As the Sundance Film Festival kicks off its 40th year today, longtime sponsors like Acura and Adobe are expanding their experiential marketing efforts to appeal to those on the ground in Park City, Utah. Marketers, filmmakers, industry executives, actors, agents and film lovers, among other attendees of the festival, which will run from January 18th to the 28th, will encounter more programming and expanded spaces from the festival sponsors.
“We have been a long-standing partner of Sundance over the last decade and every year we’ve increased the partnership, the approach and the visibility,” said Stacy Martinet, vp of marketing strategy and communications, Adobe adding that this year the company will have a dedicated presence on Main Street for the first time. “We are in a renaissance for film in terms of how it’s made, who’s making it, where it’s distributed – Adobe and our products have a huge role to play on that.”
Setting up a venue on Main Street – the central drag where most brand sponsors host their events throughout the festival – to host panels and more is just one of the ways Adobe is doing more with its festival sponsorship. The company is also using the sponsorship as a kickoff of sorts for its new $6 million film and TV fund dedicated to supporting underrepresented and emerging creators.
It makes sense to do more at Sundance now for Adobe, “if you look at what Sundance has achieved over the last decade and how they are continuing to shape the film industry writ large – and especially the platform that they’re giving underrepresented creators,” explained Martinet. “The investment in identifying new types of creators and giving a platform to diverse voices has also been something we’ve been committed to. Sundance and Adobe are continuing to evolve together in that space.”
As for Acura, the carmaker has expanded and redesigned its space to be more interactive, explained Meliza Humphrey, senior manager of Acura Marketing, adding that the brand sees Sundance as a launchpad for its new campaign that it will “bring to life” in the space. Partnering with Sundance is about brand perception for Acura. “We’re very specific about who we align with,” said Humphery. “We’re an independent-spirited brand, we’re a challenger brand and we like to align with organizations like that.”
Aside from Adobe and Acura, brands like Chase Sapphire, Audible, United Airlines, Hyatt, Cotopaxi and Canon, among others, will have partner venues located on Main Street in Park City. The number of brands present at the festival will be similar to that of last year, which had 122 total and 18 partner venues. Those brands will be vying for the attention of attendees with not only the usual festival fare (panels, food and beverage, lounges) but permanent bracelets and polaroids (Chase), a listening lodge, (Audible) Tater Tot food truck to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Napoleon Dynamite (Hulu), gear demos (Canon), live art demonstrations (Hyatt) and more.
“Everyone’s looking forward to going back to normal to some extent,” said Mary Sadeghy, head of partnerships and co-director of advancement, Sundance Institute. “[Marketers are] really tapping into being back in-person, engaging audiences and artists in a whole new way around these brand activations.”
While Sundance was back in-person last year after two virtual festivals given the pandemic, there’s a sense that things will be even closer to festivals prior to the pandemic. At the same time, marketers are recognizing the importance of connecting with creators more than ever now – last year was the year of brand IP, after all – making it a more important event for some.
“The number of marketers who are showing up to explore the branded content is really continuing to both grow in number but also in the caliber of the executives that are attending,” said David Anderson, agency partner and co-head of talent agency UTA’s entertainment and culture marketing division; the agency will have its own presence and activities at a venue on Main Street as well this year. “We’re seeing more CMO level, more kind of evp, svp [level marketers] who are showing up.”
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