SXSW looks to entice audiences through new sports venue

Brigit Benestante

South By Southwest programmers are attempting to score by introducing a new twist to the SXSW 2014 lineup. Holders of interactive, film, gold or platinum badges will be able to partake in a new event — SXsports. Running March 7-9, SXsports will converge between the Interactive and Film festivals by holding panels on sports-related issues and topics as well as screening sports-related films.  

Rebecca Feferman, head of media relations for film and a programmer for SXSW, spearheaded SXsports. According to Feferman, SXSW has had sports-related programming for a number of years.

“Following last year we identified that [sports] was a natural growth spot,” Feferman said. “We essentially found the opportunity to expand it, repackage it and rebrand it.”

Andrew McNeill was also a part of the small team that made SXsports possible. He said the idea came about from both his and Feferman’s personal interest in sports and the indication that sports was a popular topic in past festivals. 

“We came together with this idea,” McNeill said. “[Feferman] then ran with it and gave this thing its shape.”

When the program was announced, according to Feferman, major companies and sports brands got on board to sponsor. 

SXsports, held over three days, will feature sports personalities, doctors and athletes. Some of the most well-known attendees include wrestler John Cena, film producer Peter Guber and sports writer Bill Simmons. Sessions such as “Drones in Sports: The Sky’s the Limit” and “Talking the Talk: Sports Lingo in Pop Culture” will be available to attendees. 

“We’re really happy with the broad range of topics we’ve covered,” McNeill said. “We’ve done a good job covering bases.”

For attendees who are not big fans of sports, Feferman and McNeill said the program is still enticing. 

“There is a lot of influence of sports on culture that people don’t realize,” Feferman said. “Sports can affect people universally and be unifying.”  

SXsports booked a number of panels that focus on the implications, issues and future of sports. Prevalent issues will be addressed in sessions like “Heads Up: Concussions in Sports” and “Allyship: Becoming a Champion for Inclusion,” which addresses the LGBTQ community involvement in sports. Feferman said the program is focused on what sports do to culture. 

“We really want to be focused on the future of sports,” Feferman said. 

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