SXSW Cancellation: Quotes from Stan Richards Faculty

As we all know, the spread of coronavirus has resulted in the cancellation of SXSW, one of Austin’s biggest events of the year. While fans of the event and advertising professionals are, understandably, saddened that the event didn’t take place, they know that health and safety is top priority for everyone. However, there’s no escaping the fact that the cancellation will impact the city of Austin and, possibly, the SXSW brand. To get feedback on what the cancellation of SXSW means for the city, fans, and industry professionals, we at TXADPR spoke with a few Stan Richards faculty members. 

JoAnn Sciarrino, Director and Isabella Cunningham Chair in Advertising in the Stan Richards School of Advertising & Public Relations: 

How will the SXSW cancellation affect the city as a whole and how do you see this impacting the SXSW brand?

Overall for the city, of course, the economic impact will be great. I have seen upwards of a $400M impact on the city, so that is going to be significant. As far as the SXSW brand I do not see this cancellation as having a negative impact on the brand. Far worse would be the other scenario, which would be holding SXSW and then having an outbreak as a result of that. For example, we’ve seen up in Massachusetts at the Biogen conference at the Marriott there were over 700 participants and, as a result, there are a number of cases stemming from that. It obviously violates what we already know and have been told by the CDC and the WHO regarding social distances and avoiding large gatherings. 

So, I don't think it will have a negative impact on the SXSW brand. SXSW is not the kind of thing that can be postponed like Coachella. SXSW can’t be postponed feasibly because there are too many moving parts. It's unfortunate and I feel for those individuals that had a big economic commitment and companies that put down deposits, but it really is the right thing to do.

James Dalthrop, Lecturing Professor, Moody College of Communication

What’s your take on cancelling SXSW as a whole (city, brands,etc.)? 

Clearly, when you have to cancel any event the timing is never good whether it’s a month ahead of time or a week ahead of time. Under the circumstances, it seems like they have done the right thing.

How do you see the cancellation impacting brands looking to do different activations?

I'm a little cynical about a lot of the marketing during SXSW for brands, personally. It seems to me a lot of these brands spend a lot of money to talk to people that may or may not be their core audience. When you're in a sponsorship scenario like SXSW, brands seem to neutralize each other in some way. No one brand steals the show.

What will you miss about SXSW?

My friends at GSD&M always had a social party on Monday night because it was a chance for me to catch up with friends in the business I haven’t seen or talked to in a while.

Dr.  Gary Wilcox, John A. Beck Centennial Professor

How do you feel about the decision to cancel SXSW in response to the coronavirus?

It is a wise move given the nature of the problem we are dealing with right now.

Sean LaBounty- Assistant Professor of Practice, Moody College of Communication

How do you feel about the decision to cancel SXSW in response to the coronavirus?

I think it's the right thing to do and [I’m] proud of the response from the entire country, not just Austin, to sacrifice the economy for safety, but obviously I hate the impact it will have on Austin local businesses. However, right now we have to think long term during times like these.

Reece White
Jack Eltife