The Hefty Costs of SXSW Marketing

Digiday is at SXSW giving you the latest industry news out of the festival at Austin, Texas. More from the series →

SXSW is known for many things. A big one is the eye-popping marketing initiatives.

A big difference this year from years past is the dearth of startups doing splash (and expensive) initiatives. The reason is simple: Some of the world’s biggest brands now come here. Their budgets overwhelm startups. After all, how can a startup compete with American Express, which brought  Jay-Z to do a full concert last year?

“You need a ton of money,” said a marketing provider. “You have to impress everyone like nobody’s business.”

With that in mind, we ran the numbers for some popular efforts.

Branded food truck: $2,000 per day, five days = $10,000. But the costs are just getting started. Add in signage, permits, food and labor: $60,000.

Rebranded restaurant: Some heavy hitters will take over entire restaurants for the week. There was a CNN Grill last year, for instance. This is not a cheap option. It will likely run you about $750,000.

Big party: Let’s say you want to throw a bash for 500 people. That will run you $40,000. But you’ll need to get people to come. That means a hot band or a DJ like Girl Talk. You could be looking at another $100,000.

Branded Pedicabs: Getting around town is a mess. Pedicabs do a brisk business. This is going to be more expensive than you think. Our source pegs the cost reaching $175,000.

Hotel door hangers: $700 -$3,700 depending on hotel.

SXSW beverage napkins: $5,200 for 4,000

Hotel shuttles: $25,000

Street team: Walking around Austin during SXSW is walking a gauntlet of aggressive street marketing. You’d think this wouldn’t cost much. Ah, but it does. You’ll need captains, t-shirts and other material. Over the course of a week, the bills add up. Expect to spend $75,000 for a team of 10 to blanket the area.

Jay-Z concert: “He doesn’t walk in the door for less than $2 million,” our source said.

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