Brands unpack entertainment heritage at Sundance Film Festival

With a slew of big name sponsors, over 300 essential VIP parties, and a glut of pop-up experiential activations, the 2013 Sundance Film Festival is a vibrant opportunity for marketers to circumnavigate the cineplex mainstream and connect with the more credible side of cinema.

The festival, which saw around 47,000 visitors in 2012 (bringing with them a chunky $80M in economic impact to the state of Utah), is something of a mecca for brands, all eager to gain traction with the influencer crowd that descends on Park City each year. It's not hard to see why. The festival has grown from its dry, humble tourism routes in 1978 to become the default destination for indie film connoisseurs, entrepreneurial Independent directors/producers and those who like a bit of cinematic apres-ski to kick off the New Year.

Out in force this year are the usual broad spectrum of brands, including HP’s mix of film debate and live music at the Sundance House, Sears ‘Shop Your Way Digital Recharge Lounge’, Sorel’s real life Pinterest board and Chase Sapphire delivering exclusive Sundance rewards for its cardholders. Other notable brand presences on the indie red carpet include Ciroc vodka, Bing, Nokia, Brita, Lipton, Southwest Airlines, Oakley and L’Oreal - to name check but a mere handful.

However, with all celluloid eyes fixed firmly on Utah, a number of brands are looking to evolve their Sundance offerings beyond mere banner sponsorships and the stalwart gifting melee to engage in deeper, story-led connections with festival fans and the festival's wider, global audience. Here we take a brief look at 3 of the best... 

ACURA

Honda’s luxury vehicle line is making its musical mark during the festival as official auto partner, sponsoring the world premiere of 'The Eagles: Part One', a laid bare portrayal of the American soft rock band, with on the ground activation (the ‘Acura Studio’) showcasing special appearances from members of the band. Staying in the musical heritage vein, the Japanese automotive company also hosted an intimate Q&A sessions with Dave Grohl as he discussed his musical documentary 'Sound City'. Plus, all of this high profile activity was bolstered with a sweepstakes promo (via the Acura Facebook page), enabling one fan to gain VIP access to key Sundance events.

Benefits to brand: Leverages both cinematic and musical entertainment value, as the brand invests not just in celebrity, but also in the heritage of music creation itself. 

CAPTAIN MORGAN

Diageo’s rum brand is another brand opting to showcase heritage entertainment as it showcases a 30-minute documentary that looks to uncover the true story behind the privateer Henry Morgan and his lost fleet of 17th century ships in Panama.  The film, by award-winning director Michael Haussman, follows a team of U.S. archeologists as they conduct their search both to locate his flagship, 'The Satisfaction', and unpack the man behind the brand name.

Benefits to brand: a clever cultural entertainment investment from the brand which showcases the heritage that underpins the product, whilst also serving to personify the familiar logo.

STELLA ARTOIS

The Belgian beer hones in on the iconography of cinema during Sundance, teaming up with world rendowed photographer Annie Leibovitz on a new ad campaign that debuted at a special launch party during the festival. The ‘Timeless Beauty’ campaign showcases the creation process as well as the final stills, with a series of interviews and behind-the-scenes short films available to view online. The brand also paired up with a wide spectrum of photographic bloggers, inviting them to express the Timeless Beauty theme, displaying their work during the festival alongside Leibovitz.

Benefits to brand: Stella Artois looks to focus its attention on the craftsmanship behind cinema and photography, building direct correlations with the brewing expertise behind its product. 

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