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For Magazines at Sundance, Hosting Parties and Looking to Build Cache Even the Films Can't



By Dylan Stableford
01/21/2006

Film and music festivals; like this week's Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, and SXSW in Austin in March; present a myriad of opportunities for magazines to promote their brands. But does hosting a party for celebrities have any real impact in the bigger picture?

At Sundance; the perennially over-hyped gathering of celebrities, non-celebrities and paparazzi converging on a sleepy mountain town with, oh yeah, some film screenings;there will be the usual wall-to-wall lineup of magazine-hosted parties, with revelers photographed partying in front of the host's logo-backdrop, an advertiser's beverage presumably in hand.

Magazines have always been part of the Hollywood studio buzz-building machinery, but their presence at events such as Sundance has, in recent years, reached new levels of ubiquity.

This year is no exception. Dennis' Blender;in its third year at Sundance;is partnering with TAO Las Vegas for Blender Sessions at TAO Nightclub, a series of nightly music parties hosted by;speaking of ubiquitous;Paris Hilton and Wilmer Valderrama, among others. Absolut, Budweiser and Yahoo! are signed on as sponsors for series, which will also screen a pair of documentaries including "Fast Future Generation," about the band Good Charlotte, "complemented by the DJ wizardry of Good Charlotte brothers Benji and Joel Madden." "We changed our posture a little bit this year," says Blender publisher Lee Rosenbaum. "Last year, the party was packed with 1,800 people;a lot them of 'townies.' This year we wanted to up-brand it, make it more exclusive, so we may only have 700 a night, but it will be ground-zero for celebrities." (Rosenbaum declined to say what Blender is paying for the parties or their celebrity hosts, adding that "it's not an inexpensive proposition.")

'A Bit Over the Top' Filter, Los Angeles-based independent music magazine, is planning to take the Sundance marketing machinery to town;literally. As part of its presence at the festival, Filter will be distributing 20,000 copies of its Filter Mini issue and 18-song "film-inspired" CD sampler to Park City hotels and boutiques leading up to its own party, co-sponsored by ASCAP and Lexus at Star Bar on January 26. "We do it for branding," says Filter co-founder Alan Sartirana. "A lot of clients want a presence up there, to get their products in front of celebrities." Sartirana says Filter spends between $5,000 and $15,000 on the Sundance parties, though other magazines can spend up to $75,000 and beyond.

"Our parties tend to be comparatively low-key," he says. "Everything there seems to be overdone now; all of the storefronts turn into product placement booths for celebrities;it's a bit over the top." But judging by their press releases, publishers seem to revel in the celebrity of it all as much as the celebrities themselves. "Blender Sessions at TAO Nightclub will be the hottest place for Sundance celebrities to party away from the cold," read a press release announcing the Blender Sessions. "We look forward to leveraging the firepower of two premium brands."

"An event like this allows us to bring great new music to a very influential crowd in a variety of ways," co-publisher Alan Miller said in a press release announcing Filter's Sundance stay. "With the magazine, the sampler and our party, we'll be reaching this hip demographic where they sleep, where they shop and where they socialize."

But just because your magazine hosts a party with high-profile celebrities bursting at its seams doesn't always equal good press. "Vanity Fair decides that its pre-Golden Globes party is the new VF Oscar Party, particularly because Naomi Watts showed up without beau Liev Schreiber," read a recent post under the headline "Naomi Watts Makes 'VF' Party Quasi-Interesting" on snarky New York media blog Gawker. "Doesn't that TOTALLY make you want to go subscribe to the magazine?"

Links: www.festival.sundance.org/2006/

By Dylan Stableford
01/21/2006







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