Rakuten Optimism 2024 | Official Highlights

Rakuten International's Optimism event, held in sunny Carlsbad, California, marked a triumphant return with nearly 1,000 global attendees. This year's theme, "Fueling Meaningful Connections," was brought to life through a series of engaging panels, keynote speeches, and networking opportunities. The event celebrated the best in affiliate marketing, offering insights and innovations from industry leaders and fostering powerful partnerships across the globe.

Optimism Recap Blog_June 2024 Hero

Affiliate Intelligence PhotoboothFor the first time since 2019, Rakuten International hosted Optimism, an even more monumental and rewarding version of our annual DealMaker USA event! We curated an agenda filled with inspiring speakers, insightful Rakuten Advertising panels, and expanded networking opportunities for our nearly 1,000 attendees in sunny Carlsbad, California.

The event focused on “Fueling Meaningful Connections,” and highlighted inspiration, connection, and celebration between our attendees. It brought together our Rakuten brands and the top advertisers, publishers, and agencies from across the globe to celebrate the best of affiliate and digital marketing.

Rakuten Optimism was held over two days and included a jam-packed schedule of networking, insightful discussion, and fun. Some of the exciting events included:

  • A thought-provoking conversation with Jason Sudeikis, interviewed by Armchair Expert co-host, Monica Padman.
  • The 2024 Golden Link Awards, hosted by Preacher Lawson.
  • Several conversations around the AI advancements at Rakuten Advertising and Rakuten International.
  • Rakuten Advertising’s Affiliate Intelligence photo booth gave attendees the opportunity to experience the ongoing optimization and spirit of Affiliate Intelligence.

Here are some highlights from this year’s Rakuten Optimism:

Golden Link Awards

Golden Link Award Winners

Our Golden Link Awards were hosted on day 1 of Optimism by comedian Preacher Lawson. There were more than 75 companies and individuals short-listed and 16 outstanding winners from the event! Read more about the full list of winners and those short-listed here. Congratulations to all!

Jam-Packed Content Sessions

Amit Patel Speaking

Day 1 of Optimism started with some sun salutations on the lawn and excitement in the air as attendees made their way to the Omni La Costa to network, be inspired, and get rewarded! Throughout day 1, Rakuten Advertising held thought-leadership sessions on partnerships, global expansion, and more, which got attendees excited to discuss new opportunities throughout the event.

Day 2 kicked off with an inspiring keynote, presented by Omar Johnson, Founder of Opus United and former CMO of Beats by Dre. He tackled the critical role human behavior and connection play in a successful marketing strategy and walked through his history and successes in launching the consumer favorite, Beats headphones.

Jason Sudeikis Smiling

After Omar’s inspiring session, attendees heard from the CEO of Rakuten International, Amit Patel, on future plans for the Rakuten brand and highlighted the ever-evolving role that AI plays in affiliate and digital marketing, an ongoing theme throughout the conference. Amit also announced the latest Rakuten offering, Rakuten+. The first of its kind, Rakuten+ is an exclusive membership for shopping lovers who want rewards on premium brands, offering elevated cash back and VIP shopping perks on participating designer labels.

Following Amit , our optimistic attendees heard from Ted Lasso himself, Jason Sudeikis, and Monica Padman, cohost of Armchair Expert, as they discussed the power of optimism and how to create stronger connections with audiences through storytelling.

Rakuten Advertising Industry Panel Discussions

AI Panel

In addition to the star-studded opening remarks, Rakuten Advertising hosted several thought-provoking panels featuring industry leaders from LVMH’s 24S, CheckMate, Klarna, and more, as they discussed the affiliate channel’s many unique opportunities and nuances.

AI for Affiliate Marketers: Learn about Rakuten Advertising’s Innovation in AI

AI was the hot topic at this year’s Rakuten Optimism, and Rakuten Advertising’s AI innovations took center stage. Between the mainstage presentation by Ting Cai, Chief Data Officer and Sr. Managing Executive Officer of the Tech Services Division at Rakuten Group, and Rakuten Advertising panel featuring Meytal Markman, VP of Product, Chris Hahs, SVP of Advanced Analytics, and Justin Smith, VP of Data, the group covered all things AI happening at Rakuten.

The latest announcements about Rakuten Advertising’s Affiliate Intelligence solution were especially exciting. Notable advancements include the adoption of Partnership Discovery, ongoing optimizations, and new partnerships developed with Audience Engine.

Partnerships Reimagined: Pushing the Boundaries with New and Strategic Partners

Partnerships Reimagined: Pushing the Boundaries with New and Strategic Partners PanelThis panel explored the emergence of new fast-growing partnership types and shared how brands and publishers can create more productive partnerships. The panelists highlighted the exponential growth seen in the influencer space and how social commerce shouldn’t be ignored but embraced in today’s social ecosystem.

Moderated by: Ceres Cueva – SVP, Global Publisher Partnerships, Rakuten Advertising


  • Harry Dixon – CEO & Co-Founder, Checkmate
  • Doron Ostrin – Founder & Co-CEO, Thanks
  • Jack Farina – Director, Head of Strategic Partnerships, Linktree

World Class Affiliate: A True Global Approach to Affiliate Marketing

World Class Affiliate: A True Global Approach to Affiliate Marketing PanelOur session on the intersection of affiliate marketing and global e-commerce trends discussed the importance of a holistic regional marketing plan, emphasizing the importance of both international expertise and local market knowledge. One of the key takeaways was that during brand development, marketers should be exploring all points of the funnel when expanding internationally.

Moderated by: Susan Schwartz, VP of Client Services, Rakuten Advertising


  • Aurélie Bouvart – CMO, 24S
  • Brittany Ellam – Global Senior Digital Marketing Manager, FitFlop,
  • Kim Zorn – Global Performance Director, Princess Polly

Journey Innovation in Travel: Navigating Uncharted Territory with Emerging Consumer Trends

Journey Innovation in Travel: Navigating Uncharted Territory with Emerging Consumer Trends PanelAttendees had the opportunity to join in a discussion about the new and emerging trends within the travel space. The trio dove into the nuanced experiences that travel marketers face, from long consideration periods to the rise in CLO and influencer conversions, they chatted about it all – and the best part? Each panelist shared their next travel destination, and where they got their inspiration! Portugal was at the top of 2 of 3 panelists’ “want to travel” lists !

Moderated By: Beth Benedict – SVP, Finance and Emerging Verticals, Rakuten Advertising


  • Rebecca Rosen – Digital Marketing Manager, MSC Cruises
  • Kristina Elkhazin – Head of Ads, Klarna

Between hearing from Jason Sudeikis, to getting a personalized haiku, to celebrating with the Rakuten Advertising Affiliate Intelligence photo booth, attendees agreed that the entire event was full of rewarding experiences and connection.

We want to give a huge thank you to our sponsors who make Optimism possible, we appreciate your ongoing support and partnership. Finally, we wanted to thank our incredible events team, Vicki McCrae, Sara Gorlick, Krystyna Lijek, Kayla Maley, and Schekinath Biaou, for all the hard work that they put into making this year’s Rakuten Optimism a complete success. Cheers team!

Events Team!

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Rakuten Advertising

Rakuten Advertising leads the industry in delivering performance-driven ad solutions that help the world’s top brands connect with unique, highly engaged audiences – from first impression to final sale.