Chevrolet Charges Up SXSW Festival Attendees
For 10 days each year in March, Austin, Texas, transforms itself from a hopping music scene into a hotbed of festival excitement for film buffs, tech geeks and new music lovers alike. With a packed schedule of speakers, conferences and sessions, followed by nights filled with bands, parties and film screenings, the South by Southwest Interactive, Film and Music Festival attracts a trend-seeking and highly influential attendee base.
Naturally, brands are there in full force to get a piece of the action. Coming off a tough couple of years in the auto industry, Chevy shined both inside and outside the Austin Convention Center as the 2010 event’s official automotive sponsor. Promoting its soon-to-be-released electric car, the Chevy Volt, as well as its entire line of vehicles to the tech-savvy, early adopter crowd at SXSW was a primary objective for the brand. And with a sponsorship that will continue for two more years, the brand sent 20 of its marketing and communications people to the event to learn more about its audience and witness firsthand the crowd’s reaction to Chevy’s brand experiences.
What they saw on site, combined with the thousands of positive posts that beefed up its fan base on Facebook and added more than 1,000 followers to its Twitter account, revved Chevy up for SXSW 2011.
“Most people aren’t in the market to buy a car so if we attended SXSW just to sell, then we would have missed most people,” says Mary Henige, Director of Social and Digital Communications at General Motors. “What made this perfect for us was that the Chevrolet Volt will be released to the public at the end of this year and when you talk about recharging, this high-tech event fits beautifully.”
As for the music tie-ins, Henige says the festival is a natural fit, recalling the lyrics “drove my Chevy to the levy” from the song American Pie, which is just one of many songs in which the brand is mentioned. Chevy has made plenty of cameo appearances in drag-racing flicks and movies, too, she says. “In some ways we’re more mature in music and film and learning more in interactive.”
Chevy’s presence at SXSW ran the gamut, but the pièce de résistance was its Chevy Volt Recharge Lounge inside the convention center where it played up the Volt’s “recharge” theme by providing endless outlets where attendees could recharge their phones, laptops and other electronic devices. How else did Chevy interact with the folks at South-by? Let’s recap the ways:
Catch a Chevy
The brand offered attendees “cab rides” in branded vehicles to get to their next film or event. It ran the shuttle service to three film venues from 6 p.m. to midnight each night, with additional stops added when the music portion of the fest came to town. Chevy and Gowalla (a mobile web application that allows users to check in to locations that they visit using their mobile device) developed a program that encouraged participants to engage with the brand and the city of Austin. The engagement started at the airport when people checked in using Gowalla. They received a welcome message from both brands, a select number of shuttle rides downtown and a chance to meet Josh Williams, the founder of Gowalla. For folks who would rather drive than be driven around, Chevy had Corvettes and Camaros ready for a spin around the block (you could hear the engines revving from miles away).
Volt Test Drives
Since the Volt was not for sale yet (a cutout model was placed on site) Chevy conducted private test-drives in a mall parking lot 15 minutes from the Convention Center. It secured the area with cones and had an engineer on site as well. The purpose of the drives was to build buzz about the Volt, so Chevy invited social media influencers, members of the electrical vehicle club and the winning team from the Chevy road rally in Detroit to come out and drive.
Because SXSW attracts a tech-savvy crowd who wants to learn the latest and greatest technologies, Chevy placed QR Codes on its display vehicles both inside the exhibitor’s trade show and outside the convention center. QR codes are two-dimensional bar codes that can be snapped via web-enabled phones like a Smartphone or iPhone. It then automatically delivers content about a product or service. For example, if attendees wanted to get info about the 2011 Cruze on display, they snapped a picture of the QR code with their mobile device. Then, they instantly received a mobile web page with product info, exclusive video and quizzes as well as a share feature, allowing them to send content to their Twitter accounts.