Sundance Film Festival: How Brands Are Activating in Park City

Step inside DoorDash's convenience store

PARK CITY, Utah—The Sundance Film Festival’s 2024 brand partners are playing a big role on Main Street.

It’s tough to travel a single block without spotting an activation. Festival goers can visit DoorDash’s pop-up convenience store, or rest in one of several brand-sponsored lounges. Adobe, Acura, Audible, Canon, Chase Sapphire, Dropbox, Hyatt, Shutterstock, United Airlines and United Talent Agency (UTA) all have dedicated spaces to host guests and are running their own programming.

Media also have a presence at the festival this year, including publications Deadline, IndieWire, The Cut, Variety and Vulture.

It goes without saying that brands view Sundance as a valuable advertising opportunity, but that’s not their only role at the festival. An uptick in cinema pre-show spot sales suggests that more brands aspire to the big screen.

In 2022, job search site Indeed bought out the entire 160-minute cinema pre-show slot during the opening weekend of Jordan Peele’s film Nope, and aired its own short film during that time. Some aspiring filmmakers attend the festival in hopes of forging brand partnerships that might fund their projects.

Meanwhile, advertisers are congregating just off Main Street at the Lodges at Deer Valley to attend the Sundance-affiliated content track BrandStorytelling.

Check back throughout the week for more updates from the festival.

DoorDash and GroupM agency Wavemaker’s pop-up convenience store

DoorDash partnered with GroupM to debut a pop-up convenience shop located on Park City’s Bear Walkway, just off Main Street. There, festival goers can grab a free hot chocolate and essential items such as snacks, hand warmers, sanitizer, mouthwash, Advil, dry shampoo and condoms.


A photo of DoorDash's "Your Door to More" pop-up convenience store, at the Sundance Film Festival.

DoorDash brand partners Lumify, Trojan, Batiste and Yeti provided some of them. Audible and Adobe—other brands with a significant presence at the festival—are also offering some DoorDash customers free three-month memberships.

With its first Sundance activation, DoorDash wants to send a message: It does more than just restaurant delivery. The “Your Door to More” activation directly references the brand’s new campaign produced with new agency partner Wieden+Kennedy. The campaign debuted during the NFL Wildcard round on Jan. 13, and will appear in the Super Bowl.

“We are moving away from just restaurant delivery and into a space where we can bring you all the things that you need. Not just food, but your convenience items, your retail stuff. [There is] a lot more to come,”  said Lauren Schrimmer, a brand marketer overseeing DoorDash’s consumer products. “What we’re doing here at Sundance really ties into that, because we’re your personal assistant on the ground.”

It’s even more rewarding for DoorDash subscribers, who receive a key to open a locker containing surprise items, like candy and custom apparel. 

The VIP experience is luxurious, something that’s not usually synonymous with convenience.

The first 30 DashPass subscribers who visit the activation may choose one of several VIP rewards, including tickets to sold-out screenings, dinner reservations at booked-up restaurants nearby or a gift card to a local retailer. They also receive extras like a DoorDash gift card and a custom Yeti tumbler. Those 30 attendees also get access to their own DoorDash personal assistant for the day, who will purchase and deliver any item so long as they can find it on Park City’s Main Street for a reasonable price. 

“Our biggest priority here is engagement. It’s a very rare experience for an app—a digital entity—to get to actually meet face-to-face with customers,” Schrimmer said.

Guerilla marketing a new slasher film on Main Street

Shudder launched a marketing stunt to promote Sundance slasher film “In a Violent Nature.” The gory film follows an undead killer, Johnny, around a wooded area as he wreaks havoc on campers in North Toronto, Ontario. The film leans into the subgenre’s usual tropes, but adds something new—it’s shown from the killer’s perspective. 


Part of the viewing experience for ticket holders and passersby may involve a run-in with Johnny on Park City Main Street. 

Film producer Peter Kuplowsky and the Shudder team commissioned illustrator Andrew Barr to create a ‘Wanted’ poster for Johnny. Then, this weekend, they hung the poster in prominent locations around the festival. On Monday, Jan. 22, Ry Barrett, who plays Johnny in the film, dressed in costume and walked around Main Street. Festival goers asked for pictures, some having recognized the killer from the ‘Wanted’ posters. 

Kuplowsky wanted them to wonder if those posters were real, or fake and associated with a festival film. The horror genre can lend itself to creative marketing techniques, Kuplowsky told Adweek. He worked with the creative teams at Shudder and IFC Films to develop the idea.

Sensitive content: This clip features explicit language.Ry Barrett

The stunt is about generating buzz and excitement for the character by literally introducing him to audiences. Jason, Freddy and Michael Meyers, horror icons synonymous with slasher film history, inspired Kuplowsky and the film’s writer and director, Chris Nash. They hope to build the same cult following for Johnny. 

Kuplowsky, who also manages programming for the Toronto Film Festival, considers “In a Violent Nature” to be a pilot project. Sequels, spin offs and more are on the table, and this may be only the first of Johnny’s film festival marketing stunts. 

“In the poster itself we use the copy, ‘Johnny has been last seen walking towards Park City, Utah.’ That copy could be adjusted from market to market, to suggest that Johnny is on this roadshow, steadily walking to his various premieres,” Kuplowsky said.

“In a Violent Nature” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival Monday,  Jan. 22 at 10:15 PM, at the Library Center Theatre. 

We’re the ‘Wine Experience Company,’ Sommsation Wine Lounge tells festival goers

Online wine marketplace Sommsation is not an official Sundance sponsor, but it’s activating at the festival to engage with its target audience.

The company partnered with David Manning, a consultant with the communications firm Roxstar Entertainment, to take over Old Town Cellars, a bar and lounge located on Park City Main Street.

In addition to providing a quiet lounge for wine enthusiasts to order wine and recharge during the festival, Sommsation hosted a number of private events over the weekend—including an after party for Jesse Eisenberg’s new festival film, A Real Pain.

Other companies sell wine or spirits online, but Sommsation wants to take that strategy a step further, and for customers to consider it a “wine experience company” that provides engaging in-person and virtual experiences.

There’s also a tie-in to independent film that complements the festival. Sommsation partners with more than 50 independently-owned wineries to find and curate its menu.

“We really want to be here to support independent films and independent wine. It’s an amazing intersection,” said Lindsey Mericka, Sommsation’s marketing director.

To draw Sundance visitors to the popup, the team advertised across Sommsation’s organic channels, including social media and email.

“Our audience that loves wine … If they’re traveling for the weekend, or if they’re local to Park City, they can stop by. If they can’t, they can bring Park City home,” she said. The brand is offering promotions to some guests to encourage them to order wine after they leave the festival.

It’s also collecting first-party data through table reservations and a social media giveaway. It hopes it can use the data captured in-person to keep in touch with the audience, and either drive online sales, or encourage participation in its sommelier-led virtual tastings.

Inside the brand-sponsored lounges: Adobe, Audible, Chase Sapphire, Shutterstock, UTA and more 

Audible: The brand created The Audible Listening Lodge, an outdoor space that welcomed all Sundance attendees to visit between Jan. 19 and Jan. 21. It was unique, given most lounges either require visitors to be on a guest list, or in Chase Sapphire’s case, hold one of its Sapphire Reserve cards. 

Audible also sponsored Variety’s Interview Studio, which featured panel interviews and conversations about the state of audio storytelling.

Lounge visitors could step inside a heated yurt to order refreshments, or sit down in one of Audible’s outdoor listening gondolas to tune into the brand’s most popular podcasts, audiobooks and Originals. 

Civic Entertainment Group and Civic Entertainment Group PR produced the studio and Listening Lodge.


Audible


Audible

UTA: The talent management agency hosted panel discussions and parties at its Main Street lounge, UTA House.

That included a Women in Film (WIF) panel; a cocktail party for its brand partners, including American Eagle, Adobe, P&G Studio, Campari, LinkedIn and Hulu; a LinkedIn-sponsored discussion of creativity in B2B marketing; and a cocktail reception for Titus Kaphar, the artist behind Sundance film, Exhibiting Forgiveness.

This is the first year UTA activated on Main Street, despite having hosted events at a large rented home near the festival since January 2020.

The talent management agency has been involved with Sundance for more than 30 years. David Anderson, co-lead of UTA’s entertainment marketing division, regards the festival as a marketing opportunity.

It offers the agency a chance to connect with its broad customer base. UTA owns subsidiaries across both the entertainment and marketing ecosystems. One of those is MediaLink, which manages media agency search processes.


People walk by the UTA House sign on Park City's Main Street.
United Talent Agency

Chase Sapphire: Now in its 14th year sponsoring the film festival, Chase tightened access to its lounge and created a more exclusive experience only open to its Sapphire Reserve customers. Inside the lounge, Chase offered guests complimentary food, drinks, music and merchandise. To enter the activation, cardmembers had to show their card at the door.

“Chase Sapphire creates opportunities for unique access and one-of-a-kind experiences for our Sapphire cardmembers. We seek to meet our cardmembers where they are: cultural moments like Sundance Film Festival, F1 Miami, PGA and LPGA Championships and Art Week Miami,” said Tara Bakhle, head of marketing at Chase Sapphire. 

Chase also sponsored RSVP-only panels for Sundance films, ‘The Outrun,’ ‘My Old Ass,’ ‘Exhibiting Forgiveness,’ ‘Hit Man,’ and ‘As We Speak’; and events, including a kitchen takeover by Chef Melissa King; a performance by the violinist and film composer Enzinma; and a party—the only event open to both Reserved and Preferred cardmembers.

The brand prepared for guests to request updates to access the lounge. Customers could upgrade on site, or begin an application process. Either way would grant them admission.




Chef Melissa King at the Chase Sapphire lounge.
Chef Melissa King at the Chase Sapphire lounge.

Acura: The automotive brand hosted events at its ‘House of Energy’ activation, where it displayed its all-electric 2024 Acura ZDX and ZDX Type S performance SUV. On Jan.16, Acura launched its new ‘Unlock the Energy’ campaign created with its creative agency partner, MullenLowe U.S.

The House of Energy hosted a panel with IMDbPRo and the cast of the Sundance film ‘The American Society of Magical Negroes.’ There were other panel collaborations with Prime Video, Women in Film, GLAAD and Gold House.
The programming covered intersectionality in film, viewing queer film as activism, gender equity and ways independent filmmakers are transforming the industry.

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) also hosted its 26th annual ASCAP Music Café at Acura’s activation. ASCAP panels featured composer Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe and ‘Union’ film directors Brett Story and Stephen Maing. The foundation sponsored live music sets, including a performance by the ‘Dandy Jonestown Revue’ band, with members of Dandy Warhols and Brian Jonestown Massacre—subjects of ‘Dig! XX’ the extended release version of the 2004 Sundance rock music documentary, ‘Dig!’

“For Acura, the ultimate measure of success is not just introducing our products to the Sundance audience, but furthering our mission to support the important initiatives of our programming partners,” said Meliza Humphrey, senior brand manager of Acura.

There were two premiere parties: One for ‘The Outrun,’ starring Saoirse Ronan; and another in collaboration with The Latinx House, for ‘In The Summers.’

Acura is the festival’s official vehicle, and provided more than 100 Acura SUVs to transport Sundance Institute staff, filmmakers, talent and festival jurors around the festival.


Fred Hayes


Fred Hayes

Adobe: Now in its 13th year sponsoring the festival, Adobe is the festival’s official editing partner. At its ‘Adobe on Main’ lounge, it curated events open to filmmakers, film students, press and industry professionals. 

Friday lounge events included a fireside chat with Variety about diversifying storytelling in film; a Variety-moderated panel with Changemakers in Film, and an IndieWire panel about creator collaborations in filmmaking. On Saturday, the brand hosted a session for filmmakers about how to find a personal voice and creative vision. On Sunday, festival filmmakers led a discussion about nonfiction storytelling, and later, Adobe featured its Adobe x Sundance Fellows. They shared their filmmaking backgrounds, current projects and creative processes.



Shutterstock: As the festival’s official photography service partner, it brought more than 50 of its photographers, videographers, editors and production staff to Park City to capture the festival.  Shutterstock set up its ‘Official Sundance Film Festival Portrait’ studio set onsite, where it captured photos of actors and filmmaker

It also operated ‘Shutterstock Chalet,’ an invite-only lounge where filmmakers and media could relax away from crowds.

Elsewhere on Main Street, at Sundance Institute’s Filmmaker Lodge, Shutterstock Studios hosted a panel. Leaders of the new production studio talked about creating the new short documentary ‘Surfing Through the Odds,’ about the non-profit SOMA and its focus on surf therapy. 

Canon: In its 14th year sponsoring the festival, Canon hosted programming for cinematographers at its ‘Canon Creative Studio.’ Events revolved around the art, science and business of filmmaking.

Canon partnered with the editors of the publication American Cinematographer to offer panel discussions. Those included: A conversation with the filmmakers behind ‘Porcelain War,’ a documentary about the Ukraine war that debuted this year in the U.S. Documentary Competition category; a discussion with the filmmakers behind Sundance’s new slasher film, ‘In a Violent Nature’; a conversation with three festival film directors about how to create a unique film aesthetic; and panels about documentary film, pursuing freelance projects and camera lenses.

The brand also offered product demonstrations for those in attendance.

White Claw Hard Seltzer: The seltzer brand launched its ‘Shore Club’ pop-up,  where it hosted live performances from Danielle Ponder, Brittany Howard, and The National Parks + Always-On DJ. At the pop-up, attendees could stop by a customizable beanie station, and enter giveaways and a drawing to win a trip to next year’s festival.

United Airlines: The airline admitted credentialed film industry talent to its ‘United Airlines Lodge on Main’ lounge. It offered refreshments to lounge visitors and set up phone charging stations and promotional giveaways. It also sponsored events including Variety’s Cover Party honoring Kristen Stewart and her ‘Love Me’ and ‘Love Lies Bleeding’ cast mates.

Cotopaxi: This year the Utah brand created the festival’s official outerwear jacket, after Sundance Institute and Canada Goose ended a decade-long partnership. Cotopaxi awarded its bestselling Fuego jackets to festival film directors—an annual Sundance Institute tradition. The brand also sold festival-branded merchandise at its year-round Basecamp store on Park City Main Street and inside IndieWire’s Main Street festival headquarters.


Cotopaxi