Brands flood Sundance

Firms rush to stake their claim in Utah

It’s fitting that Morgan Spurlock’s product placement documentary “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” is screening at the Sundance Film Festival, because pics vying for attention there face stiff competition this year — from brands.

Sundance has long been a favorite of marketers looking to generate some buzzworthy exposure from the celebrity takeover of Park City, Utah, but this year’s event is proving more of a brand magnet than usual, with everyone from official sponsors to corporate opportunists taking advantage of the numerous places in which they can make their marks.

Kenneth Cole again designed the official vest of the fest’s 1,600 volunteers, while Timberland is Sundance’s footwear and outerwear sponsor, outfitting 320 filmmakers and staff with jackets, boots and gloves. HP is sponsoring the Sundance House, a venue with free food and filmmaker panel discussions. Honda and Southwest Airlines are back as the auto and travel partners.

Popular on Variety

For their sponsorship dollars, those companies are prominently featured on signage, during screenings, at parties and through their own pop-up stores and gifting retreats on Main Street.

But all the other marketers are likely to steal some of the thunder with their own efforts.

• Samsung has taken over the city’s ski lift to tout its Galaxy Tab tablet. Location will house a slew of gifting suites and lounges for Puma, bootmaker Sorel and Carrera Sunglasses. The latter will sponsor parties and dinners for the films “Little Birds,” “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” “Homework” and brunch for the Gersh Agency.

Stella Artois will co-host a cafe with Food & Wine magazine that will serve free breakfast and lunch, cooked by celebrity chefs including Bravo’s “Top Chef” winner Michael Voltaggio. For those who crave a taste of L.A., Kogi BBQ serves up its Korean tacos.

• Gotham and Las Vegas nightclub Tao is re-creating a 5,000-square-foot club at the lift location. ESPN and AT&T’s U-verse will be among the brands using the venue to sponsor AFC and NFC championship game viewing parties. Patron Spirits Co. will pour tequila.

• Microsoft’s search engine Bing will host screenings, parties, dinners, discussions and concerts for films “The Ledge,” “Sing Your Song,” “My Idiot Brother,” “Brick City 2,” “The Red State,” “Hot Coffee,” “Page One,” “The Details,” “Margin Call” and “I Melt With You” from its Bing Bar at the Claim Jumper Hotel.

• Fashion brand Superdry hosts a two-day music, fashion and entertainment lounge at the Superdry Experience at Danny Masterson’s Downstairs Bar starting Sunday. It features a performance by Adrian Grenier’s band, the Honey Brothers, and filmmaker panels.

• The New York Lounge, produced by the state’s governor’s office for motion picture and TV development, will showcase Gotham brands PostWorks, the New York Production Alliance, Arri, HSBC Bank, law firm Greenberg Traurig, the Mandarin Oriental hotel and bagel maker Bagels by Bell to promote filming in the state.

• Diesel and Ben Sherman will be only some of brands at the Nivea for Men House that will house premiere parties for James Franco’s “Three’s Company the Drama”; “Here,” with Ben Foster; Vera Farmiga’s helming debut, “Higher Ground”; and the Weinstein Co.’s “Submarine.” Cecconi’s chef Maureen D’ath will also be on hand.

• Gibson Guitar will host its own music lounge, concerts and news conference for guitarist Slash’s shingle Slasher Films from the House of Blues’ Foundation Room, with acts that include the Pussycat Dolls, Third Eye Blind, Juke Kartel and Fuel.

Gifting suites have also gone digital, with Swagg promoting its mobile app to buy, send and swap gifts and manage traditional gift cards. Company is hosting its own “House of Swagg,” offering freebies from such brands as American Apparel, Cavi, Crocs, got2b, Hint water, Harry & David, Popchips, Solstice Sunglass Boutique and Under Armour.

Freebies will also be handed out at GBK and Turner’s luxury lounge at the Montage Hotel, while the Alive! Expo Green Pavilion and Mix Media Luxury Lounge will take place at the Shadow Ridge Resort.

For the brands, the point is to get photographs of their products in the hands of celebrities and have those wind up in magazines, on TV and websites.

Sundance’s organizers usually prefer not to discuss the commercialization of the festival. That’s in part because sponsorships help the nonprofit pay to produce the fest and the Sundance Institute’s other programs during the rest of the year. This year, Kenneth Cole will sell its $98 vests through various retail outlets for the first time, with a portion of the sales funneling back into the institute. The fashion designer has been a Sundance boardmember since 2003.

Yet some marketers may find their messages lost in the shuffle amid the film deals and screenings happening on Main Street.

Honda may be screening the latest installment of its docu series “Dream the Impossible,” but the Japanese automaker will also use its “Power of Dreams Experience” to show off its Asimo robot, its FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel-cell car, its corporate jet and range of motorcycles. — vehicles not necessarily designed for the snowy setting of Sundance.

More Scene

  • Jared Harris arrives at the 26th

    No, Jared Harris is Not Playing Doctor Octopus in Marvel's 'Morbius'

    The first-ever trailer for Marvel and Sony’s next Spider-man spinoff “Morbius” left comic book fans reeling with theories. While the plight of the main character, Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) – a scientist dying of a rare blood disease who accidentally turns himself into a vampire – seemed ripped right out of the comics, the [...]

  • Charlize Theron31st Annual Producers Guild Awards,

    Charlize Theron Says Megyn Kelly's 'Bombshell' Reaction Video Was 'Really Validating'

    Charlize Theron says it was “really emotional” to watch Megyn Kelly’s half-hour response video to “Bombshell,” the Oscar-nominated feature film that depicts the sexual harassment Kelly (as played by Theron) and several other women experienced from Fox News founder Roger Ailes. The video, which Kelly posted to her YouTube Channel on Jan. 9, shows Kelly, [...]

  • Sean Penn CORE Gala

    Sean Penn Offers to Take Selfies in Exchange for $5,000 Donations to Disaster Relief

    A decade after the catastrophic 7.0 Haiti earthquake left between 50,000 and 100,000 dead and nearly a million people displaced, Sean Penn hosted the 10th anniversary CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort) gala, raising funds for international disaster relief at the Wiltern Theatre on Wednesday night in Los Angeles. “We’re not here tonight because we want [...]

  • Allison Janney Viola Davis

    Viola Davis & Allison Janney React to Lack of Diversity in 2020 Oscar Nominations

    Monday morning’s Oscar nominations rebooted the #OscarsSoWhite conversation, reigniting discussion about representation after women were shut out of the directing category and only one person of color — Cynthia Erivo — was nominated in the acting categories. At the premiere of Amazon Original’s “Troop Zero” at The Grove in Los Angeles on Monday evening, the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content