The Power of Brand at Sundance Film Festival

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There’s a whole lot more to the Sundance Film Festival than movies. The event in Park City, Utah has always been on my bucket list so I decided to mix a little business with pleasure and take in this year’s festival.

My business goal: Find out how major brands like IMDB, Grey Goose, Acura, CNN, Chase and others are engaging their audiences with experiential marketing. My personal goal–have a whole heck of a lot of fun. 

Experiential Marketing: Major Brands Everywhere

If you haven’t been to Park City before, imagine a mountainside main street with lots of bars, art galleries, restaurants and shops sitting at the bottom of a ski resort. This street, coincidentally called Main Street is the hub of all the Sundance Film Festival activity. Movies and exhibits may happen elsewhere but Main Street is where all the action happens.

The Main Street stretch is also where brands takeover renting out space and rebranding venues to host parties, movie events, exhibits and other activities. From the CNN Films lounge, Café Artois to the IMDB Studio, major brands are moving marketing dollars into experiential marketing events to engage their audiences in a meaningful way.

Why? It’s all about the experience and the major brands want in. While supporting the arts, brands can reach a very targeted and engaged audience with experiences such as chef tastings, parties, private screenings, chocolate tastings and more. Brands can also associate with one of the world’s top film festivals while tapping into the Hollywood glamour.

The other nice benefit to the Sundance Film Festival is its size. The event isn’t as big as major events like SXSW so brands stick out a bit more.

For the complete list of branded events, parties and more, head on over to BizBash post.

The Investment

According to Christopher Ryan, unofficial Party King of Sundance Film Festival, brands should plan on investing $350k – $600k to invest in popup venues like the Acura one. That’s a lot of dough. Bars and other branded venues fall into the 5-figure investment range.

Does the brand association pay off? Last year, Meltwater News broke down the impact of sponsoring the event and had some interesting findings. For example, while Presenting Sponsor Canada Goose paid at least 5x the amount of Sustaining Sponsor Canon USA, the latter emerged as a clear winner with 10% of the total corporate sponsor share of voice.

And of course, if you are going to throw a party, you better get the guest list organization and promotion right. Our friends over at Splash power many of the events at Sundance including parties thrown by Canon and Vimeo.

Meltwater News Infographic

No Sundance Celeb Sightings

While checking out the branded experiences, I had my eye out but I didn’t rub elbows with Nicolas Cage, Jonah Hill or any A-listers–maybe next year.

I was able to get on a VIP list to see Post Malone and then got ejected from that concert due to overcrowding. I’m not sure which one gave me more street cred with my kids–going to see Post Malone or getting kicked out of the event.

Post Malone takes the stage.

Sundance Film Festival Recap

Recapping my trip to Sundance, I was pretty impressed with the brand exposure in Park City (and the skiing too). I think most attendees could rattle off the brands they saw at Sundance–I’m not sure the same can be said for other events.

Of course, getting into any of these Sundance events is a whole other challenge.  If any of you brands are reading, I’m putting in an early guest list request so we can take our readers behind the scenes of your event next year.


Josh Verrill

Services: Strategy, Assessment, Ongoing Services

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