with brands over these years has shown me that it requires more than a budget to succeed; it demands a combination of the right elements and a long-term ROI mindset. Cannes can provide immediate coverage and PR results, but achieving this in such a competitive event can be tricky. The biggest mistake I see is brands relying on this as a given. And coverage doesn’t always yield the tangible results businesses expect, which leads to misalignment.

The Cannes Film Festival is a kind of investment in brand building and positioning through continued and authentic cultural association. It’s a massive opportunity for innovation and it can be a really effective marketing tool. But it takes time.

Brand Strategy Influencer Influencer Marketing

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MG Empower

MG Empower is a global integrated marketing agency that empowers brands with data-driven storytelling. As part of the DXG Group - a world-leading group of Hubspot...

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