As consumer habits trend toward seeking a balanced, healthy lifestyle, event marketers are tasked with creating experiences for a health-conscious demographic. You’ve seen the wellness initiatives, the fitness classes, the meditation sessions, the farm-to-table culinary programs. But with the demand for these new environments also comes a new category that’s attractive to both the balance seekers, or “sober-curious,” and the clear-eyed folks: booze-free brand activations and festivals.
That’s the idea behind non-alcoholic supplement and botanical beverage brand Kin, which promises “all bliss, no booze.” Kin launched at the Summit ideas festival in Los Angeles at an invite-only event for entrepreneurs, artists and academics (The Parade Agency, Los Angeles, handled).
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“People at Summit want to be exposed to ideas from all different angles and are interested in exploring new products,” says Alex Menache, culinary program manager for Summit. “To get to experience something like Kin firsthand that hadn’t hit the market yet is a high-end experience for an attendee base that’s curious about all things.”
Kin’s activation at Summit was two-fold. The brand served non-alcoholic cocktails during happy hour within the conference’s outdoor wellness hub, which hosted yoga, sound healing and meditation throughout the day. Then, come 9 p.m., the activation flipped to a pop-up speakeasy in the basement of the downtown L.A. Theatre, discovered by attendees through word-of-mouth or personal invitations from the brand.
Awash in rose lighting and red velvet décor, the secret hideout replicated the intimacy one might experience at a high-end cocktail bar, but without the booze. Once seated, attendees were approached by a bartender who asked each person what they were bringing to the experience and what they hoped to gain from it, whether a feeling, a mood or a curiosity. He then created custom libations for each attendee with a mix of tonics and herbs from his apothecary station. Then, an herbalist approached the table to explain each drink’s ingredients and the reasons for choosing them. She checked in about 20 minutes later to answer additional questions.
“People are seeking out events and opportunities to rebalance themselves through the madness and chaos of a typical conference or festival experience,” says Kin founder Jen Batchelor. “We target the folks that are looking to commune on a more conscious level and to experience something that speaks to their lifestyle and their needs.”
In Kin’s case, “anti-alcohol” isn’t the angle. In fact, the product is listed under the specialty cocktail section at establishments where it’s available, positioning it as an additional option for a cocktail-loving crowd. Diageo-backed non-alcoholic spirit Seedlip is also embracing event partnerships “to showcase what’s possible in creating complex, exciting non-alcoholic options for events instead of just soda, juices or sickly mocktails,” says founder Ben Branson. “We target those who have an appreciation for flavor, for their health and who, for whatever reason, may not be drinking at an event they attend.”
That includes expectant mothers, wellness-conscious millennials and designated drivers. Seedlip landed a partnership with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport team as the official supplier of non-alcoholic drink options at Formula 1 events. The brand will also continue its sponsorship of a moveable feast event series, Outstanding in the Field, where farm-to-table dinners are served outdoors.
Heineken is also riding the wellness wave, having launched its first non-alcoholic beer, Heineken 0.0. From an event perspective, the brand isn’t launching 0.0 events, but rather positioning the product alongside its alcoholic beers.
“We are looking at it as the addition to a beer drinker’s regular portfolio,” says Pattie Falch, director of brand sponsorships and events at Heineken. “For instance, if they are at Coachella and there for a long period of time, this allows them to enjoy a beer beverage, but without the alcohol.”
Heineken sponsored the iii Points music festival in Miami, which runs a reverse schedule from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. “We thought that it was a unique opportunity for people who want to enjoy that nightlife for that long length of time,” says Falch.
When all is said and done, event experiences are successful when they’re memorable. And for the growing wellness demographic, moderate and alcohol-free options offer just that—options.
“The value of attending some of these major events and conferences is making connections,” says Kin’s Batchelor. “And you certainly don’t want to forget that important person that you met the night before. It’s a shift towards being more conscious, gaining more productivity and more time.”
We’ll toast a booze-free cocktail to that.
*This article was originally published in 2019 and is updated periodically