Cannes Interview Corner: Diageo’s Sophie Kelly

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After a two-year hiatus, Sophie Kelly, senior vice president of Diageo’s North America Whiskeys Portfolio, is looking forward to the nonstop activity and creativity that Cannes is known for. “Everybody’s coming back with a vengeance,” she says. “There’s so much going on.”

After a two-year hiatus, Sophie Kelly, senior vice president of Diageo’s North America Whiskeys Portfolio, is looking forward to the nonstop activity and creativity that Cannes is known for. “Everybody’s coming back with a vengeance,” she says. “There’s so much going on.” She will be speaking at Brand Innovators’s Marketing Leadership Summit @ Cannes

What is it that draws you to Cannes?

What I love about Cannes is that it’s an opportunity to get out. This year it will be a chance to reconnect with people you haven’t seen. And it’s a hotbed of meeting new people hearing about new collaborations and experiencing different thought leaders around the industry. And getting to see the work, getting to be inspired by some of the best work out there. 

What are you most looking forward to this year?

I think reconnecting with people. I’m hoping to be inspired by new thinking, and I’m hoping to network and meet different cultural influencers and people that we can potentially partner with.  There’s not really one thing I’m looking forward to over another. I think the beauty of Cannes is that you can glean from creatives, brand marketers, media, publishing partners, agency leaders, and presentations from some of the best of the best in the industry. Immersing myself in that is what I’m excited about.

Do you expect any similarities or differences this year from previous years, particularly after a two-year break?

What will be the same is you will try to get to as many things as you can, and you won’t reach half of them. I hope what will be the same will be the serendipitous moments of reaching people across the Croisette and potentially ending up at a different destination than you had originally intended to be at.  What will be different? We’ll be talking about web 3.0. It’s a center of creativity, and it’s giving way to new influences, new creative ideas, and new cultural collaboration spaces. 

One of the areas of discussion that I will be looking to immerse myself in is around the agenda of equality and how brands and partnerships are taking that to the next level, particularly across sports and entertainment. In previous years, I would not have been as engaged with a topic such as sustainability. I’m looking to be inspired by people around that area. 

Is there anything special Diageo is doing at Cannes this year?

We are partnering and supporting our partners and their executions. We are also doing a piece on our Grain to Glass Sustainability, Positive Drinking, and other Society 2030 goals. We will be discussing our learning around NFTs and Web 3.0. We will also be discussing equity and inclusion at an event featuring Alexis Ohanian who is an investor in Angel City football club. 

When Cannes is over, what do you expect to bring back to the office?

I expect to be able to talk about the creativity I’ve seen, work that inspires me, and share different ways we can think about how our brands can connect and engage with their communities. I expect to meet a few people who I didn’t know before who are experts in fields that I’m learning about like Web 3.0 and potentially even meet some creatives that were not on my radar that we can create programs with. And, ultimately, I want to raise the bar on my own creativity and the type of work we should be creating, and ensure that it is doing good in society. 

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