Director’s Cut: Why Acura is Committed to its Long-standing Sundance Partnership

After the Sundance Film Festival took an all-digital format in 2021, 12-year sponsor Acura approached this year’s festival with a hybrid strategy aimed at reaching new audiences online while reviving its programming on the ground in Park City, UT. Then the Omicron variant came knocking, and Sundance, this year Jan. 20-30, once again went virtual. With plenty of pivoting experience on its side, Acura was equipped to quickly alter its 2022 strategy to fit the needs of an all-digital audience, support emerging filmmakers and tell its own story at the same time. Sponsored interviews, digital takeovers, diversity-focused events and panels, and the debut of the brand’s own four-part film set the scene.

As a challenger brand, Acura aims to support and celebrate diverse, underrepresented voices in the indie film industry, and as presenting sponsor at Sundance, the automaker illustrated its continued commitment to amplifying those voices by partnering on two virtual events focused on diversity and inclusion. Acura teamed up with Outfest to host its 26th annual Queer Brunch celebrating LGBTQ+ storytellers through panels, Sundance-selected film celebrations and digital meet-ups. It also hosted the networking experience and panels that comprised the festival’s eighth annual Latino Filmmakers Network event.

acura_sundance-2020_teaserMore From Acura’s Sundance Portfolio:

To add a tangible touchpoint to this year’s Sundance experience, Acura leaned on a popular pandemic-era tactic: the distribution of hundreds of Watch Party Kits. Customers, filmmakers, influencers, talent and partners all received care packages to enjoy the Sundance experience from the comfort of their homes. Items inside included movie passes, snacks and Sundance-themed swag. The kits were also sent to film students at local Utah colleges, furthering Acura’s mission to support up-and-coming creatives.

“The key word is flexible, and making sure that you don’t forget about the people who were going to be in person and helping amplify their experience when it has to be at home,” says Meliza Humphrey, senior brand marketing manager at Acura. “I think that was one of the key things for us—let’s not forget that we want people to enjoy the experience, and still have these platforms.”

A new aspect of Acura’s Sundance sponsorship this year was a focus on telling its own brand story, which came to life through a four-part, headline-making anime film called “Chiaki’s Journey” that introduced Acura’s Type S performance lineup and demonstrated the brand’s heritage and passion for performance. “We wanted to bring our own story to Sundance,” Humphrey says. All episodes had Spanish-language versions to connect with Hispanic drivers, a key market for the automaker. (The film was always part of the brand’s hybrid sponsorship strategy, but would have been enhanced on-site by physical vehicle showcases if the event had featured an in-person component.)

Other elements of the partnership included hosting virtual premieres of several Sundance films; daily panels that brought artists, programmers and film fans together to explore the themes that drove the festival and its featured projects; and several takeovers of IMDb’s homepage featuring exclusive content from the event’s top talent, like chats with Amy Poehler, Regina Hall and Keke Palmer.

“We’ve continued our partnership with Sundance because it allows us to amplify important voices in film and also reach new audiences,” says Humphrey. “And through the years that we’ve been with [Sundance], we’ve continued to learn, what are the innovative ways that we can continue to connect with film fans, even beyond Park City? And we’ll continue to evolve our partnership. We’ll continue to offer unique, creative ways to integrate our programming, but also lift the independent film community and continue to spread the joy of film, while sharing our products and our story as well.” Agency: George P. Johnson.

Acura_Sundance 2022_Type S Chiakis Journey TLX Type S

Acura’s debut film, a four-part anime series, was used as a storytelling tool that touted its passion for performance.

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.
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