Clio Sports State of Play: FCB, Roku and Deep Blue on AI Storytelling, Investing in Women

Putting fresh brand spins on classic games

The second-annual State of Play: Clio Sports Marketing Summit held this week at WPP's offices in lower Manhattan included two thought-provoking panels: Michelob Ultra's "Formula for Creative Storytelling" and "A Fireside Chat With Ashlyn Harris," hosted by Deep Blue Sports + Entertainment.

Below, we share highlights from both sessions.

Michelob Ultra's Formula for Creative Storytelling

15 laps. 7 racers1 real, 6 virtual.

We've never seen a Formula One race quite like this.

Danilo Boer, global chief creative partner at FCB Global, and Rachel Helfman, head of B2B marketing and solutions at Roku, discussed the making of Ultra's groundbreaking Lap of Legends TV special, which debuted May 14 on the streaming service.

"It's the first ever real versus virtual race," said Boer of the event that pitted F1 driver Logan Sargeant, who races for Williams Racing, against six Williams legends of the past—Mario Andretti, Jenson Button, Damon Hill, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost and Jacque Villeneuve.

FCB spent over a year developing the sophisticated augmented reality helmet through which Sargeant was fed real-time info on as he sped along the track at Silverstone Circuit in England at 200 mph.

For Sargeant's safety, it was crucial that the data he received was 100-percent accurate. "At the same time, we had to make sure that the AI drivers could respond to him," Boer said.

When FCB and Ultra first pitched Lap of Legends to Roku, Helfman was skeptical. But once she learned about the innovative technology at the core of proposal, her mind was blown. "It was a first of its kind," she marveled.

Helfman was also sold on Laps because it wasn't a brazen advertisement. "If Roku is going to put their name behind something, it has to be entertainment," she stressed. "It can't be a long-form ad because that is not something that streamers or consumers want to see."

A Fireside Chat With Ashlyn Harris, Hosted by Deep Blue Sports + Entertainment

Laura Correnti, founder and CEO of Deep Blue Sports + Entertainment, hosted a conversation with U.S. Women's soccer star Ashlyn Harris—a two-time World Cup Champion—on the state of brand investment in women's sports.

Spoiler alert: Despite a surge in public interest, the backing lags behind.

"One of the things that has become pretty apparent is that the current state of our media ecosystem was not designed to grow the women’s game," Correnti said. "When we look at things like CPI models, when we look at the metrics for how we are both buying and evaluating the success of women's sports, the current model doesn't work."

It doesn't reflect data from studies revealing how women's sports fans are a "very leaned in, dialed in, loyal audience," Correnti said.

As for the gender gap in salaries, on the plus side, "We don't have to talk about the pay gap in the U.S. Soccer Federation," Harris said.

And that's because Harris and her teammates fought for—and famously achieved—pay equity.

That said, there's much more work to be done to bridge the divide between men and women in other sports, Harris said, citing WNBA rookie Caitlin Clark's disappointing payday.

“Caitlin Clark single handedly saved basketball. No one was watching the NBA. The ratings were down. Numbers don't lie. She came onto the scene and blew it up," Harris said. But Clark is only making $76,535 a season.

"Babe Ruth made 80-something thousand dollars in 1930. Let that sink in," Harris said.

Now, Harris noted that there are those who would argue that Clark is doing just fine because she has signed a multi-million dollar Nike contract and other endorsement deals.

But that doesn’t fly with this athlete.

"So now we're going to make her work more to get paid fairly? Come on," Harris said.

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