Is SXSW Worth Attending Anymore?

Last month I attended the interactive arm of South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas on behalf of Powell Tate. With 30k+ attendees and 800+ sessions, SXSW is a premier gathering of interactive professionals, but its sheer size and craziness has people questioning its relevance and wondering whether it has jumped the shark.

Is SXSW worth attending anymore?

In an Ad Week commentary, RPA’s Time Leake says yes. We should attend SXSW because it’s crazy, just like the real world. Essentially, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Here are a few examples of how I saw fellow marketers live that belief:

Meeting a Real Consumer Need: When you’re at SXSW, you’re always connected – on your smart phone, your tablet, your laptop. It’s a common problem for SXSW-goers to need a battery recharge and find themselves without a way to power up. Mophie to the rescue! Mophie, a smartphone accessory company, set up a program where you would tweet to them that you needed a charge, and they would send their team of St. Bernard dogs to come find you and charge your device. St. Bernard dogs are known for rescuing hikers who are lost in the Alps, so Mophie did the promotion in partnership with the St. Bernard Rescue Foundation.

Forging Smart Partnerships: It is difficult to stand out at SXSW, especially if you aren’t a brand with a natural tie to the event. Carefully crafted partnerships are a great way in. Two of the stand-out collaborations I saw at SXSW were Spotify/SoulCycle and Uber/ClassPass. Standing alone, SoulCycle and ClassPass are not perfect fits for SXSW (although they could be pretty smart for the post-queso, post-breakfast taco week following). But paired with smart digital brands, they found their place. SoulCycle worked with Spotify to offer live-deejayed cycle classes, and Uber and ClassPass partnered to surprise and delight Uber riders with ClassPass swag bags.

Making Connections Beyond the Splash: With 800 sessions, there is a lot of competition for attention from SXSW attendees. Parties and panels use flashy, clickbait titles to bring lots of people in the door. But in order to make a real impact, marketers need to make one-on-one connections too. The most successful SXSW events focused on building relationships with attendees. For example, the Spredfast Social Suite offered an intimate setting for SXSW attendees to listen to exclusive speakers, check out the hot eateries around town with the ATX Instagram Snacker Tracker and spend time relaxing and getting to know the Spredfast team.

For more on SXSW, check out a recap by Amanda Long from Weber Shandwick St. Louis here.

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