News Column

Corporate Marketing Dollars Flow at SXSW

March 12, 2013

Gary Dinges

South by Southwest attracts plenty of people with plenty of cash and plenty of social media pals, making it a marketer's dream. That's why companies of all sizes don't hesitate to throw lavish parties with pounding music, free-flowing booze, bountiful buffets, overflowing swag bags and visits from big-name celebrities.

While Red Bull and many other well-known brands have been coming to town for years, some, such as the Warner Bros. studio, are making their SXSW debuts in 2013.

Warner Bros. took over the Mexic-Arte Museum, at 419 Congress Ave. in downtown Austin from Friday through Monday, transforming it into "Tell-A-Vision," "an immersive space ... dedicated to the art of storytelling."

Writer/producer Chuck Lorre, the man behind "Two and a Half Men," was among the Hollywood hot shots who stopped by. So did "Vampire Diaries" heartthrob Ian Somerhalder.

Activities included on-the-spot T-shirt screening, photo booths and even the opportunity to record a show pitch for the CW network.

"I'm stoked that WB and the CW saw the value of coming," Somerhalder told the American-Statesman. "I love it here. We're promoting all sorts of things in this city."

The studio didn't disclose how much it plans to spend at SXSW, but Somerhalder said he hopes Warner Bros. will be back again next year.

"I think Austin, during South by Southwest, is the most important place to be in the world," he said. "The smartest people are all right here, right now, changing the world."

Red Bull, on the other hand, is a regular in Austin, staging a number of events annually, including unofficial SXSW showcases. The company had a significant presence in town for the city's inaugural Formula One race, as well.

Tuesday through Saturday, the energy drink maker will stage five straight nights of live music featuring performances by up-and-coming acts.

"We're bringing these bands into the Red Bull family and putting them in front of the tastemakers gathered here in Austin," said Matt Sonzala, a consultant helping Red Bull with its "Sound Select Presents: 120 Hours in Austin" showcases. "We're introducing these artists to the world while they're here."

The bands, obviously, get exposure from playing during SXSW, but what's in it for Red Bull? All those energy drinks being guzzled by concert-goers -- not to mention logos plastered on stages and elsewhere -- provide some pretty potent branding for the company, Sonzala said.

"All the music fans are here now," he said, "so we knew we needed to be here, too."


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Source: (c) 2013 Austin American-Statesman, Texas. Distributed by MCT Information Services


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