Tribeca Festival Expands Its X Programming and Awards for Advertisers

As demand for branded entertainment escalates, festival leaders are creating more networking spaces at the intersection of marketing and film

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Having observed a growing connection between marketing and the film industry, Tribeca Festival is responding by broadening Tribeca X, its programming track for the creative marketing and advertising industries.

Tribeca X debuted in 2016 as a one-day program, and it is now growing to a two-day festival event June 10 and 11. To accommodate the expansion, Tribeca X is also relocating from the festival’s New York Spring Studios headquarters to a larger space nearby, at Convene One Liberty Plaza. The broader festival spans June 5 through 16.

Despite dropping “Film” from its name in 2020, Tribeca Festival remains one of few industry events that draw Hollywood’s attention. Relative to other lauded film festivals, it has taken a broader approach to programming and awards with its recognition of branded content, audio storytelling and creator partnerships. Tribeca also has its own branded entertainment production division, Tribeca Studios.

Tribeca’s brand storytelling expansion dovetails with growth in branded content and brand-funded film, with brands like Barbie demonstrating how successful such collaborations can be.

Brands and their agencies are making more cinematic ads, veering away from blatant advertising in favor of more subtle storytelling tactics. This trend creates a fresh opportunity for industry events, like Tribeca Festival and the Sundance Film Festival, to attract new target audiences with a professional stake in making cinematic ads.

Festivals are crucial connecting pieces of the independent film ecosystem, where distribution deals happen and connections are made. Expanded space for marketers and advertisers is both a response to industry demands and a harbinger of more branded entertainment to come.

“This is an investment track for us at Tribeca. We believe that this community wants to have this conversation, and so we’re putting money into expanding Tribeca X,” said Christopher Brady, chief revenue officer at Tribeca Enterprises, the festival’s parent organization. “We’re naturally hoping that this yields, and we have a very specific plan to yield financial results that allow us to continue to expand into the rest of the year and show up in other places with it.”

‘Creating a platform’ for branded content

Film festivals have been spotlighting branded content, to some degree, for years. Since 2016, a sanctioned Brand Storytelling event runs nearby the Sundance Film Festival, creating space for marketers to mix with filmmakers in Park City, Utah.

“Whether that be on the brand side or the Hollywood side, I think it’s a unique room for [marketers and filmmakers]. I don’t think there are a lot of these rooms that exist out there for them to have a singular conversation in,” Brady said.

Given Tribeca Enterprises’ commitment to scaling the X event, more of them can do that in New York this June. Headlining speakers include: Jon Bon Jovi and Jesse Bongiovi, who will discuss their Hampton Water business; Jonny Bauer, CEO of Blackstone-backed agency FundamentalCo, and Jenna Lyons, the agency’s executive creative director; Christy Turlington Burns, who will discuss Every Mother Counts, her nonprofit focused on maternal health.

“Tribeca firmly believes that authentic, high-quality, heart-changing storytelling exists within the world of brands and deserves to be celebrated,” said Jane Rosenthal, cofounder and CEO of Tribeca Enterprises, in a statement shared with ADWEEK. “From feature-length films to 30-second commercial spots, Tribeca X encompasses the full range of brand storytelling, a space brimming with creativity, innovation and the best kind of rule-breaking.”

New advertising awards categories

Last year, Tribeca X awarded winners in the Best Feature, Best Short, Best Series, Best Immersive and Best Audio categories. This year, it’s upping that programming to include the Creator/Influencer Collaboration, Movie or Series Trailer, :30 Commercial Spot, :60 Commercial Spot and Video Game categories. Submissions close April 2, and the festival will announce its official selections in May.

“It’s the brand equity of Tribeca, the relationships that Tribeca holds in the Hollywood industry, the relationships that Tribeca holds in the brand community that provide the weight and depth to the conversation that can exist at X, and that will continue to be core to it,” Brady said.

Tribeca X films picked up for distribution include Dear Santa, a U.S. Postal Service documentary picked up by IFC; Hideo Kojima: Connecting Worlds, a Sony Interactive Entertainment documentary distributed by Disney+; and All the Streets Are Silent: The Convergence of Hip Hop and Skateboarding (1987-1997), an Adidas film distributed by Greenwich Entertainment.

The Tribeca X track, as an official Tribeca Festival event, grants full festival benefits to any of the X attendees—a distinction from the Sundance-sanctioned Brand Storytelling event in Park City, which runs separately from Sundance and is not part of the festival’s official programming.

“There was never really a thought to do this separate from the festival,” said Brady. “We don’t see this as anything different than what we’re already doing at Tribeca Festival—curating the best storytelling, providing that storytelling a platform … Do we have aspirations to keep growing the X brand in that conversation across the year? Of course,” Brady added.

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