How 14 Companies Are Making SXSW A Music Marketing Mecca
How 14 Companies Are Making SXSW A Music Marketing Mecca

It may seem like every band and brand is heading down to Austin this month for the South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival (running March 9-18), but the music portion of SXSW has lost some buzz in recent years to the behemoth that is now SXSW Interactive.

Check Out All Our SXSW Coverage Right Here

"I was in London having a meeting with a major brand over there and they said, 'Does South by Southwest have a music component to it?'" says Panos Panay, CEO of music-booking company Sonicbids, which has been SXSW Music's exclusive booking platform since 2007.

That doesn't look like the case for 2012. Several longtime Interactive sponsors are extending their marketing plans from SXSW Interactive (which runs March 9-13) to include music events (which are scheduled for March 13-18) for the first time. And a mix of consumer, media and business-to-business brands are also expanding their efforts, some more formally than others. In fact, one of the festival's biggest unofficial events-the Fader Fort-is finally going legit, teaming up with SXSW for the first time and recruiting Converse as its new presenting sponsor.

Billboard presents a guide to the plans of 14 brands, both for official and unofficial events, at this year's SXSW.

Brand manager: Vevo GM Fred Santarpia ( @fsantarpia)
Brand plans: Vevo is pairing with Nike for a takeover of Austin's Spaghetti Warehouse space on Fourth Street from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. March 14-16. Vevo and Nike will present artist performances by a roster that already includes the Shins and Machine Gun Kelly, culminating with a March 17 "Vevo Powerstation" event from the "Austin City Limits" theater.
Official SXSW event? Yes.
How it will stand out: Having made a big splash last year at Austin's now-shuttered Power Plant, Vevo proved it can draw some of the festival's biggest names: Kanye West and Jay-Z were among the headliners for the 2011 closing-night party.

Nike Fuelband
Brand manager: Nike global brand manager for sport culture Darla Vaughn ( @darlavaughn)
Brand plans: Nike is sponsoring Vevo's Spaghetti Warehouse and Powerstation events on behalf of its new Fuelband wristband. It's also prepping an original Web series, "Music Is My Sport," for launch on Vevo post-SXSW.
Official SXSW event? Yes.
How it will stand out: Fuelband is already hugely popular (the company recently reported it's been used by 5 million runners since its January launch), and Nike is expected to participate in a panel with Vevo during Interactive on March 11, keeping its brand integrated with all aspects of the SXSW experience.

Brand manager: IFC senior VP of marketing Blake Callaway
Brand plans: IFC is moving its popular Crossroads House to the heart of Sixth Street this year, taking over the Vice Bar space near San Jacinto for an expanded take on what has become a SXSW staple since 2010. Acts coming to the house include Delta Spirit, Citizen Cope and the American Secrets, the official band of fellow official Music sponsor
Official SXSW event? Yes.
How it will stand out: "We like to think our brand is sort of a voice about indie culture-whether that's music or film or comedy, it now gives us permission to be the official media sponsor" for SXSW, Callaway says. "The audience that attends is really representative of who we're reaching on-air. There's a connection between our brands."

Brand manager: Fader president/publisher Andy Cohn ( @andycohn)
Brand plans: Long one of SXSW Music's best-attended destinations, the four-day Fader Fort hasn't been an official part of the festival until this year. It's also going to TV for the first time through a media partnership with Fuse, with other new sponsors onboard including Southwest, Beats by Dre and Converse, which signed up for the Fort's first three-year deal as presenting sponsor.
Official SXSW event? Yes.
How it will stand out: By getting more exposure than ever with a little extra help from official SXSW promotion. "Badge-holders will now have access, so it'll be a nice balance between Fader invitees and badge-holders," Cohn says.

Brand manager: Pepsi director of cultural branding Javier Farfan ( @jfarfan)
Brand plans: Pepsi is changing up its brand activations this year by linking with for a pair of live Turntable-themed events, one at Interactive and one at Music, preceded by a Pepsi-backed Turntable Tuesdays promotion that began the first two Tuesdays prior to SXSW.
Official SXSW event? Yes.
How it will stand out: The Pepsi program represents a first-of-its-kind brand partnership for, where brands like Bravo TV have previously leveraged the platform for free.

Brand manager: Converse chief marketing officer Geoff Cottrill ( @yogmoney)
Brand plans: A sponsor of the Fader Fort in years past, Converse is taking on a larger role as presenting partner of this year's event. Converse is also the first presenting sponsor to sign up for a three-year commitment, following previous yearly deals from partners like Levi's and Fiat. Santigold, Zola Jesus and Black Hippy are among this year's performers.
Official SXSW event? Yes.
How it will stand out: "Converse has had a long and rich history of championing artistic creativity and supporting the world of music," Cottrill says. "We could not be more excited to partner with the Fader and SXSW to create a truly unique experience for music fans at one of the biggest music festivals of the year."

Brand manager: Sonicbids CEO Panos Panay ( @sonicbidspanos)
Brand plans: As the exclusive band-submission platform for SXSW since 2007, Sonicbids has long been a part of the festival's back end. But increasingly, the company is taking on a more consumer-centric role, offering fans the chance to vote for one of the bands that will play its official showcase. The company is also leading several panels throughout Interactive and Music regarding social media's role in music marketing.
Official SXSW event? Yes.
How it will stand out: By greatly expanding its presence, from doubling its sponsorship investment to sending 20 of its staffers to lead activations and conduct business from Austin throughout the week. "It's almost inexorable-you can't really resist this gravitational force the event has," Panay says.

Doritos / Doritos Jacked stage lineup
Brand manager: Doritos director of marketing Jared Drinkwater
Brand plans: Stepping out of the shadow of its PepsiCo sibling brands, Doritos is prepping its first SXSW activation and is set to unveil two new chip flavors - Enchilada Supreme and Smoke Chipotle BBQ. The snack brand will set up shop on Fifth Street and Red River with a combination music-and-tasting event on March 16 and 17, using real estate that has yet to host a brand activation at past SXSW confabs. The Doritos "JACKED" stage will get a soft launch on March 15 via a Maxim-hosted party featuring two surprise headliners, followed by a two-day showcase featuring performances from Bass Drum of Death, Chiddy Bang, MNDR, White Denim and !!! among others.
Official SXSW event? Yes.
How it will stand out: With a nearly six-story tall pop-up venue designed to look like a larger-than-life vending machine. Over-sized quarters will also be placed at area Taco Bell locations to promote Doritos' new Locos Tacos and give fans a chance to win. "In true Doritos fashion, we've never been a brand to go in and run the same playbook that other brands run," Drinkwater says. "I can tell you with 100% confidence our activation will be something the likes of South by Southwest has never seen."

Brand manager: Chevrolet director of advertising sales and promotion Kevin Mayer
Brand plans: Perhaps best-known for its Interactive activations (the Chevy Volt Recharge Lounge has been a fan favorite in recent years), Chevrolet is debuting a music-dedicated venue at this year's Music festival. The Chevrolet Sound Garage, located near the intersection of Sixth Street and Red River, will host several music showcases and street-art battles from U.K. graffiti collective Secret Wars throughout Music's duration.
Official SXSW event? Yes.
How it will stand out: With little competition in the automotive space (last year's Fader Fort sponsor Fiat isn't returning), Chevrolet has the opportunity to take its category-leading sponsorship to the next level with its expanded Music offerings in 2012.

Filter Showcase
Brand manager: Filter Creative Group co-owner/co-founder Alan Miller
Brand plans: One of the most active media brands at SXSW, Filter is busy prepping events in at least three venues, including its third annual Dickies House. It's also busy locking in some exclusive bookings with acts like Miike Snow, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Yacht.
Official SXSW event? Yes.
How it will stand out: By creating best-in-breed performance opportunities for buzz bands and more established groups alike. "Kaiser Chiefs played our show almost 10 years ago now at Cedar St. Courtyard, and the band said in their entire history this was their favorite show they've ever done," Miller says. "This year is their first time back since then and they said, 'We'll play whenever you want us to play.'"

Monster Energy
Brand manager: Monster Energy director of music marketing Brent Hamilton
Brand plans: Monster Energy is providing free breakfast and morning beverages during its Java Monster Mornings, to be held in Brush Square Park across the street from the Convention Center throughout Interactive and Music. Plus the energy drink is sponsoring a few key showcases, such as Waterloo Records' 30th-anniversary showcase, which has already booked Blitzen Trapper, the Cult and fun., and the debut of the Monster Energy Outbreak Tour's XXL Freshman Live tour.
Official SXSW sponsor? Yes.
How it will stand out: Everyone loves freebies at SXSW, and a drink that helps weary attendees endure the long week is always welcome.

YouTube/Google Music
Brand manager: YouTube VP of marketing Danielle Tiedt
Brand plans: On March 15 and 16, during the Music conference, Google Music and YouTube Presents will host and live-stream two eight-hour showcases from a downtown parking garage. The shows mark YouTube's first time hosting its own live stream at SXSW, and will be available at The lineup includes the Gossip, the Ting Tings and the Shins.
Official SXSW event? No.
How it will stand out: Having an exclusive live stream will help YouTube attract some of the biggest audiences outside of Austin and also generate crucial awareness for Google Music, which has yet to gain much traction since a soft launch in fourth-quarter 2011.

Brand manager: N/A
Brand plans: Miller Lite, SXSW's longtime official beer sponsor, is putting a social spin on this year's activation, having sponsored giveaways and downloads on Pandora, Spotify and other music platforms in the weeks leading up to the festival. The beer brand will also partner with mobile app RoqBot to help attendees program the music at local bars and restaurants around Austin. Sister brand Miller Genuine Draft is joining the festivities this year, partnering with Spin magazine for its annual showcase at Stubb's.
Official SXSW event? Yes.
How it will stand out: Not only will Miller Lite be available at every official party and venue, Miller Genuine Draft will debut a new product, MGD Aluminum Pint, at Stubb's and offer concert-goers the opportunity to be featured in an upcoming issue of Spin through a concert poster-themed photo booth promotion.

Brand manager: Nikon senior communications manager Lisa Baxt
Brand plans: Nikon is putting an interactive twist on its sponsorship of Warner Music Group's Warner Sound showcases during Music, putting its new Nikon D4 and D-800 high-definition SLR cameras in the hands of music fans. Attendees can sample the devices by snapping pics of Warner acts ranging from T.I. and B.o.B to Kimbra and Dr. John. Nikon will sponsor a YouTube live stream on the new Warner Sound channel as well to make the shows even more broadly accessible.
Official SXSW event? Yes.
How it will stand out: Having the chance to get your picture taken by rock photographer Robert Knight (subject of the documentary "Rock Prophecies") doesn't hurt, nor does the comparative lack of major photography marketing activations this year. "Nikon has the type of brand equity that really speaks to people at a venue like SXSW," Baxt says. "Photography, video and music have similar sensibilities that hit an emotional point that people in all age groups and demographics and interests can relate to, whether it's music or an image or a video."