How to Pitch Brands at SXSW as a Startup
SXSW Interactive is evolving from a breakout accelerator for consumer startups to a forum where startups come to pitch brands. Here are MobileFOMO’s best practices for pitching brands at SXSW.
The first step to get into formal pitch events is apply and prepare. The many of the largest brands such as Mondelez and Pepsi have innovation program applications that begin long before SXSW. Ask your hometown startup accelerators and any local brand ambassadors if they know of any brand pitch events happening at SXSW. Agencies are often the hosting organizations that want to bring the latest ideas to brands they represent, so don’t leave them off your contact list. Once accepted, mark your calendars and show up to your panel ready to deliver on your promises and preparation.
Say You’re Going to SXSW
While there may be a dozen or so official startup focused pitch events at SXSW, let every connection know in the weeks leading up to SXSW that you will be there. Outside of the formal pitch setting, there are hundreds of brand marketing teams on hand at Austin over SXSW Interactive and let them know you’re willing to meet up. Even meeting over an afternoon drink or morning coffee can get you in front of otherwise unobtainable brand CMOs.
Know Your Pitch
SXSW is now the noisiest place for startups to launch, so have your numbers and pitch down. The most important aspect is the bar pitch where you’ll most likely run into an influential brand representative at a rooftop party where you’ll have to convey your story over the DJ. The strongest pitch is a prototype if you can show them quickly on your mobile phone. The serendipity of SXSW happens by going to the parties and meeting randomly wonderful people from around the country.
After a full week of parties and panels, don’t risk letting all the follow up fall by the wayside. Document your experience at SXSW through video, social media, blog posts, and LinkedIn. The CMO you met at SXSW has probably lost your business card by now, but having a video takeaway of your startup that she can remember and share to explain your offering to the rest of her team makes all the difference. Many of the formal brands event will have videographers on hand to help document the pitches for their internal teams. You’ll also see many journalist at SXSW so don’t be shy to share your story on camera to help form their news segment or latest blog post.
Lastly, don’t let SXSW only be about pitching and promoting your startup. Make time to meet genuinely interesting people outside your area of expertise to have a meaningful SXSW experience. SXSW didn’t used to a brand pitch festival and it doesn’t have to be solely that today either, find the right balance to have a memorable March in Austin.