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 a 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 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 official media partner for this event.
Official SXSW event? Yes.
How it will stand out: Citi card members had the opportunity to pre-order the Blu-Ray of the film for $25 and receive complimentary tickets to the show, which quickly sold out. 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 Billboard.com, 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? Yes.
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.”