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What started as a small music festival with 700 attendees in 1987 has morphed into the hottest music, film, and interactive festival on the planet drawing over 400,000 attendees in pre-pandemic 2019. As a result, South by Southwest (SXSW) is a hotbed for brands and marketers. With SXSW just a few weeks away, brands and agencies from around the globe are gearing up to converge on Austin, TX to connect with this trendy crowd. And with immersive activations like Amazon Prime Video’s Superstars and Superheros and the tech-driven Dell Experience Lounge, the competition to create buzz is fierce. Below, we’ll take a look at seven brand activation ideas that will get your brand noticed. 

7 SXSW Brand Activation Ideas That Will Get Your Brand Noticed

Enlist a Micro-Influencer

You don’t need an A-list celebrity or well-known social media personality to serve as an influencer for your brand. Instead, you can enlist the help of a local micro-influencer to help spread the word about your brand activation. Micro-influencers are everyday, regular people with 5,000 to 100,000 social followers. And because people trust them and rely on them for recommendations, they are the perfect fit to promote your activation. They can make people aware of where you’ll be, what you’re offering, and why your activation is a must-see.

Move Around

The beauty of SXSW is that you’re not tied down to one venue. Because SXSW is spread out over several city blocks, brands can engage with festival-goers in different places using various strategies at all hours of the day and night. For example, you can create a pop-up event, utilize a branded vehicle or food truck, or rent hotel banquet space. You can even consider activating on the outskirts of the festival; that way, you’ll get away from the chaos of the competition, but there is still plenty of foot traffic.

Pull Off an Epic Marketing Stunt

Marketing stunts don’t have to be out of this world and insanely expensive to make an impact. Some of the most notable SXSW activations of all time have come from very simple ideas. For example, Hulu’s secret Handmaid’s Tale activation consisted of thirty costumed brand ambassadors who quietly roamed the streets of Austin distributing temporary tattoos with messaging from the show. The simple concept creeped people out as the handmaids passed by, creating a ton of social buzz and earning a lot of media attention, which was exactly what Hulu intended to do.

Deploy a Street Team

Street team marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to execute a brand activation at SXSW. Deploying a street team to canvas the streets of Austin and promote your brand and your messaging (or even a venue activation) can give you a great return on your investment. And because street teams are highly mobile, you can utilize them all over the city, day or night. You’ll want to arm your street team with talking points, samples, useable swag, or virtual swag. 

Be Super-Social

SXSW is super-social and is the driving force behind the way attendees network, relay information, and share recommendations. Thus, every brand attending SXSW should take advantage of all that social media has to offer. Social platforms allow brands to connect with SXSW attendees before, during, and after the festival. You can create awareness for your activation, tell your story, and drive attendance. Social media also offers tremendous opportunities for attendee-generated content. By creating share-worthy design elements and content for attendees, you’ll reach people around the globe and keep the story going long after the festival ends.

Get Interactive

Let attendees get hands-on with your brand with an interactive experience. Interactive experiences often get the most attention and have the longest lines. That alone creates a sense of urgency and FOMO for passers-by. VR, metaverse, and NFT experiences are just a few of the many interactive strategies that will get your brand noticed.

Experiential Storytelling

Be the Good

Experiences like Bud Light’s Dive Bar and Casper’s Refresh Room give attendees a place to relax, kick back, and recharge their batteries, which goes a long way. These activations attract attendees and keep them lingering, making a memorable and lasting impression and ultimately winning brand fans.

ATN Event Staffing is your one-stop shop for your SXSW event staffing needs. Our brand ambassadors and promotional staff have represented some of the hottest brands at SXSW, including A&E, Bud Light, HBO, and Mercedes.

If you’re looking to elevate your brand presence at SXSW, you’re in the right place. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you reach your goals. 

This article was originally published in 2019 and has been updated.

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