Coachella 2017: Key Brand Initiatives
The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in the Southern California desert remains a serious showcasing opportunity for brands. The annual event attracts 125,000 ticketed visitors for each of two weekends (April 14-16 and 21-23), plus numerous revellers at unaffiliated satellite events.
Prime territory for millennial-hunting with a style-conscious edge, we highlight 2017’s most notable initiatives, covering fashion, fitness, hospitality and tech.
Hotel Takeovers: Brand-Hosted Retreats
Several marketers commandeered nearby hotels, both competing with and complementing the sold-out main event – affording unofficial sponsors and ticketless fans a slice of the Coachella vibe.
- Brand Turns Broadcaster: Promoting the launch of its Threadborne Shift shoe, American activewear brand Under Armour sponsored a mini music festival, organised by men’s streetwear e-magazine/store Hypebeast. Held at the V hotel in Palm Springs (temporarily renamed the Hypebeast Hotel), adding extra contextual cultural relevance it also hosted Hypebeast Radio – a debut live podcast series exploring the intersection of music and fashion. See also Retail’s Brand Broadcasters.
- Streetwear x Soft Drink Showcase: PepsiCo’s soft drink brand Mountain Dew hosted a Label Motel ‘happening’ at Palm Springs’ Musicland hotel each afternoon. It included a set by DJ/fashion designer Virgil Abloh – founder of cult streetwear brand Off-White, a car-park concert, and virtual reality concept Dew VR Beat Drop. Visitors wear VR headsets to be virtually transported to a party on a plane, leaping out among skydivers (see also Virtual Immersive Commerce). NY streetwear boutique Vfiles also launched a capsule collection in collaboration with Mountain Dew.
- Festival Wellness: Official sponsor American Express hosted Platinum cardholders and their guests at the Parker Palm Springs hotel from 11am to 5pm daily, offering SoulCycle classes.
- Portfolio Tasters: Promoting selected brands in its hotel portfolio throughout Coachella’s second weekend, Marriott is installing eight “safari” tents near festival grounds, with décor emulating rooms within the highlighted lodgings. The glam campsite will include concierge services and air-conditioning, access to special viewing areas, and shuttles between the stages. Seven tents were auctioned online to Starwood and Marriott brand loyalty programme members – the eighth was a sweepstake prize for Marriott loyalty members. See also Retail x Hospitality 2017.
Trading on Festival Trends
Several brands traded on Coachella’s reputation as a beacon for fashionistas.
- Poolside Fashion: Over the first weekend, UK fashion retailers Topshop and Topman appropriated the Korakia hotel in Palm Springs (about 40 minutes from Coachella), selling festival-friendly apparel and hosting partygoers poolside.
- On Point at All Times: French beauty giant Sephora, also a festival sponsor, is hosting a tent on-site. Features include a Beauty Bar (“try the hottest new festival make-up trends”), a face-mask lounge, a make-up touch-up bar, and a Braid & Dry Styling bar for “festival-ready hair”.
Interactive Psychedelic: Surreal, Immersive & Co-Creational
Others traded on the festival’s prevailing bohemian vibe with concepts grounded in a surreal or even psychedelic flavour – nurturing visitors’ personal creativity.
- Digital Transcendence: US computing giant Hewlett Packard, a first-time tech sponsor at Coachella, used the event to launch its student-targeted Pavilion x360 laptops via a series of hands-on, interactive experiences. Visitors to the HP Lounge can use the new model – which lets users draw on-screen – to design a bandana, which is then printed on an HP graphic printer. The lounge also includes a blackout photo booth capturing sharable, 120˚ photos with customisable lighting effects.
The brand also sponsored a large-scale (11,000 sq ft) domed tent with psychedelic visuals, powered by HP workstations, conceived to transport visitors “through time, space and consciousness”. It was created by US immersive-experiences agency Obscura Digital.
- Surreal Share-&-Shop Op: Primed entirely for social-media-ready visuals, H&M – Coachella’s dominant retail sponsor – has outfitted a tent on-site as a surreal Palm Springs-style house. Prepped for “dreamlike photo moments”, the installation includes a concave video booth decorated with kaleidoscopic imagery that shoots shareable, seven-second film footage, an oversized sofa, an “infinity room” filled with mirrors, and a mountain-peak backdrop. A dedicated room highlights H&M’s sustainability programmes, while The Patio area hosts a pop-up shop.