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The buzz without the booze: can Cannes be as fun for the sober curious?

Can Cannes be as fun for the sober curious?
Julia Linehan spoke to InMobi's Michael Balogun, who has not drunk alcohol this year, about doing Cannes sober.
Opinion

Fascinated by the idea of a booze-free or mindful drinking Cannes Lions? Whether you consider yourself a sober curious, mindful drinker or sober lush, this is for you. 


There has been a palpable buzz around being “sober curious” lately. An impressive number of 140,000 individuals took part in Dry January and Sober October in 2022, and there’s been a steady rise in the number of quality brands for non-alcoholic drinks.

Understanding the concept of being sober curious is important. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to give up drinking alcohol altogether. Instead, it’s more about examining your relationship with it and how it affects your life.

Michael Balogun from InMobi has done just that. Since 1 Jan 2023, Michael has been a non-drinker and is curious about whether to do Cannes sober, go in gently as a mindful drinker, or press the f**k it button and hit the rosé.

Experiencing Cannes from a non-drinking perspective

“At the start of 2023, I took this on as a personal challenge to see the effects and benefits of not drinking alcohol; from health to spirituality to wealth,” he said. “I wanted to cut out booze for a time to understand if I drink purely because it’s part of the culture within the ad industry. I also wanted to see if I could do without it.”

Michael is now five months in. He adds: “I do miss the social aspect of having a drink with colleagues or a glass of wine with my wife, but I have found it interesting to examine how it fits into my life.”

Cannes however, is a different level when it comes to industry drinking. I asked Michael how he was feeling about hitting the Palais sans alcohol. He said: “I am now open to not going all in on booze. I am more interested in packing my Cannes calendar with more of a range of events.”

As a notoriously heavy boozing event, I asked Michael how he felt about that: “I’ll be honest, I had never really considered that you could experience Cannes from a non-drinking perspective. I have now seen that there are way more choices of events happening and at InMobi, we have also curated a more inclusive selection of experiences. I definitely want to see if I can enjoy Cannes without being a heavy drinker and have one or two drinks rather than end up at the Gutter Bar at 2am.”

For me, as a four years and counting sober lush, I’m all in on the non-drinking and can hand on heart say, I don’t miss it, don’t want it and have so much more fun without it.  I have done eight Cannes Lions; four as a full on, no holds barred, 12 hours a day rosé schmoozer followed by four as a sober lush, glowing and energised non-drinker but an unashamed coffee fiend.

I loved both, I really did. Cannes will do that to you; you can’t not have a good time. The difference though was huge.

I laughed more, attended four times more events, remembered everything, took in every single mind-blowing, pinch me, “aren’t we bloody lucky” moment.

I came back motivated, refreshed and having made real connections (and done actual work!). A world away from the horrific three day hangover that used to hurt, really hurt.

So whether you want to hit the Croisette drink in hand, or are looking for a more mindful approach to put a spring in your step during your Cannes experience, just know that there is something for everyone and quite frankly, lots of cool options available (and we’re not just talking about the Côte d’Azur sea breeze.) Just remember, not all of them require rosé as the main act!


Julia Linehan is founder and CEO of adtech specialist PR agency The Digital Voice.

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