While this year’s most memorable Coachella moment was undoubtedly the cross-generational kiss between Madonna and Drake which spawned a thousand ageism think pieces, brands played their own part in making the festival unforgettable for many young partyers.
Since it began 16 years ago, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California has become an annual pilgrimage for kids with FOMO and disposable income in equal measure. The festival has hosted iconic performers such as Prince, Beyonce, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Eminem, The Killers, and the late great Amy Winehouse. But as is the case with so many festivals, Coachella is about more than just the music.
“Part of Coachella’s popularity has to do with the fact that millennials these days spend their money on experiences,” says Lisa Sugar, editor-in-chief of PopSugar, which teamed up with ShopStyle to offer tired revellers a Cabana Club where they could unwind between sets. “We are able to provide consumers with a place to have fun rather than just doing something with an advertiser.”
There was a time when going to a music festival meant donning your least-loved clothes. Now, ‘festival style’ is a distinct look which clothing retailers embrace in the springtime. Owing a great debt to the fringe, tie-dye and flower power of the Swinging Sixties, Vogue’s Lynn Yaeger has pointed out that what many wear to Coachella is similar to what their parents or even grandparents wore at Woodstock – the difference being, there weren’t 360 degree mirrored selfie booths and branded brunches at Woodstock.
The equivalent in the UK is Glastonbury, where suede ankle boots are exchanged for wellies to battle the mud, but otherwise the same hippy prints and floral headbands are ubiquitous. Glastonbury is also a master-class in building partnerships with food and drink brands which enhance your message. Yeo Valley, Thatchers and Brothers Cider, for instance, all share the festival’s Somerset heritage, making them ideal partners. And these guys know their audience. Yeo Valley branded bags are handed out to festival-goers on the first day; a must-have for storing your wet wipes (which are probably the most valuable commodity at any festival).
“Coachella draws a young audience who’s paying attention to fashion and who’s involved in music culture and pop culture,” says designer Mara Hoffman, who showcased her spring collection at a PopSugar festival event this year. “We got a lot of love and support from people there.”
The fact that this year’s festival stands to make more than the $76 million it grossed last year, and that there are over 1.6 million Instagram posts hashtagged #Coachella, doesn’t exactly hurt the case for why brands should have a presence at these painfully trendy weekenders – especially in an era where the headliners are essentially brands in their own right. Coachella might be over for another year, but we still have a long summer of branded fun ahead of us.