How 7 Brands Stood Out in a More Subdued Sundance 2020

Brands hosted venue takeovers and activations for attendees at 36th film festival

Audible created a speakeasy experience for fireside chats, sound baths and, of course, cocktails. Audible
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The Sundance Film Festival is a buzzy opportunity for brands to interact with film fans, actors and directors and industry execs in between screenings. The 36th annual festival, which kicked off Jan. 23 and runs through Feb. 2, is screening 118 feature films with premieres including Taylor Swift‘s Netflix documentary Miss Americana and Zola, which brings the viral 2015 tweet-storm of a Florida stripper to the big screen.

This year’s event, however, has seen a more subdued brand presence on Main Street in Park City, Utah compared to previous editions. Festival sponsors like Stella Artois opted to activate around the Super Bowl in Miami, while tech sponsor Dell supported the festival by powering the event and presenting the New Frontier exhibit, which showcases storytelling work with AR, VR and mixed reality. But the festival still had mainstay hubs from presenting sponsors like Chase, while sponsor WarnerMedia had its first combined festival presence with experiences from HBO and CNN Films, and its own lodge with AT&T. New festival sponsors like Audible, and non-sponsors like Pizza Hut, also offered creative pop-up experiences for attendees.

Here’s a look at some of the experiential highlights from the festival’s 36th edition.


The Amazon-owned company, which sells audiobooks and spoken-word entertainment, made its Sundance sponsor debut with a speakeasy-themed experience. The Audible Speakeasy held three days of panels and fireside chats curated by the Los Angeles Times, with speakers including Tessa Thompson, Colman Domingo and Belinda Carlisle. The space also hosted daily 30-minute sound baths—sound meditation experiences—led by author and sound therapist Sara Auster. The pop-up included a literal speakeasy bar with themed cocktails. Audible’s marketing team worked with agency Civic Entertainment Group to produce and design the experience.


Vivian Killilea, Getty Images for WarnerMedia and AT&T

A returning festival sponsor, AT&T once again offered an entertainment and culinary hotspot for attendees, but with a new name: WarnerMedia Lodge: Elevate Storytelling with AT&T. Formerly the DirecTV Lodge, the space offered four days of events that included celebrity lunches, and premiere parties and industry panels for screened films and series including Zola, Snowpiercer and Miracle Workers: Dark Ages. The lodge also hosted the Variety Studio presented by AT&T, which held interviews and portrait shoots with filmmakers and actors. The activation included a pop-up restaurant from Los Angeles-based Italian restaurant Jon & Vinny’s. AT&T’s creative services team developed the activation concept, while Best Events handled production and PMK-BNC led PR.



The cable network had a major presence at this year’s festival, particularly with the Our Stories To Tell hub, a three-day experience as part of HBO’s initiative to support multicultural storytelling and creators, which the brand launched 2017. “The creativity and powerful discussions this space has inspired since its inception is truly impactful and we look forward to continuing to champion the diversity of our culture and community in all aspects of our programming both on and off screen,” said Jackie Gagne, HBO’s vp of multicultural marketing, about the experience

HBO worked with agency Team Epiphany to create the space, which had invite-only programming that included HerStory, a dinner celebrating black women in Hollywood, an apres-ski happy hour celebrating queer talent including drag queen Shangela Laquifa Wadley, a conversation focused on up-and-coming Latinx storytellers and dinners and panels with the cast and creators of Insecure including Issa Rae.


HBO also turned to experiential to celebrate the world premiere of the documentary series McMillions, which tells the story of how a group of people stole $24 million from the McDonald’s Monopoly game in the 1990s. HBO worked with agency MKTG to create a three-day interactive pop-up, which included a massive McDonald’s Monopoly wall, where attendees could peel back layers to win ’90s-themed prizes.


Jack Dempsey/Invision for Chase Sapphire/AP Images Ian Zelaya is an Adweek reporter covering how brands engage with consumers in the modern world, ranging from experiential marketing and social media to email marketing and customer experience.