SXSWi Offers Big Stage for B2B Brands

buddy-media-in-austin-airportWhat does a staircase at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport have in common with Promoted Tweets? Both platforms are being leveraged by B2B brands to create buzz for South by Southwest Interactive 2012.

JetBlue fliers heading to the Texas capital will see a cascading full-color ad for social media marketing services firm Buddy Media as they descend a stairwell in the airline’s terminal. And Twitter users trying to get a jump on festival news by searching “SXSW” or “SXSWi” this week are getting served a Promoted Tweet ad for Eloqua, also a marketing services firm.

The 18-year-old event (called “Multimedia Conference” before “Interactive”) can conjure the image of startups orchestrating guerrilla marketing campaigns, or bring to mind a tech-flashy affair where C-Level execs get coveted speaking slots. But the airport and Twitter ads underscore how the huge conference – a SXSW rep told ClickZ the event plans to eclipse last year’s 19,000 registered attendees – represents some fairly typical B2B trade show aims. Folks may chow on free Texas BBQ for lunch and drink complimentary cocktails at night, but they are still there to fortify existing customer relationships, create awareness among emerging companies and technologists, and perhaps even pencil in a new client or two.

“Some people tend to think of ‘South By’ as more of a [consumer-facing] event where the next big thing like Twitter gets launched,” Jesse Noyes, an Eloqua rep, told ClickZ on Tuesday. “But you have a lot of B2B brands setting up booths next to B2Cs. You’ll go to a panel and see the head of marketing for Adobe sitting next to Pepsi on stage. That’s what makes it great.”

Eloqua’s Twitter ad pushes a sweepstakes with numerous tech prizes. The firm is also tweeting to promote its SXSWi speakers and parties.

“Unlike other conferences, it’s where you can get in front of both up-and-coming and established players,” Noyes said. “You want to be in that.”

Marketers Take to Austin’s Streets

While keynotes and panels will light up the blogosphere during SXSWi (March 9-13), what happens outside Austin Convention Center’s halls may also prove compelling. And B2B firms will contribute to the conference’s carnival-like atmosphere.

For instance, Buddy Media reps will cruise the Austin streets in a “blinged-out” golf cart, according to the New York-based firm, while distributing free coffee and snacks and offering cash prizes. In an effort dubbed #CoffeeCashCart, they will encourage passersby to tweet the hash-tag and visit a Facebook tab for updates on where the golf cart is located.

And Shutterstock, an images service targeting SMBs, will hit the pavement nightly during SXSWi, offering show attendees the chance to snap a picture in its mobile photo booth. They will be able to share the pics with friends via Facebook, Twitter, and other social channels. Shutterstock has also hired five Texas-based photographers on its platform to take pictures throughout the event.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Huston

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