The Sundance Film Festival has in ways grown far beyond what Robert Redford ever intended when the Sundance Institute assumed control over the U.S. Film Festival in 1985. People who remember it from its early days speak wistfully of the intimacy it possessed, and then sigh as hordes of attendees squeeze past them on Main Street, in Park City.
Today, instead of two theaters screening films, there are nine, and the festival attracts 50,000 people to Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, spurring opportunities for a variety of businesses. As a pop up media hub, celebrities and media outlets attract each other to the festival's center, Park City, which has created opportunities for inventive marketers.
In a crowded global media environment, where even the value of marketing staples like television advertising can be questioned, the eyeballs attracted to celebrity activity are still coveted, and now augmented by social media. Celebrity gifting is not a new practice -- a brand gives a movie star a watch, let's say, or installs a beer tap in their bar at home, and then drops the item in a gossip page, photo spread, or hopes it gets mentioned appreciatively. Access to these tastemakers, as they're called, is still not necessarily easy to come by, so a variety of by-invitation suites pop up at Sundance every year to give celebrities hands on experience of their products. And make no mistake, they come.
Surrounded by it all, the practice struck me as interesting so I went to talk to a few of those involved.
Talent Resources is a company which has run a multi-brand lounge at Sundance ("TR Suites") for six years. Sunrider International is a family run global wellness brand which was one of the sponsors of the ChefDance space on Main Street, out of which I was conducting filmmaker and cast interviews during the day. I spoke to Talent Resources CEO Michael Heller, and Sunrider VP of International Operations, Sunny Chen, about the opportunities they saw for their businesses at Sundance this year.