Madison + Vine: Marketers embark on Sundance pilgrimage

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Even as it is increasingly targeted by critics for creeping commercialism, this year's Sundance Film Festival will feature more brand sponsors and tie-ins than ever before.

Dozens of marketers will once again flock to Park City, Utah, to schmooze with the independent film community and the Hollywood A-listers who will gather for 10 days starting this week. But with so many brands at the festival, it will be tough to stand out amid the clutter.

Official sponsors include Volkswagen of America, Entertainment Weekly, Hewlett-Packard Co., American Express, Cingular Wireless, Delta Air Lines, DirecTV, Intel, the Sundance Channel, Aquafina, Adobe Systems and Moviefone.

A fleet from GM

Additionally, everyone from Levi's to Fred Segal, Turning Leaf wine and even Mars' Cesar pet food will blanket the town with signage, product, parties and displays. Video-game companies including Midway, Activision, Nintendo and Ubisoft will host or sponsor lodges. And Amazon.com will co-host a party to showcase the short films it produced for its Web site. Yahoo, one of a few novices, will set up an Internet cafe.

General Motors Corp. will, for the third year, dispatch a fleet of Cadillac Escalades and GMC Yukons to ferry celebrities. GM sees Sundance as a way to get "influencers to consider our product," said Mike Jackson, GM's general manager for the Western region.

Brand reps understand that they could get lost in the Sundance shuffle.

"Brands have to take a hard look-does it make sense to the audience attending, do they understand why the marketer is there?" said David Pinsky, director-entertainment marketing at Motorola, which is hosting a lodge for attendees.

Marketers like Nintendo, Converse and Kiehl's have brand reps at the lodge to talk to A-listers.

contributing: marc graser

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