The branding of South by Southwest 2012 sometimes reached art-and-commerce proportions so grandiose and surreal, Andy Warhol would have been proud. Lil Wayne dropped by to film a live commercial for Mountain Dew, Doritos erected a stage in the shape of a 40-foot vending machine, and Nike Fuelband turned an entire wall into a live demo of its highly in-demand product.

It's no surprise that SXSW would become such a marketing hub in its 26th year. The Music portion of the conference alone attracted nearly 19,000 participants and more than 3,000 media, with an estimated attendance of 302,000 throughout SXSW's 11-day run. All the event activity from sponsors and attendees helped pour a combined $125 million into the City of Austin--a sign that marketers spend real money in making their mark at SXSW.

And though Music has become a larger-than-ever destination for marketers with a music strategy, brands are increasingly looking to align themselves with all three of SXSW's verticals. Taco Bell director of brand partnerships Will Bortz says this year the brand chose March 11 (a Monday) for an interactive concert with Passion Pit, co-hosted by Twitter, because of its intersection of SXSW's Interactive, Film and Music programming (which runs March 8-17). "You could argue it's the only place that does it with all three of those things being centerpieces," he says. "Sundance can have music but it really is a film festival. It's important for all three of these mediums to come together in a real authentic way."




Brand manager: Citi senior VP of experiential marketing Jennifer Breithaupt

Brand plans: Citi is bringing Dave Grohl and his Sound City Players to Austin, with an exclusive March 14 concert at Stubb's featuring an all-star lineup that will include Stevie Nicks, John Fogerty and Rick Springfield. Having previously worked with Grohl and his documentary "Sound City" on special card-member-only concerts in New York and Los Angeles, Citi is sure to have one of the most talked-about and sought-after tickets of the year. Billboard is the exclusive media partner for this event.

Official SXSW event? Yes.

How it will stand out: With tickets only available for purchase to Citi card members and select admission available to badge holders and friends of the artists, Citi's Sound City event is customer access personified. Guests will also be able to take their picture in a branded photo booth and gain access to commemorative T-shirts and copies of the soundtrack and the film itself. "We're always looking for ways to capture the unique content at the event and extend the experience outside the environment," Breithaupt says.




Brand manager: Spotify U.S. director of marketing Dave Altarescu

Brand plans: Spotify is teaming with Billboard for Spotify Live on March 13, featuring performances from Kendrick Lamar, Youngblood Hawke and Cazzette. The free event will be live-streamed on, sponsored by McDonald's, and will take place at the Spotify House at 110 East Fifth St.

Official SXSW event? No.

How it will stand out: In addition to Spotify Live, the Spotify House will host nightly performances March 11-15 on Cesar Chavez Street, with Jamie N Commons, Angel Haze, Robert DeLong and Pacific Air among the acts making stops throughout the week.




Brand manager: Nikon Communications senior manager Lisa Baxt

Brand plans: For the second year in a row, Nikon is the presenting sponsor for the Warner Sound's week of showcases, which this year will include heavyweights like the Flaming Lips, Tegan & Sara, Paramore and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (distributed by Warner's Alternative Distribution Alliance). The performances will be filmed with Nikon digital single-lens reflex cameras and streamed live on the Warner Sound's YouTube channel. Also this year, Nikon will be showcasing its new Wi-Fi-enabled connected cameras, which will let attendees share their experiences wirelessly from a Nikon camera for the first time. Billboard is also the Warner Sound's media partner this year.

Official SXSW event? No.

How it will stand out: "Nikon has successfully leveraged music as a platform to create awareness for years, and SXSW has always been an excellent marketing opportunity for us to engage with creative communities and aspiring and professional artists," Baxt says. "By working with partners like Warner Music Group, we're able to reach new audiences in an innovative way. We want people to choose Nikon for capturing great, quality photos and videos."




Brand manager: Sonicbids CEO Panos Panay

Brand plans: As SXSW's exclusive band-application platform since 2007, Sonicbids will extend its presence throughout Interactive and Music this year. The official SXSW party will be held March 15 at Maggie Mae's with San Cisco, Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown and Wild Cub on the bill. Additionally, Sonicbids' Panay will be a judge at SXSW's Music Accelerator startup competition on March 13.

Official SXSW event? Yes.

How it will stand out: Sonicbids is enhancing its profile at SXSW to promote its recent acquisition by Backstage (Billboard's sister company) and the companies' joint effort to be positioned as the "LinkedIn" for performing artists. Additionally, the company has been hosting new programs for brands like Marley Beverage, Anheuser-Busch and Renaissance Hotels in the weeks leading up to SXSW.




Brand manager: Converse chief marketing officer Geoff Cottrill

Brand plans: In addition to its presenting sponsorship of the Fader Fort, Converse will host a special Austin edition of its Rubber Tracks studio. Up to 11 Texas-based musicians of all ages and genres will be invited to reserve time at the studio March 4-15 to record original music alongside veteran engineers. The studio will also host exclusive performances by additional artists as well as band interviews, all to be exclusively streamed on Converse social media channels.

Official SXSW event? No.

How it will stand out: It will co-host the fourth annual Converse x Thrasher Magazine Death Match at the Scoot Inn March 13-17, featuring performances by the Black Angels, the Adolescents, King Tuff, Mac Demarco and Trash Talk as well as past Converse Rubber Tracks recording artists Low Fat Getting High, All Eyes West, Heliotropes, Grey Sky Appeal, Fresh Daily and Flatbush Zombies.




Brand manager: Chevrolet director of advertising and sales promotion Molly Peck

Brand plans: A lead sponsor of SXSW Interactive and Music once again, Chevrolet will have a strong presence throughout the week, taking its new tag line "Find New Roads" to the festival for the first time. Part of its plans include teaming with mtvU's Woodie Awards on behalf of Chevy Sonic for the College Artist Woodie Award, which will spotlight four emerging campus musicians through promotions that have appeared on MTV, mtvU and

Official SXSW event? Yes.

How it will stand out: Chevy will be one of the most integrated sponsors at SXSW, from its fleet of vehicles that will double as taxis for attendees to a series of pop-up events in addition to the Woodies. "South by Southwest is a great partner that reaches an audience that is interesting, youthful, forward-thinking and open-minded, and really embodies 'finding new roads,'" Peck says. "And the Woodies is another great piece to leverage while we're at the festival with finding new artists and new roads. The sense of discovery it brings will help the way we go to market."




Brand manager: Pandora chief marketing officer Simon Fleming-Wood

Brand plans: Pandora is returning to Antone's for its second Discovery Den, where it will deliver free concerts both in-person and through live audio streams. The four-day activation will be supported by partnerships with NBC's "The Voice," Qualcomm Snapdragon and Norton by Symantec.

Official SXSW event? No.

How it will stand out: Pandora will feature one of the most eclectic, exciting lineups of the week. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Josh Ritter, Chali 2na (from Jurassic 5) and Allen Stone are confirmed.




Brand managers: Vevo senior VP of music programming, talent and operations Doug McVehil, director of marketing and strategic partnerships Derrin Woodhouse

Brand plans: Vevo is taking over the Ghost Room on West Fourth Street and rebranding it as the Vevo Control Room for a series of events March 12-16. The space will play host to daytime lounge events, nighttime live performances and an after-hours lounge as part of a partnership with Dream Hotels, with design from HGTV talent to create a "downtown Austin loft" vibe. DJ Earworm will be the venue's video DJ all week. Separately, Vevo is prepping a news announcement that will be made during the conference on March 12.

Official SXSW event? Yes.

How it will stand out: Teaming with Dream Hotels will help Vevo create an entertainment and art space reminiscent of the hospitality company's flagship Dream Downtown in New York, as it plans to expand similar activations to all Dream properties throughout the year. Special eats will be prepared by 2012 "Top Chef" winner Paul Qui out of his East Side King food truck.



Brand manager: Doritos marketing manager Mike Messersmith

Brand plans: Having made a big statement in 2012, Doritos is returning with a stage in the form of a giant, 56-foot vending machine, this time to promote its new Bold flavors. This year's stage will also have interactive features that will let fans do everything from select the opening act at three showcases to control the special effects by using the hashtag #boldstage on Twitter and Instagram. Fans will also be able to live-stream the show at Doritos' Facebook page. In addition, the brand will coordinate efforts with Taco Bell's promotional plans.

Official SXSW event? Yes.

How it will stand out: As if its oversized presence won't make a big enough statement, Doritos is also tapping three hip-hop legends for a special performance guaranteed to be a "knockout."


Taco Bell


Brand manager: Taco Bell chief marketing officer Brian Niccol

Brand plans: Taco Bell returns as sponsor of the Hype Machine's Hype Hotel, a venue that'll play host to many acts who've participated in the fast-feeder's Feed the Beat campaign. Set for Austin's Whitley March 12-16, the Hype Hotel will also offer free samples of Cool Ranch Doritos Tacos Locos, which will be available nationally March 7. Last year's event played a key role in the historic launch of Doritos Tacos Locos, which sold more than 350 million tacos in their first year.

Official SXSW event? No.

How it will stand out: Taco Bell will host some of the must-see showcases of the week-with free tacos to boot. Last year's Hype Hotel boasted a performance from EDM wunderkind Madeon, who was signed to Columbia within hours as a result of his appearance and later booked as an opener for Lady Gaga's Born This Way Ball. Among the buzz bands booked by the Syndicate this year are Disclosure, Charli XCX, Everything Everything, Fort Lean, Solange, Rudimental and Kids These Days.


The Fader


Brand manager: Fader president/publisher Andy Cohn

Brand plans: Back for its 12th consecutive year, the Fader Fort celebrates its second year as an official showcase, with Converse once again onboard as a presenting sponsor. Additional sponsors this year include Dell, LG Electronics, Hard Rock, Bushmills Irish Whiskey, Hobnob Wines, vitaminwater, SiriusXMU and Glass Is Life. The Fader will also host a live stream of its concerts at, while Dell will help festival-goers unable to make it down to the Fort stream this year's performance at some of their favorite Austin hangouts. Additionally, LG will promote its Optimus G smartphone through unique activations at the Fort.

Official SXSW event? Yes.

How it will stand out: By having one of the week's most eclectic, exclusive artist lineups. Among previous headliners at the Fort: Kanye West, Nas and, just last year, Rick Ross.




Brand manager: Vice VP of sales and business development Ben Dietz

Brand plans: Vice and its music channel Noisey are going all out for the irreverent media brand's largest SXSW presence ever by hosting its first dedicated space, Vice Land. The indoor/outdoor space on Cesar Chavez Street will host multiple showcases and exclusive events, including the Noisey x Garnier Style Stage and Lounge (featuring complimentary dry-hair styling and charging stations), the JanSport Bonfire Sessions (with performances from Divine Fits, Wavves and Japandroids, among others), Jack Daniel's Presents Noisey Raps (an all-star showcase with Ghostface, Action Bronson, Juelz Santana, Danny Brown and others) and SnoopFest, which will accompany the premiere of Snoop Lion's "Reincarnated" documentary and feature performances from Snoop himself and Major Lazer.

Official SXSW event? No.

How it will stand out: Vice expands its presence to both Interactive and Music for the first time. "Having made a really consistent statement at SXSW the last few years with our unofficial ending party, we wanted to really make a big statement at Interactive now that we've become a company really focused on digital and premium content," Dietz says. But don't expect another closing-night party with headliner Kendrick Lamar to rival the chaos of 2012's bash-that one ended in a violent brawl that included performer A$AP Rocky.




Brand manager: Tumblr music and outreach strategy head Nate Auerbach

Brand plans: Tumblr is making its first steps into music discovery through its brand-new vertical, and has teamed with Filter magazine for a takeover of Austin's Rainey Street to get the word out. "Given Filter's long-standing history of memorable SXSW shows," Auerbach says, "and our shared passion for creating platforms of self-expression, Tumblr has no doubt this will be one for the books."

Official SXSW event? No.

How it will stand out: By owning one of Austin's most-traversed streets, and hosting acts like Divine Fits, Talib Kweli and Fitz & the Tantrums at the Lustre Pearl.




Brand manager: Filter creative group co-owner/co-founder Alan Miller

Brand plans: "One street. Four venues. Ninety-seven bands." That's Filter's ambitious offering as part of its first takeover of Austin's Rainey Street, which will see the music magazine exclusively program showcases at Lustre Pearl, Bar 96, Clive Bar and pop-up locations like Container Bar. Although Tumblr is a presenting sponsor, Filter has also recruited Dr. Martens, Absolut, Dickies, Brixton, Macy's American Rag, Fed Ex Office, DTS Sounds, Slacker Radio, ASCAP and Oxfam as additional sponsors.

Official SXSW event? No.

How it will stand out: Filter will have exclusive real estate with some of the week's buzziest headliners--Talib Kweli, Toro Y Moi, the Joy Formidable and DIIV are among the confirmed bands for Filter's Dickies--sponsored showcases at Lustre Pearl, while a non-Rainey showcase on Cedar Street already counts Local Natives, Haim and Surfer Blood among its performers, with American Rag onboard as a title sponsor. "We are creating authentic headquarters for our brand partners that ring true to the SXSW aesthetic and inspire music fans," Miller says.


NPR Music


Brand manager: NPR music director/executive producer Anya Grundmann

Brand plans: After hosting some of 2012's most anticipated showcases, including Fiona Apple's first live performance outside of Los Angeles in six years, NPR Music is returning for its Stubb's showcase on March 13 with a hot bill that includes Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Cafe Tacvba and Alt-J, with additional artists set for NPR Music's first indoor showcase at the venue. NPR will also make its first trek to Auditorium Shores for the debut Alt.Latino showcase on March 14, featuring Cafe Tacvba, Molotov and Bajofondo.

Official SXSW event? Yes.

How it will stand out: NPR's Stubb's showcase is not only one of the week's hottest tickets, it's also one of the most ubiquitous concerts in terms of distribution. The event will be available on-air, online and on mobile to audiences worldwide through a live radio broadcast and live stream at