Top SXSW Brand Activations


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South by Southwest, or SXSW for short, is one of the biggest if not the biggest festival combination of music, film, art, and interactivity. Brands battle for branding at this Austin, TX event, knowing that this is one of the best ways to reach millennials.

Many brands opt for sponsored parties, tents, or even branded concerts or showings to get their name out there in front of the thousands of attendees. Many people remember Lady Gaga's Doritos stunt in 2014, as she performed an outrageous performance touting their "Bold" campaign.  In this blog Hollywood Branded recaps some top SXSW brand activations and what made them so successful.



With the immense turnout, sprawling nature of the festival, and plenty of beer to go around, getting around the festival was left to ride-sharing services.

Lyft and Uber had to compete with other up and coming ride-share services, and fought hard for their customers.


Uber had a strong offensive with SXSW, especially having to compete with not only Lyft but so many other ridesharing services, they upped their game, including wifi in cars as well as free rides given out.


Lyft was proud to bear the title of "The Official Ridesharing Partner of South By Southwest." While top priority was getting everyone home safe and sound, they made the experience one to remember. Following with the "keep Austin weird" mantra, their "weird mode" included karaoke, disguises, and other strange experiences to keep their customers interested and satisfied. Their hashtag #StayWeirdStaySafe reminded users to not drink and drive, to get home safely, and of course to use Lyft.



Mazda is a HUGE partner with SXSW, what the festival itself refers to as a "Super Sponsor." The automotive company sponsors all parts of the event from film and music to the interactive portion. In addition to events and branded stages throughout Austin, they also added ridesharing to their festival setup. "Mazda Express," which could be pre-registered and signed up for, offered complimentary ride services to SXSW attendees.

Mazda also paired with Hype Machine to create the "Hype Hotel" which was a huge party and featured big name artists from all over the world. In fact, it was the second most talked about event of the entire festival.



You don't have to be an official sponsor of the SXSW festival itself in order for your brand to have a huge impact on the festival. Aside from the "official" events and showings of the festival, there are hundreds of other parties, events, screeings, and concerts all over the city all day every day - and almost every single one of them is branded.

Spotify, knowing how relevant they were to the festival and its attendees, was all over the place at the festival, with a snapchat geofilter for late-night fun to the "Spotify House" that hosted parties and life music. 

And the branding worked - the Spotify House party was the single most talked-about event on social media at SXSW and people from all over the world saw their snapchat filter from friends and celebrities attending the festival.

spotify-house-SXSW-2013.jpgImage property of Vulcan Post

American Greetings

In a very non-traditional way, American Greetings used the SXSW Interactive portion of the festival to showcase their brand. In part of the festival usually revolving around the latest technology, American Greetings did something very different.

The brand took over an entire street and dedicated it to their #Analog event in which festivalgoers could use typewriters and classic printing presses to create their own greeting cards.


Along with this, they had live interactive art opportunities as well as "stitched selfies" and other fun opportunities to go #Analog.

Appealing to the hipster and millennials as well as the older reminiscent members of the crowd (trust me, people of all ages go to SXSW), American Greetings made a memorable and lasting impact on SXSW attendees with a ton of outside coverage of it as well.



NASAhas been doing a good amount of work on their image since the closing of their space shuttle program in 2011.  They have been assuring space fans that it was only a small setback and they would still partner with commercial partners like Space-X and Boeing to send things - and people - into space.

With a sudden boom in space movies like Gravity, Interstellar, and most recently the Oscar-nominated film The Martian, NASA has been getting their brand out into the world in a positive way using entertainment to shape pop culture views of their work.  

Using new and promising virtual reality technology, NASA piqued SXSW antendees' interest in their space programs. The VR program took users to the top of the almost 300-foot-tall new SLS rocket as well as partnering with Google cardboard to take other users to Mars using real footage.

NASA used SXSW to remind festivalgoers that they are still here, still relevant, and still moving forward.


Now It's Time To Get Ready For Next Year

Missed out this year? No worries. Plans are already being made for next year's SXSW which promises to be even bigger and better than this year. Now is the perfect time to get involved. And we are ready to help you make your interests into reality!

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.


Celebrity Event Planning Calendar by Hollywood Branded