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Sponsorship marketing at SXSW – Part II


Fresh brand activations from Austin

Post 1: Gatorade, Sony, Armani, Capital One

Post 2: Panasonic, YouTube, M&M, Carvana, Animal Kingdom, American Gods

Panasonic House

After visiting the massive Sony space (post 1), I was eager to see how Panasonic played it. The brand used the time at SXSW to showcase its spinoff “Game Changer Catapult, an initiative to transform your ideas into reality regardless of where or how you work and live.” Taking advantage of flexibility and start-up mentality by using top talent outside of Panasonic is part of a broader trend for big corporations seeking to generate new ideas—like when the giant accounting solutions Intuit launched Mint, the personal finance management tool.

The idea behind Catapult is to create “new tech to face current challenges, accelerating innovation.” Home appliances, however, may not be the first thing that comes to mind when talking about tech start-ups—certainly not top of mind when it comes to cutting-edge challenges. Nonetheless, the slick space was quite impressive.

Panasonic showcased several stations at its Panasonic House, each presenting a new innovation, often having to do with everyday home life. These included a personal dry-cleaner that lets the user select a custom cleaning method, soap and perfume, and a sake cooler—whose purpose is self-explanatory. A startling surprise was the social appearance coaching device. Built to remind you about your posture throughout the day so that you project your very best self to others, it could have come straight out of the mini-series Black Mirror.

Finally, Panasonic displayed the innovation we were all waiting for: the first laundry-folding robot, which Panasonic has poured $60 million dollars in start-up capital into: the Laundroid. Still a prototype, but there’s hope for humanity, at last.


The YouTube brand’s presence was difficult to miss during the whole event, as this Google property had two separate activations, one for the interactive portion of the event, and the other for the music festival. The latter definitely made sense for the brand, even though we might think the Apple Musics, Pandoras or Spotifys of the world are more relevant to music. Surprise! According to Nielsen, currently 40% of all music listening is done on the YouTube platform (and 4% of music revenue comes from it).

But back to the activation. YouTube developed a very enticing space around video storytelling, where you could record yourself in special booths, very cool sphere displays and, of course, the videos that went viral this year, including the Chewbacca lady.


Carvana vending machine

The Phoenix-based start-up that offers to skip the dealership when you buy a used car set up a GIANT car vending machine in a popular area near Rainey Street to convey its message. The machine was two stories high yet basically an advertising billboard, as the experiential aspect amounted simply to “shaking” the machine to un-stick the car you just ordered. You ended up with a child-sized car. Thanks.


TNT’s Animal Kingdom

TNT spared no effort to launch season two of Animal Kingdom, with stars of the show on hand. Located in downtown Austin, its SoCal vibe proved to be very popular. It included a wave pool with pro-surfers, accentuated with custom vans, a relaxation lounge and eye-catching street art.

The idea to have press and influencers on-site, as a complement to traditional media, experiencing the show, is a great addition to shows that are usually promoted using media-heavy strategies.


Starz’ American Gods

Probably the most photogenic activation at SXSW, Starz went all out to promote their new series American Gods, an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel, created by Bryan Fuller and Michael Green.

The giant—scratch that—HUMUNGOUS white buffalo with red eyes and smoke coming from its nostrils was an impressive sight and a simple and effective prop, as the first episode of the long-awaited series premiered during SXSW. A great platform to create some buzz.

So to sum up Part II of my SXSW experience, among the many mind-blowing endeavours and some less so that I experienced: sometimes size is a form of overcompensation; sometimes size matters.


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