Nov 30, 2009 at 02:02 PM
written by Christopher Ryan

Partnership Marketing with Park City Film Week

There is something so enticing about having your brand in Park City during the film festival week—the influencer crowd; the throngs of reporters; supporting filmmakers and of course the celebrities that visit during the festival.

I remember attending my first film festival related party in 1995 as an intern for the Utah Film Commission. The party for a small film called “Plan 10 From Outer Space” had no corporate underwriters other than the film producers. There was no branding inside the venue which was a restaurant at the Park City Mountain Resort.

Since then, plenty has changed in how event marketing happens at the festival. These days, official sponsorships as well as unofficial events like private cast dinners, multi-day branded event spaces and gifting lounges are the mainstay of event marketing during the festival.

Official vs. Non-Official

The multiple film festivals that happen during this week run an impressive sponsorship programs that provides many benefits including tickets for screenings, branding before screenings as well as the knowledge that you are officially supporting that film festival. For large brands with big budgets, this is the first place you should start in your research.

One of the film festivals that happen this week is the Slamdance Film Festival. Alexandra Schwab, Director of Sponsorship and Marketing, tells us: “our festival is focused on building a filmmaker community, we take that same approach with our sponsors, and encourage our partners to collaborate on events and awards together as well as ensure each sponsor has direct opportunities to interact with our audience.”

“As opposed to concrete sponsor levels, we tailor all benefits to a sponsor’s budget and promotional goals.“

Beyond the sponsorship fee, you will have to pay for any onsite activation of that sponsorship.

For example, when Volkswagen was a sponsor of one of the film festivals, they expanded their presence by having a tent on Main Street where anyone could come up and get a free t-shirt, microwave popcorn or a cup of hot soup. At the same time, they had set up an off-road course about 2 miles from downtown Park City where celebrities and media could drive one of their 4-wheel drive vehicles and the press covered it.

Not every brand has the kind of money to make a large investment.

This has lead to the rise of non-official independent event sponsorship opportunities. Almost all of the sponsorship proposals you receive related to presence during this week refer to these types of opportunities.

Legal vs. Illegal

Around nine years ago, things changed for parties during film festival week. Brands started to rent large houses in places like Deer Valley to host private dinners and parties. I remember attending the Motorola/Universal house which was located in lower Deer Valley just outside of downtown Park City. It was a nightmare to get even close to the house as cars were backed up trying to find parking. We were smart and took a cab. Of course, we weren’t on the list, but a few phone calls and someone came to the door and told the very cold door person, “Those three are in.” Levis did their own branded house for many years which hosted multiple parties and dressed celebrities in their high-end designer jeans.

The great thing about these events was that the costs of producing them were pretty low. Everyone seemed to enjoy these branded house parties.

Well almost everyone.

The neighbors to these large houses in Park City weren’t too happy about having to deal with noise and traffic. So they had the city council pass an ordinance that made it pretty much against the law to host big commercial parties in houses or condos.

At this point, events started to make their way down into commercial spaces on Park City’s quaint Main Street. This also caused the cost of producing these events to rise astronomically. In the heyday of the economic boom, the costs of renting out spaces on Main Street tripled due to large brands coming in and starting bidding wars on premium commercial spaces.

Then there were the middlemen. These people usually went up and down Park City’s Main Street each summer getting commercial building owners to let them exclusively represent their space to potential brands and event producers. They then doubled the price that the owners wanted in hopes of getting a large percentage of the final rental price.

When considering a sponsorship proposal, you should be wary of the ones that are operating outside of Park City’s rules and regulations. In the past, those events have been shut down by the police department because of noise complaints or operating a commercial enterprise in a residential area. This left the sponsors high and dry. Generally, if the event is in a commercial space, you will be alright. Main Street has become the preferred location for events.

So many choices

As a brand, you will have a lot to choose from in what to sponsor. These fall into a few major categories.

Gifting Lounges are generally the least expensive of all the choices. These lounges pop up in store fronts and hotels where the brand gets to set up a display on a 4 foot draped table. The event producer wrangles celebrities, film VIPs and press who you gift with your product. The idea here is when you seed your product to the celebrity that there is an implied endorsement. Many lounges have a house photographer to take pictures of the celebrity engaged with your product. These can be useful as news items on your company’s website, internal employee newsletters and for your sales team to use on their sales calls. Your public relations firm can also pitch interesting celebrity photos to the weekly lifestyle magazines, popular gossip blogs and newspapers.

There are some things for you to consider. Some event producers aren’t really that good at wrangling in celebrities. You should research on Getty Images or Wire Image any evidence that they can deliver. Some event producers don’t really get any press attention for their lounge. Again, a simple search on Google or Lexus/Nexus can find many of the past media impressions for the lounge. Branded Lounges host many of the post-screening film premiere parties and cocktail parties and can last from 3 to 10 days long. Many will also provide a daytime hospitality lounge where celebrities, VIPs and press can just hang out and enjoy some food, cocktails and learn about their sponsors. Some of these spaces offer spa services like facials, hair styling and massages. A lot of these events measure media impressions in the hundreds of millions.

Some of these spaces also act as media centers where entertainment news television shows interview celebrities and photo agencies set up photography studios. They might event host film junkets and press conferences. This helps in the getting celebrities and press into the venue. In the past, the branded spaces would charge the film company a fee to host a party to cover the cost of alcohol and food. Today, many of these spaces provide a free party for celebrity heavy films paid for by the sponsors. This ensures that the media will cover their event space.

As a brand, the one thing to look for here is history. The best event producers who do these types of spaces in Park City have been doing them for multiple years. They have the relationships and experience to make sponsors happy with events that attract press and celebrities.

Be wary of event producers who have no history in producing events during film festival week. Many a brand has been burned by shady event producers who are looking to make a quick buck and not deliver on what they promised the brand.

In factoring costs, remember that these events will cover multiple days. A sponsorship that costs $50,000 may seem pricy. But consider that cost divided by the number of days the event lasts and you’ll see that per day costs are pretty reasonable.

An off-shoot of these branded entertainment platforms are cast dinner series. These are much more intimate affairs that feature the cast from a film in a 50 – 100 person private dinner. These events are covered by the press and seats in these dinners are the most coveted. Cast dinners allow your brand to develop a more intimate relationship with the celebrities, VIPs and media in attendance. You might consider flying up your best customers to attend one of the dinners or parties with you. As part of your sponsorship, the number of guests you can bring with you can be a good negotiating point. You should also negotiate a package that includes your logo on the red carpet backdrop.

Other Costs

You need to factor in the cost of airfare, staff, shipping and housing.

Delta Airlines and Southwest have some very good air fares to Salt Lake City.

Your biggest cost will be that of housing. You don’t need to bring a large staff to the festival as many events are turn-key with the event producer taking care of onsite build-out and much of the staffing.

The week of the festival, the rental rates for condos, houses and hotel rooms triple. With the limited inventory for rooms, Park City generally has an 85% – 95% occupancy rate during the festival. Consider staying in Park City and not anything outside of 2 miles from Main Street. Traffic is a major hassle in Park City.

Parking is also at a premium downtown. The city sells very expensive parking passes for the city lots during the festival. Most film festival visitors skip the car rental and take a shuttle from the airport. Then take cabs to get from destination to destination. There is also a very popular free shuttle bus system that goes from Main Street to all the venues and many of the hotel and condo buildings.

You will need to have a budget for shipping as products, signage and other essentials will have to be delivered. All the major delivery companies ship to and from Park City.

You also might want to hire a lifestyle public relations firm with direct experience in promoting brands in Park City during this week. These are usually two or three month retainer agreements.

In conclusion, analyze your sponsorship proposals and make the best decisions based upon the history of the event and what you will get for your dollars.

Christopher Ryan is the owner of Oceanside Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based firm that matches brands with major entertainment events, feature film premieres and celebrity seeding opportunities. For more information on opportunities during film festival week, please contact Christopher Ryan at This article is reprinted with permission from Christopher Ryan. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of the publisher, SponsorPitch, LLC.