According to the awards, Nike has maintained its perennial popularity with South Africa's youth, claiming an eighth consecutive Overall Coolest Brand Award, while also bagging the Coolest Clothing Brand and Coolest Footwear Brand Awards at awards.

Apple placed overall second, while luxury brand Louis Vuitton moved into overall third spot from its ninth-place position in 2020.

The survey remains the leading barometer of what South Africa's youth find on-trend and aspirational. It aims to deliver insights that are valued by brand management, advertising and marketing professionals.

The 2021 survey polled more than 6 000 young people aged:
  • eight to 13 years (Tweens)
  • 14 to 18 years (Teens)
  • 18 to 24 years (Young Adults), and
  • 25 to 30 years (Young Professionals).
Eben Gewers, head of sales at Arena Events (which owns Sunday Times GenNext) believes the survey continues to deliver value, particularly during the economic uncertainty brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"It's been a challenging 18 months to say the least, so having knowledge of shifts in youth attitude to products and brands — at a time when many families are economically stretched — is vital for marketers in shaping their future strategies."

Refilwe Malukeke, MD of Yellowwood, says that the behavioural portion of the 2021 research highlights three levers that brands can use to build trust with young people and ultimately drive consideration and preference. These are accessibility, authenticity and community.

"In addition to availability, brands can make themselves accessible by showing up in spaces where young people are in a relevant way. They can achieve authenticity by being consistent in everything they do and finally consider the kind of positive impact they can have on communities or tribes that matter to young people," adds Maluleke.

This year also saw the introduction of new categories reflecting rapid innovation and consumer technology adoption, including:
  • Coolest Online Store (winner:
  • Coolest Technology Brand (winner: Samsung)
  • Coolest Digital Learning Platform (winner: YouTube), and
  • Coolest Fitness Device (winner: Apple Watch).
The awards say that for the first time, young people over 18 years of age were polled on their preference for alcohol brands — amongst this cohort, Savannah Cider was the most popular alcoholic beverage.

In addition to polling consumer brand preference, the survey also polls youth on the personal brands of celebrities, entertainers and sportspeople. World Cup-winning Springbok Rugby Captain Siya Kolisi was named Coolest Local Sportsperson, DJ Kabza de Small was voted as the Coolest Local Club DJ, while Cassper Nyovest was awarded the Coolest Online Influencer and the Coolest Local Celeb of 2021.

MetroFM once again triumphed as the Coolest Radio Station, with The Queen being the Coolest Local TV Programme.

Sunday Times GenNext is presented in association with headline partners Yellowwood and Gautrain, and corporate partners Proudly South African and CliffCentral. The event and webinar series are managed by Arena Events. Past webinars can be viewed here

Individuals are encouraged to view the complete list of winners across 61 categories here. The Sunday Times GenNext supplement was published in the Sunday Times on Sunday, 12 September.

For more information, visit