Filmmakers, actors, storytellers and, yes, marketers gathered in Park City, UT, for the 40th annual Sundance Film Festival, Jan. 18-28, where brand activity has become nearly as ubiquitous as the event’s premieres and panels. The 2024 festival included some fresh strategies and brand shake-ups, with Adobe and UTA carving out dedicated brand spaces on Main Street for the first time, and Cotopaxi taking the place of Canada Goose as a sustaining sponsor and the event’s Official Outerwear Jacket. In this year’s activation roundup, we’re bypassing the media lounges and portrait studios, and honing in on the most engaging brand strategies. From cozy chalets to themed soirees, here’s a taste of the action from Park City.
- Inside Seven Sundance Sponsorship Activations, from the Acura Village to the Audible Listening Lounge
- Director’s Cut: Why Acura is Committed to its Long-standing Sundance Partnership
Acura, returning as the Official Automotive Sponsor of Sundance, this year activated the Acura House of Energy as part of its broader “Unlock the Energy” campaign for the all-electric 2024 ZDX Type S, which attendees could check out on-site. The colorful space was dedicated to the “art of driving” and the brand’s all-electric future, and divided into vignettes that showcased key pillars of Acura’s ethos. Day-to-night programming included interviews, panels, mixers, film premieres, refreshments and live dj performances. (Agency: George P. Johnson)
— George P. Johnson (@GPJExpMktg) January 24, 2024
For the first time, longtime Sundance partner Adobe stood up its sponsorship with an owned space dubbed Adobe on Main, which featured three days of panel discussions, livestreams of creator interviews, art installations, how-to talks from the space in front of a live audience and other activities and moments of respite for attendees. Learn more about Adobe on Main in our interview with chief brand officer Heather Freeland.
Photo credit: Stephen Speckman
After a successful run in 2023, Audible made its way back to Main Street with The Audible Listening Lodge, a space that played host to a series of panel sessions in conjunction with Variety dubbed “Variety x Audible Cocktails and Conversations,” and provided festivalgoers with scenic views of Park City, outdoor fireplaces, a heated yurt, hot and cold beverages, s’mores and other light bites, as well as a selection of Audible’s top audiobooks, podcasts and original programming delivered inside brightly colored listening gondolas.
Audible also popped up at the 1497 South Asian Lodge, collaborating with nonprofit 1497 to provide a listening station where attendees could hear excerpts of Audible Originals from South Asian creators. The brand additionally served as presenting sponsor of the Variety Interview Studio. (Agencies: Civic Entertainment Group, studio and activation; Civic Entertainment Group PR, p.r.)
Photo credit: Audible
Star-studded cast parties and film panels featuring the likes of Jesse Eisenberg, Pedro Pascal and Julia Fox, as well as cardmember events, were on the agenda at Chase Sapphire on Main this year. Live performances by Leon Bridges and violinist Ezinma, and a menu takeover and meet-and-greets with former “Top Chef” contestant Melissa King, were also in the mix. As was a partnership with the L.A. Times for the “Los Angeles Times Talks @ Sundance Film Festival Presented by Chase Sapphire,” a series of discussions with Sundance filmmakers, actors and screenwriters, moderated by some of the newspaper’s top entertainment editors. (Partner: FleishmanHillard)
Photo credit: Jack Dempsey Photography
Disney Branded Television, a unit of Disney General Entertainment Content, touted its coming-of-age drama “Out of My Mind,” which premiered at Sundance 2024, with a post-screening event hosted at Park City’s Handle Restaurant. The space was transformed into an “Out of My Mind”-themed affair featuring curated f&b, a branded photo op and a dj set by William Lifestyle, among touchpoints. Festivalgoers in attendance included cast members and producers, Disney executives and other VIPs. The crowd even sang “Happy Birthday” to the film’s star, Phoebe-Rae Taylor, who was presented with a surprise birthday cake on-site. (Agency: Mirrored Media)
Photo credit: Mirrored Media for Disney
Delivery service DoorDash made its debut at Sundance 2024 with a pop-up convenience store designed to replicate a movie theater on the exterior. Inside, the brand invited attendees to grab a free hot chocolate and open up “Your Door to More”—a series of mini doors that participants opened to reveal essential festival items like Advil and hand warmers. (Brand partners like Lumify, Trojan, Batiste and Yeti provided some of the goodies.) In some cases, attendees even scored screening tickets.
DoorDash upped the ante for its DashPass subscribers, who were handed a key that unlocked surprise giveaways, like candy and exclusive apparel. Our favorite part? The first 30 subscribers who visited the activation had access to their own DoorDash “personal assistant for the day,” who was available to purchase and deliver any item as long as it was located on Main Street and sold for a practical price. To boot, the brand partnered with Hyatt Park City to provide exclusive in-room gifting. (Agency: Wavemaker)
Photo credit: Stephen Speckman
TAO HOSPITALITY GROUP
Hospitality giant TAO activated a ski-themed, brand-rich activation spanning 23,500 square feet of space at Utah Film Studio. At “TAO Park City presented by Poppi,” attendees were treated to an exclusive performance opened by Ella Balinska and headlined by Sofi Tukker on Jan. 19, then a set from DJ Mel DeBarge on Jan. 20, followed by dj Too Short, who surprised the crowd with a full performance.
Presenting sponsor Poppi erected bodega-style refrigerators filled with its “better-for-you” soda beverages, all arranged in color blocks that made for a prime photo op, and served custom Poppi cocktails. There was also a grand prize hidden within the experience for one lucky winner to uncover.
Ski chalet-inspired activations included Hendrick’s Gin’s whimsical winter chalet and an elegant, après ski-themed Campari bar serving Aperol Spritzes and Negroni Sbagliatos. Casamigos was back as the event’s exclusive tequila partner and built a cozy ice chalet with a branded ice sculpture and an accompanying photo op on the slopes. There was also ample champagne at the Moët & Chandon bar (servers also walked around with bottles of the bubbly in crown-shaped buckets), and attendees drank Whispering Angel rosé from “large format” bottles. (Partner: M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment North America)
Photos: Courtesy of TAO Park City
UTAUTA for the first time set up shop on Main Street at Kaneo restaurant, Jan. 19-21, with its annual UTA House experience. Throughout the weekend, filmmakers, talent, creators, brand leaders and industry partners gathered for day-to-night programming and events spanning panels, dinners, lounges, networking, and one killer Sundance party. On the design front, the branded space featured a one-story-tall, dimensional UTA logo, along with custom lighting and sound throughout the venue.
UTA House event highlights included a Women in Film storytelling panel, a Brand Leader’s cocktail and dinner event sponsored by Amazon Prime Video, a Celebrating Creativity in B2B Marketing discussion presented by LinkedIn, a filmmaker brunch sponsored by Simply and the UTA Main Street Party featuring dj Jennifer Sunnfors, with eager festivalgoers lining up for blocks to get in. (Agency: Mirrored Media)
Photo credit: Mirrored Media for UTA
White Claw, the Official Hard Seltzer of Sundance, brought its “Shore Club” platform back to the festival for a second year with an eye toward “supporting the creators who are making waves in culture” and a focus on an essential element of film: sound. The brand teamed up with cultural wavemaker and Emmy-nominated filmmaker Nico Casavecchia to create a “visual poem” called “Make Sound Waves” specifically for Sundance.
The Shore Club also offered plenty of hard seltzer, live music, photo ops, interactive art and custom beanie hats featuring a sound wave “designed” by each participant’s own voice. Also on tap: An intimate performance, album preview session and meet-and-greet with rock artist Brittany Howard, who also did a private sound bath and dj set later in the evening. (Agencies: G7 Entertainment Marketing; VCCP)
Photo credit: Talyn Behzad
Featured photo: Courtesy of Sundance Institute