How American Weed Co.’s Presenting Sponsorship Made History at Cali Vibes

“We still can’t digitally advertise on Facebook like other brands can, and from a Delta-9 and THC standpoint, you can’t sell direct-to-consumer. So we have to look at other ways that are off the page and offline to market to our fans. And I can’t think of a better way to create a real emotional connection with people than at a music festival.”

–Jessica Latham, Co-Founder and President, American Weed Co.

Weed Co._CaliVibes 2024_military locker

The doors to a replica military locker led to a hidden tattoo parlor.

The link between music and weed dates back thousands of years, but a cannabis brand has never served as a presenting sponsor of a major U.S. music festival—until Cali Vibes 2024, that is. From Feb 16-18, American Weed Co. made history as headline sponsor of the annual reggae-heavy festival in Long Beach, CA, produced by AEG-owned Goldenvoice, where headliners like Gwen Stefani, Ice Cube and Wiz Khalifa performed.

With a mission to destigmatize cannabis and legalize it for veterans nationwide, the brand offered multiple touchpoints during the weekend, including the educational Vibes Village presented by American Weed Co., and a “military locker” activation that served as a storytelling moment and speakeasy-style temporary tattoo parlor.

“We were proud to lead the charge for the entire cannabis industry,” says Jessica Latham, co-founder and president at American Weed Co. “We actually had a few people say to us prior, ‘All eyes are on you guys.’ And I said back to them, ‘I know, and I promise you, we will not disappoint.’ So it was such a positive experience all around. Like I said, we’re just proud to be the brand that got to do it.”

Regulations prevented American Weed Co. from selling cannabis on-site at the festival, so for its main activation, the brand made a merch play. The front of its footprint mimicked a traditional store where attendees could purchase apparel and accessories, read about the company’s mission, check out “dummy” bags of its cannabis products, and learn more about them.

weed-museum-2019_teaserMore on Cannabis Brands:

In the back of the store, a military-style locker was designed to pique festivalgoers’ interest enough to open it up—and most did. They then walked through the doors and into an American Weed Co. lounge, located right by the Cali Vibes’ main stage. There, attendees could get premium airbrushed tattoos of everything from a marijuana leaf to the brand’s flag emblem. There were also games, like shuffleboard, music pumping and all-important air conditioning blasting. In the evenings, the space naturally morphed into a VIP clubhouse of sorts for those who wanted to enjoy the music but avoid fighting the crowds.

Upon leaving the lounge, attendees exited through a door that led to one of American Weed Co.’s signature weed walls, which show up at the majority of its activations. Festivalgoers are invited to sign them in support of legalizing cannabis for U.S. veterans.

Over in the Vibes Village presented by American Weed Co., the brand created a deliberately simple and playful experience designed to drive traffic to its main activation. The setup included a photograph of an American Weed Co. employee smoking a joint in front of an American flag, with the company’s mission written over it. The installation featured a series of cutouts, from which hands popped out to distribute hoo-rags and branded sunglasses (which were swapped out for ponchos on the day it rained).

Weed Co._CaliVibes 2024_lounge space

American Weed Co.’s main activation included merchandise, an overview of its mission and plenty of room to chill.

“Southern California is skate culture, reggae culture and a lot of people wear black and white,” says Latham. “We remembered that from last year, so we purposely did neon sunglasses because they would pop all over the festival. To me, one of the most rewarding things throughout the entire weekend was seeing people interact with the brand, seeing people connect with it, love the brand, love the sunglasses.”

American Weed Co.’s sponsorship kept the good vibes going beyond the festival, too. The company itself donates up to 10 percent of its annual net profits to veteran and first responder groups. So for the event, the brand collaborated with Cali Vibes on a festival t-shirt, with 100 percent of all profits donated to Stop Soldier Suicide.

Looking to the future, Latham says the brand is just getting started.

“Hopefully, this will set a new standard and show, not just the people surrounding Cali Vibes, that this is possible, but other organizations that are putting on big events—consider cannabis brands as a potential sponsor,” Latham says. “Because if we didn’t show it to you [at Cali Vibes], we’re here to show folks that we can do this at the highest, most professional level. Cannabis is here to stay, and it’s the future. Let’s go.” Agency: Grasslands.


More scenes from Cali Vibes 2024:

 Photo credit: Derek Fukuhara

Kait Shea
Posted by Kait Shea

Kait joined EM in 2015 and today enjoys her role as senior editor, digital content. When she’s not in reporter mode, rocking mermaid pants at Comic-Con or running laps at MWC Barcelona, you can find her at home listening to music.
View all articles by Kait Shea →

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