Halsey performs at Night Two of BUDX Miami by Budweiser on February 02, 2020 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for BudX)
It was in December 2017 that Budweiser launched a new kind of festival, an ambitious electronic lab/subculture property called BUDX. Among all the party destinations around the world that could have been eligible hosts for this global debut, the beer giant chose New Delhi. It was a cool thing to do, also perhaps the right thing too – after all, the past year had seen Budweiser betting big on India’s cultural landscapes, launching many small and big online and offline initiatives.
For the three-day-long BUDX, a warehouse-turned-venue in the Capital, Dhanmill Compound, was converted into an underground dance music mecca. If you happened to attend this maiden edition, you’d remember just how unique it was curatorially – from extensive Boiler Room sessions to masterclasses and panel discussions. If that wasn’t all, BUDX also took over a five-star hotel nearby which hosted artists and influencers as well as its own set of parties. Rechristened BUD hotel for the course of the event, Gurgaon’s Le Meridien miraculously assumed the role of a giant club – out went the boring lobby music; now trap and techno greeted you as you entered the premises. Wintry brunches turned into breakbeat shindigs. It was quite a thing. Since then, we have seen a BUDX each in Mumbai and Hyderabad, along with editions in Amsterdam, Ho Chi Minh City, Johannesburg and Bogota.
The recently held BUDX Miami was probably the most intense edition Budweiser has hosted globally — also a fine example of content-driven integrated marketing. Firstly, it marked the grand American debut of BUDX. Second, it was the first time Budweiser brought together over 200 tastemakers from around the globe under one roof – these included experts and influencers from the world of music, fashion, street culture, sports, art and design. The three-day event held during the Super Bowl weekend in South Beach’s Nautilus by Arlo — the BUD hotel – was a smorgasbord of curated gigs, installations and parties. Steve Arkley, Global VP, Marketing at Budweiser said this was an opportune time and perfect space for BUDX to showcase its global investment in culture. “We have been looking at BUDX as a platform — we’ve developed it in the world of music and we wanted to diversify it to lifestyle. We couldn’t think of a better location than the Super Bowl weekend in Miami to bring that kind of energy and excitement.”
It’s all about curation
As is true of most BUDX editions, you got a sense of frenetic energy as soon as you entered the hotel. A vintage Chevy parked in the lobby made for a striking centerpiece while the revamped red-and-black décor, free-flowing pints of beer and house music in the background all contributed to the vibe.
The vintage Chevy parked inside the BUD hotel. Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Budweiser
The first day was all about familiarizing yourself with the many activations around the property – the Screen Print Shop in the lobby hosted by Portuguese artist Andre Amaro drew curious attendees who translated their design dreams into cool merch, while the extensive wall mural that rang along the main passage turned into a hot spot for selfies. As more and more people checked in, the hotel soon became a colorful cosmopolitan universe – the invitees came from over 24 countries with influencers from South America and Russia leading the brigade. “The opportunity for participants here is huge. The social reach of this group is half a billion people. So we have [influencers who have] 300k to 50-60M of social reach,” said Arkley.
Day One’s itinerary included a Mansion Party at one of South Beach’s sprawling waterfront properties, where New York hip-hop legends De La Soul played a thrashing gig. It got pretty dense and the show kickstarted the weekend just appropriately. The trio’s performance was followed by an immersive set in the lawn by LA-based producer/DJ Channel Tres, whose brand of shape-shifting ambient, left-field pop and house kept the floating crowd hooked all throughout.
Channel Tres performs at Night One of BUDX Miami. Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Budweiser
One of our other treats for the night included a Guns N’ Roses concert at the American Airlines Arena. Having watched Axl Rose and Slash play in India at two different shows without each other’s company (in 2012 and 2015, respectively) it was a nostalgic trip catching the cult rockers play together, still giving goosebumps to an audience comprising almost entirely of post-millennial fans. Back at the BUD hotel, attendees danced away the jetlag at the afterparty that went on till the wee hours.
Intimate gigs are the future
If you happened to be staying in one of the few rooms with a sea and pool view, you literally witnessed the entire fabrication of the poolside stage for Day Two’s shindig. It was incredible to witness the transformation of a quiet lawn lined with sunbeds into a music festival as the crew pieced together everything from the truss to the LEDs to the sound system in record time. Post brunch, we discovered the pop-up wonder that was The Gillette Barber Shop, where three celebrity barbers offered complimentary grooming services to the attendees. Although Vince Garcia, Rich Mendoza and Mark Marrero kept very tight schedules with long waitlists throughout the festival, we managed to secure an appointment with Garcia for a funky makeover. With a newly acquired fade haircut, even the untimely showers that evening couldn’t dampen our will to party.
The poolside fun began post-sunset with the Masters Of The Mic Karaoke championship presented by former basketballer Dwyane Wade and digital media firm ONE37pm. This was guaranteed entertainment — famous folks from sports and glamor took turns to butcher easy-peasy pop songs in the presence of a jury comprising celeb entrepreneur Gary Vee, social media star Amanda Cerny and singer-songwriter Teyana Taylor.
How Black Eyed Peas just stole the show
Black Eyed Peas paid tribute to Kobe Bryant during their set at BUDX Miami
Not enough has been said about the pure genius of Black Eyed Peas, one of the grooviest, most shape-shifting music groups of our time. The quartet featuring rappers will.i.am
, Taboo, Apl.de.ap and the newest member J Reysoul (yep, no Fergie!) was a riot from the word go — their entire set was just an unbeatable series of chart-toppers, from the opener “Let’s Get It Started” to the soothing “Where Is The Love” and the party jams “My Humps,” “The Time (Dirty Bit),” “Don’t Phunk With My Heart” and “I Gotta Feeling.” It was the kind of set that caused many excitable revelers to take a dive in the pool fully clothed, because why not! Here’s wishing BEP a lifetime of smashing gigs.
Their set was followed by a thrilling set by Halsey, whose onstage skill and sass are near matchless. The “Closer” singer might have had an angry exchange with an annoying heckler whom she immediately showed who’s boss (“If you say G-Eazy one more fucking time, I will kick you out of this building,” she warned) but she had the crowd eating out of her hand as she performed her biggest hits. The concert closing set by Diplo was just what you expect at a Diplo show, all bells and whistles and more — except all this was going down at an intimate poolside party and not, say, the main stage of a large-scale festival. Would a more ‘underground’ DJ have been a more fitting choice? Not really, said Arkley. “This is the global showcase — we are trying to bring new and unique elements, and that’s why we’ve brought A-list performers,” he reasoned.
Music, sports are the biggest ‘passion points’
BUDX Miami guests pose while on their way to the Super Bowl LIV 2020
As the mini-universe of influencers started gearing up for Super Bowl LIV 2020 on the morning of Day Three, it became very clear that #BUDX’s strategy for targeting its audience can never be plain advertising. “We are acknowledging we need to entertain people rather than interrupt,” said Arkley, adding, “Rather than pushing marketing, we are carrying a message through the passion points, through the interests of people that are participating.”
The coach ride to the Hard Rock Stadium for the Big Game was no less than a mobile festival in itself. During the commute, vibrant clusters of influencers kept the mood high even as the narrow bus aisles served as perfect dance floors. It didn’t matter whether you were a fan of the NFL or even acquainted with the game, the infectious enthusiasm for the Super Bowl LIV 2020 spared no one.
At the Game, one got to witness a whole new kind of sports mania — so typical American yet so universally understood. “We chose the Super Bowl because we thought this was a moment on the calendar that would draw people from all around the world. It is the greatest sporting event in the American calendar and it is increasingly getting relevant around the world,” said Arkley.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ historic victory over the San Francisco 49ers, which got the former their first Super Bowl trophy in over 50 years was a sight to see. Perhaps an equally enchanting sight was the spectacular halftime show featuring the double lineup of Shakira and Jennifer Lopez. One of the most-watched concerts of the year, the halftime show is deeply tied to the cultural fabric of the Big Game, and this year’s performance will probably go down in history as one of the best ever.
“The Super Bowl is the greatest sporting event in the American calendar and it is increasingly getting relevant around the world,” said Arkley.
Curating a weekend filled with immersive activities for some of the world’s most influential young people is no cakewalk, and Budweiser through its many offline and online endeavors has proved that it’s all about finding the right mix of everything — whether it’s music, fashion, street style or sports. “We have to talk to people in their language, and that’s where something like this comes into its own,” said Arkley.