Live from SXSW 2024: Six Brands Catalyzing Connections in Austin

The 38th edition of the SXSW Conference and Festivals in Austin is officially underway, providing nine jam-packed days (March 8-16) of sessions, music and comedy showcases, film and tv screenings, exhibitions, tech competitions, awards ceremonies—oh yeah, and killer experiential marketing activations.

Brands are peppered across the city this week, with some activating as official sponsors, and others in town to reap the benefits of engaging a massive audience of creatives and techies. For a taste of the hot-sauce-drenched action on the ground, check out our first recap, live from SXSW 2024. (And stay tuned for more coverage.)

shiptsxsw-2024_cruizinn coolers teaserMore SXSW 2024 Coverage:


audible_ live from sxsw 2024 _ferris wheel and charactersHave you ever ridden a Ferris wheel in downtown Austin? At the carnival-themed Audible Sound Experience, the brand’s giant ride, and its audio-enabled gondolas, was the talk of the town. Indeed, the storytelling-forward Sound Experience activation served as an over-the-(big)-top affair offering carnival staples, including cotton candy and corn dogs, Audible entertainment-themed games like “Hi-Fi Toss” and “Pitch Perfect” that yielded branded prizes, and larger-than-life costumed characters walking the footprint and engaging attendees (we had a quick chat with the Queen of Hearts).

There were also airbrush tattoos, photo moments, festive balloon installations, listening stations and a bar and patio area where attendees could cash in two drink tickets and chill out. We’d like to send a quick shout-out to the powers that be for skipping clowns on this one. Agency: Civic Entertainment Group.

Photos: Courtesy of Audible



Paramount+ brought its massive The Lodge activation back to Austin for a second year to take fans on a journey into their favorite Paramount+ content and characters. The three-floor venue was decked out with classic ski lodge décor, including faux snow scenes installed in the windows, fake snow-covered pine trees and brand ambassadors in parkas and winter hats. Attendees even received a replica ski lift ticket that served as their badge for the experience (and included two coupons for free drinks that could be ripped right off of it).

live from sxsw 2024 paramount plus lodge exterior

Fans could snap photos with costumes and props from the set of “Halo,” surrounded by a thin layer of fog; pose for a legitimately cool “Star Trek: Discovery” photo on the “bridge”; explore “Mean Girls” lockers, bright pink cocktails and neon-lit messaging (like a “You Can’t Sip With Us” sign behind the bar); and in the “Lawmen: Bass Reeves” saloon, take an old-timey Western-style photo with faux “Wanted” posters as a backdrop (which yielded a physical photo) and enjoy themed cocktails. There was also an interactive ski gondola installation, a third-floor sports-themed Paramount+ Pub, as well as myriad other vignettes and photo ops surrounding titles like “Survivor,” “Ink Masters” and “The Chi.” Agency: 15|40 Productions.

Photo credit: Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images for Paramount+



Reddit is no stranger to tentpole events like CES and Cannes Lions, so it only makes sense that SXSW is also on the social media network’s agenda. The difference at South by, however, is that this year’s event marks the first time Reddit has launched a product as part of its activation. The new Reddit Pro is a suite of free tools designed to help businesses establish and grow connections with the right Reddit communities, a service that companies could apply for right on-site.

Reddit’s positioning as the go-to destination for consumers seeking honest recommendations was woven throughout the experience, hosted at Austin’s Two Hands restaurant. Through a series of vignettes, particular emphasis was placed on the context of the platform’s content, and how that can be leveraged to help various industries connect with their targets. Think: a mock movie theater scene with an oversized poster showing real Redditor comments from the thread “What are your top five (current) Netflix shows.” And let’s not forget the all-important caffeine boost—a small takeout window was serving up complimentary Red(dit) Velvet Coffees. Agency: Giant Spoon.



The vibrant Sharpie x Paper Mate Studio on Rainey St. promptly became one of our favorite activations, based purely on how collaborative and interactive the whole experience was. A “Let’s Get Creative” mantra guided the activation, which was aimed at helping attendees unleash their creativity using the brands’ latest products, including Sharpie Creative Markers and Paper Mate Ink Joy Gel Pens.

All across the indoor-outdoor venue, in addition to a dj, bar and crowdsourced murals, small tables were equipped with various activities meant to spark imagination. Among them: DIY coasters, a chance to design custom tote bags using markers, and “Joy Libs,” the brands’ take on Mad Libs.

We weren’t lucky enough to stumble on one of them, but the studio additionally featured a Creative Academy with classes led by creative professionals that appeared to be booked solid. Doodling never felt so good.



SXSW 2024_Tide evo activation_stain mixing stationA laundry brand? At SXSW? Oh, yes. Tide rolled into Austin with “the biggest laundry innovation of the 21st century.” The brand leveraged its three-day activation as a giant launchpad for Tide evo, its new eco-friendly, 100-percent concentrated detergent that comes in a tile form. Tide’s vivid orange and blue space (the exterior of which could be spotted from far away) was entirely dedicated to evo, and included an oversized installation of the evo bottle, which attendees could open to find “pillows” inside that replicated the detergent tiles, and reinforced the technology behind them.

The biggest attractions may have been the activation’s two scientific stations operated by the scientists who invented evo. One beaker-stacked station showcased the fibers that evo tiles are made of, and how quickly they dissolve. The other invited attendees to “spill” chili oil on a piece of fabric then dissolve it using Tide evo. The scientists not only intrigued attendees, but added a thick layer of authenticity to the product launch.

Another favorite touchpoint of ours (besides some incredible food truck rice balls) was a “journey to the center of the tile” photo op featuring hanging, larger-than-life versions of the fibers used in evo tiles. (Stay tuned for the full case study.) Agencies: MKG, activation; MMC, p.r.



the wear house_entrance_sxsw 2024The Wear House was more of a powerhouse, considering it was put on by WWD, Beauty Inc., FN and rivet, plus a host of sponsors. The activation was built around the “art of storytelling in fashion and beauty,” with a clear focus on engaging Gen Z. The space played host to a number of talks with fashion and beauty pros on a small stage within the footprint. We caught Alix Earle’s down-to-earth chat on becoming an overnight influencer.

Sponsor activations included a RelieFF and Recovery Lounge presented by FitFlop with ample seating and infused water. Nearby, attendees could learn about, and buy, FitFlop sandals, and take a photo op. There was also a Lowe’s Style Studio vignette where participants could sit on a couch, slap on a pair of the Apple Vision Pro goggles and virtually step into a 3D kitchen that could be customized with real-world materials, fixtures and appliances that are available at Lowe’s.

One of the more popular, and eye-catching, activations came from Mielle Organics, which created the “From One Queen to Another (FOQTA) GlamCorner” offering hair styling, scalp education, an infinity photo moment and a hot-pink throne for FOQTA photo ops. Bonus: Everyone who stopped by got a goodie bag with three full-sized Mielle products. Agencies: Fairchild Live, creative/production; LDJ, a/v.

Photo credit: Brynn Osborn/Fairchild Media Group

Kait Shea
Posted by Kait Shea

Kait joined EM in 2015 and today enjoys her role as senior editor, digital content. When she’s not in reporter mode, rocking mermaid pants at Comic-Con or running laps at MWC Barcelona, you can find her at home listening to music.
View all articles by Kait Shea →

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