Texas A&M had a presence in three locations for the South by Southwest festival this year — at The Clive hotel, the Courtyard Marriott and in the exhibit trade show in the convention center.
Texas A&M officials said the university’s second year at the South by Southwest festival in Austin succeeded in improving upon its inaugural outing while also providing a fun, interactive way for people to experience what Aggies have to offer.
Amy Smith, senior vice president and chief marketing and communications officer for A&M, said as a "powerful channel to reach millions in our backyard," she believe’s A&M’s participation in the festival is a "no-brainer" and that there is "more to come in demonstrating at how Texas A&M leads by example."
"The world is hungry for best-class, smart employees and citizens of substance," she said in an emailed statement. "That was true 141 years ago when we began and will be the case in another 141 years from now. What’s different is making sure we’re constantly leveraging technology and innovation for delivering the story of who we are in new and impactful ways."
Texas A&M had a presence in three locations for the festival this year — at The Clive hotel, the Courtyard Marriott and in the exhibit trade show in the convention center.
Smith said the specific locations were selected to optimize the university’s presence using crowd traffic data to determine the most effective spots. Instead of staying at the festival for six days like last year, Smith said the university chose to focus this year on having a "strong presence over three days."
On March 11 and Monday, A&M and partner ’47 brand hosted entertainment — including live music, barbecue, a photo booth and live art — in The Clive hotel, an experience dubbed the "Discovery House." Visitors had the opportunity to get "passports" stamped in the hotel by visiting different areas of the university’s event. By collecting all of the stamps, attendees were rewarded with free co-branded A&M and ’47 brand T-shirts and hats.
At the Courtyard Marriott, the university had five hour-long panels Tuesday on topics including the intersection of human rights and technology, the science of barbecue, artificial intelligence, the future of health care and the recovery work being done in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. In between the panels, attendees of the "Discovery Lounge" also had a chance to speak with Aggie astronauts, watch two murals be painted live as part of a design competition and more.
The student group with the mural design to receive the most votes from attendees was awarded $3,500 from PepsiCo, and the other team received $2,500.
A&M Vice President of Brand Development Shane Hinkley said in an emailed statement that no tuition or state funding was used to pay for university’s offerings at SXSW. Instead, he said partners like ’47 Brand, PepsiCo and Lifewater helped to pay for the events and locations, with royalty revenue from the university licensing program covering the remaining expenses.
Hinkley said the partnership model "ensures that we can maximize our state funds towards the research and teaching mission of the school."
"Texas A&M leads the way in higher education with this new brand experience model, and we are excited for future opportunities in which we can share the great impact Texas A&M has on the state, nation and world," he said.
Hinkley said there were nearly 5,000 visitors to the Discovery House over the two days, allowing the university to "bring awareness and attention to our land, sea and space grant mission at Texas A&M" for those who may not have ever interacted with the university before.
"The Discovery House served as Texas A&M’s beacon at SXSW to let people know we were there," he said. "It was the outwardly visible brand statement on Rainey Street that had many people asking ‘This is so cool. What are you doing here?’… We were able to tell our global impact story in a fun and entertaining way that led to more discussions about the Tuesday programming and discovery lounge at the Marriott as well as the exhibit booth in the trade show."
Smith said the panels hosted in the Discovery Lounge on Tuesday were able to showcase some of the expertise and exciting work being done at the university, such as the Engineering Medicine program which, in partnership with Houston Methodist Hospital, will train medical students to also develop engineering and entrepreneurial skills.
She added that the university also selected panelists with intentionally divergent political perspectives — including Ambassador John Bolton and Union for Reform Judaism Senior Adviser for Policy and Strategy Rabbi David Saperstein, and Democratic State Sen. John Whitmire and Republican State Rep. Geanie Morrison, respectively — with the hopes of fostering constructive discussions on state, national and international problems.
Texas A&M ready for second year at SXSW