5 Best Experiential Marketing Campaigns at SXSW 2019

SXSW isn’t just a jumble of random letters but rather, an exciting environment of innovation and culture. It’s the South By SouthWest annual experience that brings together discovery, learning, and networking from across multiple industries such as tech, film, and music. Launched in 1987, the SXSW festival and conference has continued to grow and evolve and attract innovators to its spring event in Austin, Texas. 

As thousands of people from all over the world flock to the ten day event, experiential marketers have started to realize: this is the place to be. The event has become a hub for innovative marketing efforts. In fact, SXSW took notice of how much brands were putting into their attention-grabbing experiences and created the Arrow Awards in 2019 to recognize the creativity and innovation in brand experiences. In its inaugural year, brands were awarded Best Immersive Experience, Best Use of Technology, the Spirit of SXSW, and the Best Exhibition Experience.

With SXSW 2020 just around the corner on March 13, let’s go back in time to some of the best experiential marketing campaigns from SXSW 2019.  

Favorite App Experience: Bumble Hive

Bumble, the dating app founded by a woman where the main rule is that women must make the first move to communicate on the app, took over a coffee shop for the whole SXSW festival. Of course, the space was completely redone in Bumble branding. They offered free food and coffee to people who had Bumble profiles along with tips from Bumble experts to improve your dating profile. In conjunction with their theme of female empowerment, there was even a day devoted to celebration of female gamers and female mentoring on International Women’s Day. Other fun activities for all include a BFF Day, a nod to their Bumble BFF platform that helps you find friends, a family day, dog party, and many other panels and activities.

bumble sxsw content 2019


Favorite Food Focus: Land O’ Lakes “Copernicus Project”

This food focused campaign deviated from the typical sampling experience and instead took an educational approach. The experience goal was to challenge attendees’ knowledge and assumptions about food systems and the environment. For example, attendees were asked questions about food industry issues such as gene editing, average cost of meals, etc. while wrapping colored thread on pegs to represent their answers. These threads contributed to a large, interconnected web representing the world’s food system. A fun photo opportunity included a green ball pit that looked like an avocado that attendees slid down into. They also had an element of cause marketing for the nonprofit Feeding America if people posted photos of the experience using the hashtag.

LandOLakesFavorite Health Lifestyle Brand Experience: Lululemon 

The popular workout apparel company Lululemon took over a bar to create the Sweatlife House. The brand created a white domed space for attendees to escape the overwhelming festival and meditate or attend restorative yoga classes in peace. They also created a VR experience that included guided meditation and will soon be available in their retail stores. An experience wouldn’t be complete without some branded swag. The Lululemon vending machine distributed free socks and water bottles in exchange for tweets and social media tags. To capitalize on the power of International Women’s Day, they invited attendees to write down actions to further gender equality and posted them in space.

20190309 lululemon sxsw 2481.5c994eaebeb0bFavorite Cause Marketing Experience: HBO Game of Thrones 

In honor of the wildly popular show’s final season, HBO recreated a castle and war grounds from Game of Thrones and partnered with the American Red Cross for a cause marketing experience. Just as there is a lot of bloodshed in the show, attendees were invited, but not required, to donate blood to the American Red Cross. Other activities included actors and a local choir, free food, and an invitation to pledge their loyalty to the king in exchange for a Hand of the Throne pin.
download 1


Favorite Software Company Activation: ADP and Wired Magazine Collaboration

The HR software company ADP and Wired magazine invited attendees to physically break through workplace barriers. Guests with suited up in protective jumpsuits, googles, boots, etc. and chose a weapon such as a bat or sledgehammer. Then they answered the question “What are you working for?” with answers such as breaking the glass ceiling or finding work/life balance. They were invited to use their weapon to destroy a symbolic barrier, and it was captured as a slow motion video.

download 2

What brands will represent at SXSW this year? What innovations will they bring to inspire and delight the attendees? Next month we’ll do a round up. Stay tuned! 

Feeling inspired? We have 25 years of experience creating impactful campaigns, including brand partnerships and sponsorships. Call Pro Motion today at 636.449.3162, we’d love to chat with you.


Can’t wait for our next post? Learn More About Steve Randazzo’s book, Brand Experiences: Building Connections in a Digitally Cluttered World. Click here to download 2 free chapters!