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National Geographic Brings Global Leadership in Storytelling to SXSW: Brand delivers standing-room-only sessions as well as ‘premier festival destination’ with Further Base Camp

National Geographic’s presence at Austin’s annual South By Southwest (SXSW) film, media, and music festival was a hub of activity, featuring keynote addresses, sessions, and events with Nat Geo talent.


National Geographic Society President and CEO Gary E. Knell returned from last week’s South by Southwest (SXSW) activities in Austin, Texas with nothing but glowing remarks, calling the experience “a fantastic few days.”

“[SXSW] proved once again that we are global leaders in storytelling, and our amazing Explorers continue to inspire others to take action,” said Knell in a statement to staff following the festival.

National Geographic’s participation in this year’s festival included a keynote address by photographer Cory Richards, a session on the changing face of entrepreneurship featuring National Geographic Society Board of Trustees chairman Jean Case, and events with Nat Geo talent Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ron Howard, Sebastian Junger and David Guttenfelder. Further Base Camp– featuring an augmented reality station, a replica of Albert Einstein’s iconic chalkboard, and much more – was wildly popular, drawing crowds lined up down the block just to get inside.

The Further Base Camp activation included a “Genius” chalkboard that allowed users to tweet a headshot of themselves, which was then turned into a chalk portrait made of squiggles and mathematical equations and delivered to them via Twitter; a video shoot allowed users to appear in their very own Nat Geo brand spot; a virtual reality experience showed Einstein’s theories; and more. In addition to National Geographic photographers and Explorers, Further Base Camp programming featured producer and author Brian Grazer, cast members from HBO’s popular show VEEP, comedians, a cyborg, DJs, and live bands. The space itself offered Wifi and free drinks.

National Geographic’s storytelling, though, is what set the brand apart at SXSW, Knell said. Knell moderated a panel which featured National Geographic Explorers Erika Bergman, Albert Lin, and Topher White, and focused on taking risks, being bold, and “failing forward” to change the world through technology for good. Attendance at the panel reached maximum capacity for the space, and the broadcast via Facebook Live (which you can check out here) received 24,000 views.

Knell did an interview with SXSW/Popular Science/XPRIZE about technology and the National Geographic brand that will be edited into an upcoming online series. He also participated in a Facebook Live event with the Newseum about the First Amendment and science journalism (watch it here).

National Geographic’s Explorers, too, made a great impact at the festival. Erika Bergman represented Nat Geo at SXSW at several different events, including a Nerd Nite presentation and a presentation at Further Base Camp. Albert Lin spoke candidly about losing part of his leg last year, showed an intense trailer for a potential, future National Geographic show about technology and the human body, and appeared in a brand spot video with National Geographic Partners. Topher White debuted an app at Further Base Camp that allows users to tune in and hear the sounds of the Amazon in real time.

National Geographic’s presence at this year’s SXSW festival was overwhelmingly well-received, and the brand created significant buzz through both programming and the Further Base Camp activation.

In the same statement to staff, Knell called National Geographic “the talk of the town” at SXSW. “I’m proud of everyone across National Geographic who came together to deliver a unified, buzz-worthy representation of our brand at this powerful event.”

About National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 14,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit or follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.