Fader Fort Preps 'Return To Firsts' For 13th Year During SXSW, Taps Mazda As Auto Partner

Now entering its 13th year, the Fader Fort will return to Austin March 12-15, with a renewed emphasis on “firsts,” including return performances from artists who made their magazine-cover debut with “The Fader” to emerging acts who will play the Fort for the first time this year. FKA Twigs, The Orwells, Jeremih and Isaiah Rashad are among the first-time performers who will take the Fort stage, with additional artists set to be announced in the days leading up to South By Southwest via The Fader’s Twitter account.

Also making an inaugural stop is Mazda, which joins presenting sponsor Converse and technology partner Dell as the official vehicle of the Fort. Additional sponsors and partners include Captain Morgan, Glass Is Life, vitaminwater and SiriusXM.

“It’s incredible how much The Fort has grown over the years, and even more exciting to look back at the list of artists that have appeared on our stage,” Andy Cohn, president and publisher of The Fader, said in a statement about the Fort’s 13-year anniversary as well as Fader’s own 15-year birthday this summer. “We want to celebrate that milestone in Austin with as many fans as possible.”

As one of the longest-running events held during South By Southwest, the Fader Fort has weathered many changes, from its humble beginnings in the Hilton Hotel in 2002 to a multi-million dollar production with headliners that in years past have included Kanye West, Nas & Damian Marley, Rick Ross and, just last year, the Afghan Whigs featuring Usher. After years as one of the most popular unofficial showcases held during SXSW, the Fort became an “official” showcase in 2012 and 2013 as part of its three-year partnership with Converse, which helped underwrite the fees associated with being an official showcase. For year 13, The Fort will once again be an “unofficial” showcase with a scaled-back guest list (the Fort remains invite-only and will accept limited RSVPs, with a capacity that in year’s past has topped out at 1,500) and an emphasis on brand activations that are additive to the overall experience.

As part of its sponsorship, Mazda will shuttle Fort-goers to and from the venue in Mazda3s, as well as create original content on-site that will live on TheFader.com as part of a year-long media buy across Fader properties. The Japanese automaker has been dipping its toes in music in recent months, following a 2012 shuffling in its senior marketing ranks, that has included licensing Capital Cities’ “Safe and Sound” for a highly visible commercial that aired during the Super Bowl as well as a June 2013 partnership with Canadian alt-rock band Metric and Xbox Live.

“Our target consumer is already heading to the Fader Fort, and this was a great time to reach them and enhance their time in Austin,” says Russell Wager, VP of Mazda’s U.S. marketing. “We want to create credible and memorable experiences with music, and being part of the Fader Fort should help us achieve that.”

Mazda is not the first automotive brand to team up with the Fader Fort. Fiat signed on for a one-year deal in 2011 that was not renewed amid a challenging year of introducing its vehicles to U.S. consumers. Mazda remains a relatively small player in the U.S., with 1.9% market share as of October 2013, according to Automotive News, a percentage it hopes to expand over the next two years as it anticipates record sales in North America.