In recent years the Tribeca Film Festival has differentiated itself from other film festivals to focus on inclusion and innovation. In 2018, 46 countries are represented at the festival with many official selections from female directors as well as female-centric ones, and those focused on activism.

On the innovation side, Tribeca has emphasized immersive film, gaming and virtual reality entertainment. But alongside all the films, brands have become a cornerstone of the festival’s messaging and occupy Tribeca’s pavilions and theaters in different capacities: engaging with attendees and audiences through various activations like panels, branded films or awards and interactive experiences.

Jeweler Bulgari kicks off the start of its three-year partnership by working with Tribeca Studios to create two short films premiering at the event, both about Italian women entering professions or interests that are historically dominated by men. The two films are Conducting a Revolution, a documentary about Conductor Speranza Scappucci, and The Litas, which follows three women motorcyclists.

Another new sponsor partner is Kia, which is showcasing its 2018 Kia Stinger as its entry into the luxury category. Attendees can step into the car and star in a 4.7 second video that can be shared on social media. Green screens are placed on the windows, creating the illusion of going 0-60 in 4.7 seconds, while “drivers” recite whatever dialogue they can fit into the time.

“The folks at Tribeca watched our brand grow and do some exciting things over the past few years, and they felt that our [brand] would a be a good fit for their audience,” Kimberley Gardiner, director of marketing communications at Kia Motors America, told AListDaily. “They were looking for an automotive partner, and we were looking to expand our footprint to the East Coast after some success at the Sundance Film Festival.”

Gardiner explained that Kia learned from Sundance that film festival attendees tend to be highly engaged and they appreciate experiences that get them behind the scenes with the creators of content.

“I look at marketing and advertising as a spectrum,” said Gardiner, “so there’s a need for us to create different messages in the marketplace. There’s a variety of different ways we like to invite people into our brand and learn about our products; everything from traditional advertising to social media, digital advertising and events like Tribeca where they can experience our cars are all being leveraged and utilized.

“We’re a small company with a small budget and big aspirations. So, we have to work with partners can get the sense of who we are, what we want to talk about, and what we want people to experience.”

Longstanding sponsors of the Tribeca Film Festival include AT&T, which has been collaborating with Tribeca on its Untold Stories project to feature underserved voices in film, including women and minorities. Nigerian Prince, the winner from 2017, is premiering at the festival, and this year’s winner Lucky Grandma, is expected to launch in 2019.

“AT&T Presents: Untold Stories is a celebration of diversity and inclusion in film. It gives an opportunity to the creative minds who need a platform to tell their unique stories,” said AT&T chief brand officer Fiona Carter. “We are honored once again to shine a light on brilliant filmmakers. Faraday Okoro’s winning film from last year, Nigerian Prince, is a testament to the unwavering power of this program.”

IBM is entering its third year as signature sponsor by hosting a Future of Film panel series that pairs filmmakers with technology experts to explore “the intersection of business and technology and new areas where the media and entertainment industry continues to innovate,” said Ray Oram, vice president of communications at IBM North America.

Oram explained that the Tribeca Film Festival connects IBM with audiences it might not normally reach through traditional channels, since the event also does programming around video game development and immersive entertainment such as virtual reality, which are big focuses for the company.

IBM takes a broad view of the attending audience, with the understanding that it’s a multidimensional group of people. Many come to the festival to see films and talk about entertainment, but there are also professionals from a wide range of disciplines, all with “a shared interest and passion for exploring new opportunities to change the way the world works,” which falls squarely into IBM’s market.

In terms of ROI, “[We measure returns] through some classic means, but it’s also about whether there are new partnerships being formed through the people that we meet,” Oram explained. “Each year builds upon itself, in that we sometimes form relationships as business partners. The broader view is not necessarily a classic marketing view. [As] we get more developers to recognize what they can do with our technology and services, there’s going to be longer term growth.”

Tribeca may not be the biggest festival around, but in aligning itself with like-minded brands that are willing to help create experiences for audiences it also furthers its mission of inclusive and innovative storytelling.

“Tribeca serves as a platform for our partners to tell deeper stories and develop exciting and interactive brand experiences,” said Tribeca Enterprises chief operating officer Pete Torres, “not just for the Tribeca community of industry and creators premiering work with us, but the general audiences that are culturally curious and make up a large part of our attendees.”