Brand Storytelling Returns to Live Events with Elevate 2022
Jordan P. Kelley, Content Director, Brand Storytelling
After a two-and-a-half-year hiatus, Brand Storytelling marked its return to live events the week of July 10, 2022, with ELEVATE - which took place at Sundance Mountain Resort in Sundance, Utah. The live event welcomed brand storytelling community members old and new for several days of inspiration, ideation, and conversation around the business and craft of non-interruptive advertising and entertainment, looking back at past successes in the space and forward at what the future holds.
ELEVATE: the summer retreat for brand storytellers and their partners brought together 130 of the nation’s best marketers, leaders, decision makers, and creatives from over 50 brands, agencies, and media companies. The group found inspiration in presentations from experts in their chosen fields. Creative showcases captivated audiences, demonstrating innovative examples of branded entertainment, and introducing audiences to new creators and mediums. Guests then took part in a series of workshops, curated over many months to meet the needs of attendees with a broad spectrum of questions and interests in the brand storytelling space. In the spirit of balance, morning sessions and workshops gave way to afternoon activities, giving attendees the opportunity to better get to know one another and to make the most of Sundance’s beautiful natural offerings.
“People have not been able to gather for two and a half years within our community,” said Brand Storytelling Founder and Director Rick Parkhill. “We’ve made a lot of new friends in that time through virtual meet ups – over half the people at this event are first time brand storytelling attendee and includes far more brands than we had just two and a half years ago.” Parkhill attributed the easy mix of old attendees and new to the pre-event effort to have everyone connect with one another on zoom. “Now they’re seeing each other in person, in real life, and they couldn’t be more excited.”
The program kicked off Monday night with a beautiful welcome reception amidst the natural setting of the Sundance Resort grounds, made possible by event partner Univision. Attendees rose bright and early the following day, receiving an injection of energy as the morning began with an abridged screening from the academy-award winning team at WeTransfer of the film Blackalacia, a sweeping musical and visual experience created by burgeoning artist Moses Sumney. Next, Meagan Loyst, invester at Lerer Hippeau and Founder of Gen Z VC’s, schooled the predominantly millennial and baby boomer audience on the value of capturing her generation’s attention. Agency founder and recent author of Wall Street Journal Best Seller ‘Exponential’ Jeff Rosenblum coached the audience on how to make consumers brand evangelists, followed by a presentation from YouTube on the power of short form content, featuring top-tier creators Jake Ceja and Sheena Melwani.
This year’s event introduced a new element – Elevate Workshops. The workshops, curated over a period of several months prior to the event with partners Story + Strategy, addressed the core needs of today’s brand storytellers. Workshops dove into topics like TikTok for brands, building modern teams, content distribution, the face of content in a post-pandemic world, DE&I, exploring the metaverse, and more. Attendees were encouraged to select workshops most relevant to themselves, their organizations, and their needs. Workshops were led by industry professionals with deep interest and knowledge in their chosen subjects.
After a stunning outdoor lunch presented by partner BEN, the group of brand storytellers took to the mountain, engaging in a range of activities including hiking, biking, horseback riding, zip lining, and arts and crafts. With the sun coming down behind the mountains, the group reconvened for a Creekside dinner made possible by event partner Shutterstock. Passion Point Collective’s Marcus Peterzell capped off the night with a panel introducing the audience to up-and-coming Nashville band Boy Named Banjo, who ended the evening with a rousing performance of their original music.
Wednesday’s morning sessions tugged the heartstrings and deeply inspired, with a presentation and screening from academy-award winner Ben Proudfoot, showcasing footage from his brand film The Untold Story of UNICEF. Sydnye White, Senior Director of Content and Storytelling at Special Olympics also moved the audience with a screening of the short documentary film A Special Olympics Story: Chris Nikic. Emotion gave way to action items with presentations from Traverse 32 on the connection between content and commerce and Insider on the benefits of inter-brand cooperative storytelling. A second day of workshops and activities followed, ending with a gorgeous dinner in the exclusive Sundance Resort Tree Room, followed by drinks at the infamous Owl Bar, once frequented by the real Butch Cassidy himself.
Brand Storytelling’s return to live events was met with top-quality participation and reverence for the unique environment created by Brand Storytelling and its community. “It’s wonderful to be back at events,” said Global Chief Marketing Officer of Toys”R”Us and President of Toys”R”Us Studios Kimberly Miller Olko. “This event is so much more intimate than other events because it’s focused on people as people - the difference that makes in the value of communication is enormous.” The CMO went on to touch on one of Elevate’s greatest defining qualities as an event for brand storytellers and their partners. “Yes its business, but it’s human first – we’re dealing with each other on a level that is collaborative and helpful. Here it feels natural to put down your guard and solve for pain points as a community. It’s a softer, wonderful approach to live events.”