SXSW, Sponsorfied, And The Future of Authentic Brands

It’s 3 am, and the crowd pours out of the Hype Hotel into the muggy, still-warm Austin night.

Over by the garden, members of the band that just finished performing laugh with a tech entrepreneur building a new mobile music platform and a brand ambassador from Doritos, one of the sponsors of the night’s festivities.

They’re talking about the future of digital music distribution. They’re talking about the role that brands could have in supporting emerging artists. They’re talking about the unbelievable 16 year old French DJ who just set the venue on fire.

Their conversation – like all conversations at South By Southwest – drips with possibility and the endless joy that comes from collaborating to create the future.

From humble beginnings as a regional festival for art, music, and culture, SXSW has grown into a Mecca for creativity – an annual pilgrimage for startups, musicians, filmmakers, and strivers of all shapes and sizes.

For brands, the festival represents much more than a place to show up and shill some new products.

In an era of hyper fragmentation, we seek out experiences that make us feel connected to our communities and connected to ourselves. Brands today aren’t just competing to be our t-shirts or our cereal, they’re competing to be a part of the way we project our image to the world.

The way brands transcend being product and service providers to actually engaging with consumers on an emotional level has to do with authenticity and alignment with the experiences through which we make meaning.

SXSW is a rare moment when people from multiple industries and walks of life let their guard down to experience the best of what each other have to offer. The most successful brands understand that, for that reason, it doesn’t represent just another industry gathering to show up at, but a platform that allows them offer up their story (and products) to an audience that is not only open to but excited about discovering the new.

SXSW was where we at Sponsorfied fell in love with brands – or more specifically, where we fell in love with the possibilities for how brands could be a part of creating amazing things. It was where we first saw that when brands connect their products to the real lived experiences of consumers, they can become an integral part of people’s lives.

We exist to amplify how brands build deep, authentic relationships with their customers. As SXSW approaches, we’ll be publishing a series of posts and videos sharing what we’ve learned about what it takes for brands to rise above the noise to get noticed and build something great for their community.

In part, these posts are a way to help the brands that breathe life into our platform. Of course, the truth is they’re also (at least a little bit) a way to pass the time until we can head back to Austin. We’ll see you there.

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  • by Nathaniel Whittemore
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