Why Digital-Facing Brands Stick Around for SXSW Music

It's a broader audience packed with millennials

The interactive portion of the South by Southwest festival in Austin may be over, but that doesn't mean that digital media brands have packed up their bags.

Several digital-facing companies and publishers have decided to activate outside the traditional period reserved for their wares, further blurring the line between online and mainstream media. 

Mountain Dew, for example, is rooted in youth lifestyle culture, so it embraced both portions of the festival, digital brand manager Christine Ngo said. Mountain Dew is hosting musical performances as part of its Green Label Live series—a partnership between Mountain Dew and Complex—and will have a digital activation through the DEW VR Snow experience. Viewers can shred powder with pro snowboarders Danny Davis, Scotty Lago and Jack Mitrani via Oculus Rift technology.

"I think that digital media has transcended online," Ngo said. "You might discover music online and that then gets popular and goes on the radio. We 're kind of [in] any medium that music exists, and digital is where we are concentrating a lot of our efforts."

Nylon hosted daytime music showcase events on Thursday and Friday. But, before that, it was a partner of SXstyle, SXSW Interactive's special fashion track. Not only did Nylon co-sponsor the SXstyle closing party, it partnered with Nine West to create custom digital video and social activations with online influencers who wore Nine West shoes and created festival diaries, video content and online editorial.

Nylon CEO Paul Greenberg believes the SXSW interactive and music festivals will stay separate for the time being. However, that doesn't mean they won't cross more often.

"Technology will continue to blend with and change the experience of attending music and film in person to continue to make it more interactive," Greenberg said. "Different apps and other tech are already changing how people act before, during and after concerts and festivals. And similarly, people are using technology to watch movies in much more collaborative way."

Visa chief digital officer Chris Curtin agreed that the sections will stay separate for now, but it's hard to think of digital media as separate from other types of media. The financial services company is activating throughout the whole festival because it wants to showcase digital innovations, including products like Apple Pay. It's also using the event to recruit employees. Curtin said SXSW represents a unique opportunity to present Visa as a category leader to the public. 

"Digital is a critical component of what we're going to do," Curtin said. "We have physical products from our company that comes to life through credit cards and partners in the digital area and mobile space."

Even though Woven Digital's publications (including Bro Bible and Uproxx) are rooted online, CEO Scott Grimes prefers to activate during SXSW music because that segment is more consumer facing than the interactive period.

"The reason that advertisers like us to activate during music is because there is a lot of authority and credibility with consumers during this time," Grimes said. "It's a way to show off our editorial and really amazing branded video, and let people experience the products. We can show our authority and generate tons of interest in viewership."

Though Grimes appreciates the interactive portion's ability to showcase new tech and new ways to share content, he finds it less inclusive of the millennial consumer that advertisers want to reach. Woven Digital's Uproxx house, which is sponsored by Miller Lite and open through Saturday, features musical acts like Bleachers, Future and Best Coast.