SXSW 2009: The Sponsorships
Although most attendees of the 2008 edition of the SXSW Music Festival have yet to shake off their hangovers and return to work, the industrious folks behind the madness already have their sights trained on 2009. Indeed, it is a little known industry secret that most of the brand alliances and corporate sponsorships that come off so effortlessly actually require months, sometimes even years of calculated pre-planning. The bigger the artist, the more lead time is required to orchestrate these mutually beneficial arrangements.
We spoke to some SXSW marketing bigwigs who agreed, under the condition of anonymity, to let us in on one of the great partnerships already in store for SXSW 2009.
The most sensational of these sponsorships–and a story we’re breaking exclusively at The DWA–is Toyota’s unprecedented endorsement deal of legendary metalheads Judas Priest. The “Judas Prius” promotion, as it’s being called, represents a groundbreaking marriage of music and commerce by the festival’s standards. According to Toyota spokesperson Jennifer Hulbert, Judas Priest frontman “Rob [Halford] will be customizing ten Toyota Prius hybrids to create the ultimate headbangin’ ride, outfitting our most eco-friendly model with sweet features like a Smart Key System, backup camera, and of course, leather interiors.”
While there was no mention as to whether other amenities might include a metal studded steering column, our SXSW and Toyota sources confirmed that the ten vehicles will be parked in view along Red River Street all day and night throughout the 2009 festival…until Saturday evening. At that point, Judas Priest will be finishing up their three nights of headlining the showcases held at legendary Austin venue Emo’s. During that culminating performance, the band will randomly select ten lucky audience members to take home a new set of wheels.
“Combining forces with a rock and roll outfit as accomplished and popular as Judas Priest was a no-brainer for us,” Ms. Hulbert added. “Their music was as progressive and forward thinking as our line of fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles, so it really was a match made in heaven.” Or “hell,” as the act who made “Breakin’ the Law” cool might prefer it.
Whether this blatantly commercial gimmick will have a negative effect on the indie-centric festival remains to be seen. Jon Goldstein, 24, an artist from Williamsburg, New York attending this year’s festival didn’t seem deterred. “No way,” Goldstein demurred, “I’d totally be fine with taking one of those back home with me. I [might] be able to actually find parking for one of those tiny things, too.” He paused, before inquiring, eyes alight, “Is Judas really going to play three nights at Emo’s? That’s [expletive] awesome!”
It appears, then, that Toyota’s latest marketing plot is off to an auspicious start, but its ultimate success rests in the hearts and minds of the Austin faithful. Whether it will be as well received as this year’s SXSW “Googol Bordello” project (a synergistic promotion between internet titan Google and the gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello that took the form of a sensory immersion tent not far from Austin’s main drag) or mimic the catastrophic results of 2004′s failed “Taco Bell Biv Devoe” reunion world tour (whose arena receipts indicated that more than the cream had gone sour) remains to be seen.