A kind word about Rob Ford

sxsw2015Let me say something good about Rob Ford.

Toronto’s most famous Chief Magistrate probably won’t be remembered for his October 2013 junket to Austin, Texas. A month later, he would admit that the rumours about him were true and suddenly nobody cared to write headlines about his plans to learn from Austin’s success as a global music and cultural hub.

Rob Ford, a champion of arts and culture? You gotta be kidding.

But yet there he was on the streets of Austin, shadowed by a knot of city councillors and music impresarios, including leaders of Toronto’s own NXNE festival, a child of Austin’s mammoth SXSW Conferences and Festivals. Before the trip was over, he and his Austin counterpart would sign a Music City Alliance meant to formalize the relationship between the two cities and to help bring some of Austin’s music smarts to Toronto. And in the two years since then, things have changed. The city has a Music Advisory Council, and a Music Sector Development Officer who is acting as a bridge between the music industry and the municipal bureaucracy. Toronto is still a long way from Austin, but it has inched a little bit closer.

Austin calls itself the Music Capital of the World, and one of its prized assets is SXSW, arguably the world’s largest music festival depending on how you choose to measure “large.” But SXSW isn’t just a music, arts and culture phenomenon. It’s also a sponsorship phenomenon. And the secret, or at least one of them, to its success is the careful integration of brands into the property.

If that sounds like a straightforward proposition, consider that SXSW hosts thousands of branded showcases and serves the needs of a family of super sponsors  each of whom makes a seven figure investment into the festival. Managing brand integration across that vast entertainment landscape is the ultimate responsibility of Scott McNearney, Sponsors Chief at SXSW, and the closing act of Sponsorship Toronto’s first day, Tuesday November 3. Scott will be speaking on what he knows better than anyone else on the planet: effective brand integration into entertainment events and how brands can get the most out of sponsorship while also adding value to the attendee experience.

And while he’s onstage, we’ll keep an eye out for any former city Mayors who may feel the urge to drop by.

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