Brands, Bands, Thank You Ma'am: Brand Integration at SXSW


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We’re certain you have heard of South by Southwest at some point in your career. Many people think it’s a music festival, similar to Coachella or Bonnaroo. Others think it’s a conference for the industry big-wigs to discuss company ideas. Still, others think it’s a mixture of something between Sundance and a Wired magazine conference room meeting about up-and-coming technology and start-up companies.

The truth is, South by Southwest is all of these things simultaneously. And it can be brand recognition heaven for you and your company… if done correctly. In this blog post we take a look at exactly why you should attend South by Southwest (and it’s not just because our agency founder is from Dallas and loves all things Texas) and how to maximize your presence and effect there.

What is SXSW?

South By Southwest, or SXSW as it is most often called, is a massive film, music, and interactive festival that takes place annually in Austin, Texas around mid-March. It was created by a regular Joe working for The Austin Chronicle, Roland Swenson, in 1986. He recognized the rich culture of Austin and wanted a way for creativity, music, and innovation to come together. Enter SXSW. In its first year, 700 people attended. In 2014, an approximated 400,000 people attended official SXSW events, a number which doesn’t include those who made an appearance at the hundreds of unofficial SXSW-related events that go on every year.

Since that first festival in 1986, SXSW has become the hub of who’s who in both the United States, and, to a lesser extent, foreign creative community.

In the words of Roland Swenson (who is still the managing director, by the way), SXSW is “a tool for creative people to develop their careers by bringing together people from around the globe to meet, learn, and share ideas (and maybe have a few once-in-a-lifetime experiences).”

SXSW Music Festival 2016

The Different Parts of SXSW    

The festival is broken up into three main parts: music, film, and interactive.

Music features thousands of performances from all over the United States as well as around the world (last year, 573 international acts performed, representing 62 foreign countries). For many bands, SXSW is their ticket to getting on the map. For other bands, it is a chance to showcase new material or find up-and-coming bands to work with. There is no lack of industry professionals there either. Everyone from record label executives to managers to booking agents will be in attendance.

Film showcases, of course, films, but also panels of expert guest speakers - last year the film festival at SXSW had over 250 sessions with 750 speakers and had grown exponentially: with the film portion at an all-time high of 145 feature films.

The Interactive portion of the festival focuses on emerging technology, and is creative content heaven! Many credit the success of the new social platform Meerkat to the Interactive portion of SXSW - it was a featured emerging technology and helped people stay tuned in and up to date, even if they were not there.

So Where Does Your Brand Fit Into SXSW?  

Everything at SXSW is sponsored. Seriously, everything. Many people will never forget Lady Gaga’s memorable performance and plug on the Doritos stage two years ago. Brand integration is a big part of SXSW.

Whether you sponsor an official event or host an unofficial event or after party, there are a million ways for your brand to get involved in SXSW. The first step is deciding to go!

Music festivals have become a huge way for brands to market themselves to a very important demographic. SXSW combines this as well as catering to an older, industry-driven crowd that could mean big dollar signs for your brand.

Brands at SXSW

Top 5 Reasons Why Your Brand (And You!) Should Go To SXSW   

1. Insane media coverage. There will be one million catrillion bazillion media people there. Okay, we know, that isn’t a real number. But we do have some actual statistics of media in attendance from last year’s festival:

  • Music media in attendance: 2,993
  •  Film media in attendance: 2,251
  • Interactive media in attendance: 3,389

And again, these are just people with registered media passes in attendance. Tons of other bloggers and social media influencers flock to the festival, as well as ordinary people sharing millions of photos and videos across all kinds of social media. It doesn’t matter if brand integration consists of a 15-foot-long logo across the top of a main stage or a cool sticker you handed out at the SXSW after-party, you will almost certainly get some kind of media coverage one way or another.

2.  You will be constantly rubbing elbows with industry big-wigs - in a casual environment. SXSW attracts the top industry professionals who will all be keeping their eyes peeled for what’s new and upcoming in the industry. They are there to look for new talent, new opportunities, and potential brands to partner with. And you can be that brand, that is the answer to a problem they are there to find a solution to. Or be the solution to a problem they didn’t even know they had.

3.  It is not a business conference. People are working, but they also want to be there and are having fun. When people are enjoying themselves, they are far more open to new brands and trying new things. Along with this, when people (aka potential customers) remember your brand, it will be with a positive connotation from the experiences of the week.

4.  People from all over the country… no, all over the world will be there in one place at one time. SXSW is like the Super Bowl of the creative community. Everyone is watching, and the vast variety of all demographics will all be present. Last year, participants in the music festival represented 78 foreign countries, the film festival represented 71, and the interactive portion? 85 countries were represented amongst its 33,825 participants. Not only are you marketing your brand to people all over the country, but countless foreign markets as well!

5.  It’s in Austin! Austin is a melting pot of all different kinds of people, especially during the week of SXSW. It has a completely different vibe, style, speed, and culture from cities your brand may be used to marketing to. And it’s not just known for the music scene – but also the barbecue. Seriously, if anything, go for the barbecue.  After all – it’s Texas, and things there just rock!

So What Do You Do Now As A Brand That Wants To Be Involved In SXSW?  

Our team at Hollywood Branded has great relationships with the coordinators of SXSW of both the official AND unofficial branding events and can work with your brand to create a custom-fit marketing plan for SXSW. There are unlimited opportunities (read between the lines – all brand budgets have opportunities) for branding at this festival and it is a one-of-a-kind chance to be a part of.


 Other Events Of Interest  

Are you interested in learning how to integrate your product into celebrity events and festivals while also obtaining press? Download our celebrity event planning calendar to see what event options exist where you can obtain tangible assets that can be shared with consumers, media outlets, and retail distributors to impact your sales.

Also, to learn more about brand integration, follow the links below! 

Check out the celebrity event calendar!

Celebrity Event Planning Calendar by Hollywood Branded