Event Branding Lessons from SxSW

South by Southwest has easily become a blueprint for our industry when it comes to successful events. Known around the world for bringing like-minded people together, this 2 week event has become one of the most interesting places to explore music, film, technology and more! I have never had the chance to attend South by Southwest (at least not yet!), but have learned much from the event organizers even from far away. They way they have built such an incredibly event brand is admirable and inspiring. I’ve never run into a person who has attended SxSW and didn’t want to go back year after year. Event tech companies have launched and grown to popularity simply by attending this event. But what makes it so successful? And how can you leverage your event to achieve the same results?

Connect to the Inner Geek
There is definitely something to be said about connecting with the geek. Or, with any hobby or interest that brings people together. The best events vibe off passion and are driven by community. They connect people who are like-minded and create a connection with the event and brand that long-outlasts a traditional event.

Leverage Social Media
One of the big reasons that SxSW has grown so much is because it is viral. The content at these events is contagious and the people are so engaged that they easily share their experiences on social media. The more buzz you can create, the wider your brand will spread. People will long to attend your event and find ways to make it happen!

Dream BIG
If you do an event from year to year, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of complacency. You might think it’s easier to keep your event the same each year, but it’s actually not true. While it will be easier in the beginning, you will slowly start to lose your momentum and your audience’s attention. New events are popping up all the time and you’ve got to innovate and dream big to make an impact. What are you doing differently this year that will really make a difference for your attendees?

Show Your ImpactIt’s not just about you. Great events bring together people from all over – sponsors, partners, and more. SxSW works with the city of Austin to help boost the economy and contribute to them being the “Live Music Capital of the World”. They bring in a ton of business for the city and help put the city on the map when it comes to live music and entertainment. What could be better? A great event alone is good. A great event + positive economical impact is a great event indeed! And, it’s important to show how your event makes an impact. Here is an example of some stats put together by the organizers that showcases their great work in Austin:

  • In 2012, SXSW was directly and indirectly responsible for injecting approximately $190 million into the Austin economy.
  • Media attention from coast to coast and numerous countries around the world with print, online, and broadcast coverage in 2012 totaling almost $34 million.
  • Music venue revenues increase on the average of 45% over their next highest month, (similar increases at restaurants, bars, etc.)
  • Establishment of relations with international governmental agencies which reinforces the “Live Music Capital of the World” title.
  • 56,735 room nights booked in 72 official hotels
  • 12,926 individual reservations booked

So – how are you going to make your next event a little more like SxSW? It’s not about copying their format or their topics, but it IS about focusing on some of the aspects of their event brand that are viral. This will help you grow and become much more influential in the future!


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