Founded in 1987 in Austin, Texas, South By Southwest (SXSW) is best known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. The event, an essential destination for global professionals, features sessions, showcases, screenings, exhibitions, and a variety of networking opportunities. This year, SXSW took place 9-18 March and showcased some of the most innovative and experiential brand activations to date! Here are some of our favourites!
Gatorade Created A Shop With A Secret Room Full Of Tech-Driven Training Equipment
Gatorade made its SXSW activation slightly deceptive. When attendees walked into the space they entered into the G-Store – a small pop-up shop filled with any and every possible Gatorade product you can imagine, from protein powder to classic Gatorade drinks.
Attendees were given iPads as soon as they entered the store and were asked to find products that fit in four different categories – hydration, energy, recovery and endurance – as part of an augmented reality experience. When the iPad was held up to the correct category, it displayed some of the products in those categories. After unlocking all four categories, Gatorade then took participants to the next stage of the activation.
While the front of the pop-up shop was designed to show off the wide variety of Gatorade products, the back was all about introducing SXSW attendees to how the brand is using technology to help athletes hone their skills. Overall, the whole activation was aimed at showing people that Gatorade is more than just a hydration company.
Under Armour Brought Its Sneaker Dome To SXSW
Under Armour wanted its customers to hover – literally – at the brand’s South by Southwest activation.
Dubbed Hovr House, the giant red dome arrived at SXSW after its first stops in LA and Shanghai last month. The pop-up experience filled its dome with athletes and celebrities among displays of UA Hovr running shoes and an “elevated track,” an aerial rig that lets users run up a vertical wall. One interactive portion of the Hovr House included jumping on a trampoline and taking a photo of the moment.
Google Turned a House Into a Giant, Connected Fun Home to Promote Google Assistant
If Google has anything to do about it, artificial intelligence is definitely about to take over your living room.
For South by Southwest, Google souped up a house with its AI and voice platform, Google Assistant, to show how everything in everyday life—from lights, blinds, appliances and even litter boxes—is connected and owned by Google.
The house included 12 different rooms and activations that allowed consumers to see how the Google Assistant works.
HBO builds real life “Westworld” exhibit
In HBO’s Westworld, people come from all over to experience what it’s like to “live without limits.” At SXSW, attendees got to give that a try at a recreation of Sweetwater, the world within Westworld.
There were taverns, live music, six horses, a showdown and a personalized piece of mail with a clue about the show’s second season. Attendees had to hunt for clues to Season 2, interact with hosts and dine on Western-inspired food and drink.
HBO Built Fun, Intricate Escape Rooms for Veep, Silicon Valley and Game of Thrones
If there’s one thing HBO does well, it’s creating an environment that’s rich in detail on your television screen. At South by Southwest this year, the network gave attendees a real treat—HBO: The Escape, an activation that turned the famous sets of Veep, Silicon Valley and Game of Thrones into intricate escape rooms.
Upon entering each room, participants were given a set of clues and tasked with teaming together and solving the puzzle to “escape” that space in five minutes.
Each room was impeccably detailed. The Oval Office featured in Veep had everything from the president’s desk and decorations to perfectly rendered paintings on the wall. The Silicon Valley hacker den was a remarkably chaotic scene filled with take-out containers (many with real food in them), computers, circuit boards and whiteboards. The Game of Thrones room was a dingy, cold, snowy space inside Castle Black that was eerily similar to being stuck in a dungeon in Westeros.
Composer Max Richter brought Sleep to SXSW
Music has been an integral part of the South by Southwest experience and this year was no different with the festival featuring a new kind of performance.
Famous composer Max Richter took to the stage at Bass Concert Hall in Austin, and over the next eight hours, played his melodic, lullaby-inspired piece, accompanied by a five-piece band and a vocalist. All 3,000 seats in the three-tiered concert hall were empty. Instead, the stage was packed with roughly 150 twin-size Beautyrest beds, complete with branded pillows, blankets and silk eye masks.
So, while music fans and influencers were treated to a striking performance of Max Richter’s Sleep, they were also given the opportunity to do just that—sleep. And not by sitting back in a slightly uncomfortable folding chair in a concert hall, but on a cushy Beautyrest bed surrounded by 149 complete strangers.
Beautyrest talks about not just being a mattress company, but a sleep company. When they heard about Richter and his Sleep performance, it seemed like the perfect fit, with attendees immersing themselves into the eight-hour overnight Sleep experience.