‘Activations and festivals are definitely back’: Why Absolut is running an in-person and metaverse experience for Coachella

Illustration of a hand reaching of a computer screen to shake a man's hand.

This past weekend, Absolut kicked off its return to experiential marketing at Coachella as the music festival returns (running until April 24th) following a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

Throughout the run of the festival, Absolut will be running an experience for in-person festival attendees as well as a metaverse experience in Decentraland aptly named Absolut.Land for those 21-plus looking to attend from afar. 

Absolut’s metaverse marketing is a first for parent company Pernod Ricard, one of the world’s largest makers of spirits and wine behind Diageo, as the company is just starting to test the space as a potential investment for its brands’ advertising and marketing, according to Pam Forbus, CMO of Pernod Ricard in North America. Through this experience, Absolut is looking to have a physical and virtual experience for attendees where what’s happening on the ground at Absolut’s Coachella tent is mirrored in a way in the metaverse experience. 

“Activations and festivals are definitely back,” said Forbus, adding that Coachella marks Absolut’s most significant return to experiential marketing since the beginning of the pandemic. By running a dual experience in-person and via the metaverse, people “who haven’t been able to travel can have a little bit of an experience at Coachella,” she added.

The return to Coachella with the in-person tent as well as the metaverse experience will account for 10% of Absolut’s annual marketing spend for the fiscal year of 2022. It’s unclear how much that will be as the company declined to share exact figures. In 2021, Absolut spent $892,500 on advertising placements, down from $3.2 million in 2020, per Kantar. Those figures exclude spending on social media platforms as Kantar doesn’t track that spending. 

Overall, Absolut doubled its media investment this fiscal year, according to the brand as it has put more of a focus on e-commerce over the last two years, with roughly 80% of the budget going to digital media channels including online video, display, search and social. The remaining 20% is dedicated to linear TV, out-of-home and audio. 

Finding ways to get into metaverse marketing or stand out by having a simultaneous experience in-person and in the metaverse makes sense for a brand like Absolut, according to Noah Mallin, chief strategy officer at IMGN Media. “For the brand, it is an opportunity for Absolut to be seen as innovative,” said Mallin, adding that while it may garner press, few people will actually try out the metaverse experience. “The translation of enjoying a drink into a virtual experience is still somewhere off in the future.” 

Making a return to experiential marketing via Coachella is a test and learn moment for the brand right now, per Forbus, as it is the only experiential marketing event on the books currently this year for the brand. In the past, Absolut parent company Pernod Ricard “spent a lot on in-store, in bars and at events,” said Forbus. “We will slowly bring events back, but probably not invest as much as we used to. We’re going to double down in media and marketing [going forward].”

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