I’ve been spending the week in Park City, Utah — skiing and attending the Sundance Film Festival. Yes, I know, it’s been a tough gig, but as a vacation, it ranks right up there with diving in Belize and hiking to the remote city of Lo Manthang, Nepal.
Being new to Park City, we had no idea how to get around, find the different theaters, get access to the freebies or rub elbows with the stars, but the team at Sundance had many of these challenges covered. That’s the good news. The bad news is there were a lot of knowledge gaps among the various Sundance volunteers, disconnects between their printed materials, Twitter feeds and their custom app, and a general feeling that we were walking up and down streets missing out on opportunities to have fun.
We had been advised not to rent a vehicle, and that was excellent advice. The traffic was crazy and parking was not only at a minimum, but seemed to cost upwards of $40 a day. There is a free bus system in Park City that should be adopted by cities around the globe. It not only encourages riders to keep vehicles off the streets, but was set to stop on a schedule of “X” past the hour and half hour (posted on each bus stop sign), which was easy to understand. Bus drivers knew the answers to a myriad of questions and kept their cool despite a packed house.
Planning an outing was a bit more frustrating. The printed guide to the Film Festival often referred to their Twitter handle or app for current updates on music performances, free VR screenings and live events. Yet, the Twitter feed was often handled by a guest tweeter who provided very little information on anything other than their personal experience. To get a list of live music one night, we resorted to walking the main drag and asking people in line who they were going to see.
Finding some of the sponsors’ venues proved even more difficult. There was a Stella Artois tent that we never found, despite asking dozens of Sundance volunteers who all looked at us blankly. We eventually found the Canada Goose tent, but with 5 minutes to closing, we had little time to enjoy our beverage and enter the contest for a free Canada Goose down jacket (which I really, really wanted to win).
There was a Chase Sapphire Center with lots of free and fun stuff going on, and had we known well in advance that it existed and was open to cardholders, I and my five traveling companions agreed we would have all applied for and used a Chase Sapphire card. Talk about a missed marketing opportunity!
I asked my non-marketing friends how they thought Chase might have found them prior to our arrival, in order to market to them. There was a general agreement that since we had purchased Sundance tickets several months ago, Sundance should have shared our contact information with Chase, Stella and any other sponsor to enable them to promote and push the benefits of engaging with their brand in Park City. I asked our vacation organizer if she had received an email or e-newsletter in advance about some of the event opportunities with sponsors, she said if she did, she totally ignored or deleted it, but didn’t even remember if she received anything. However, she said if the subject line had been something like “Enjoy These Freebies at Sundance” she would have definitely opened and clicked.
The skiing experience at Park City has been phenomenal … even with 5”11” a day of fresh powder (yes!). But the best part was the trail map that was attached to the chairlift bar on each lift. Some enterprising organization figured out how to attach a 5” x 30” trail map to the bar and sell ad space on it. Volkswagen had purchased the space and was promoting their All-Track 4Wheel Drive — a smart choice given the streets were constantly covered in snow.
All-in-all, the week was a successful one having skied multiple days, attended multiple film screenings, rubbed elbows with Kevin Bacon (I’m now one degree of separation!) and Chelsea Handler, and danced with Michael Franti and Spearhead. If only we had easy access to more sponsor event information, we would have actually packed in a little more … and shown some brand loyalty.