Stagecoach Joins Soberchella as Music Fests Amp Up Their Booze-Free Options

The New Bar will serve spiritless cocktails at the upcoming events via a partnership with organizer Goldenvoice

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Stagecoach, the top-grossing country music festival in America—which may or may not get a visit from Beyoncé this year—is breaking ground in the modern temperance movement by inking its first booze-free beverage partner for the upcoming three-day event near Los Angeles.

The alliance between festival organizer AEG’s Goldenvoice and non-alcoholic bottle shop The New Bar is an outgrowth of 2023’s first-time collaboration with sister fest Coachella, which earned it the nickname Soberchella. The New Bar, as part of its expanded deal, will have a larger on-site presence during both Coachella weekends, which kick off April 12.

The move fits into the growing sober curious and dry tripping trends, largely driven by Generation Z, which aim to add a clear-headed layer to traditionally hard-partying events.

“We’re addressing a true need and desire from festival attendees,” Brianda Gonzalez, founder and CEO of The New Bar, told ADWEEK. “Wherever there’s a lot of drinking, there are people looking for alternatives—they still want to be part of the environment, just in ways that are more accessible to them.”

The deal is also another step forward for the nascent, fast-growing non-alcoholic spirits category, where brands are increasingly popping up in sports stadiums, airlines, coffee shops, health clubs and other venues. 

Consumers at Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals asked for booze-free options beyond water and soda.The New Bar

“People are looking to come back from a vacation or an experience feeling recharged, inspired and invigorated,” Gonzalez said. “They don’t want to re-enter their lives from a weaker place.”

Superstar sightings

The addition of booze-free cocktails may not be the only head-turner at Stagecoach 2024, if current internet chatter turns out to be accurate. There’s speculation that Beyoncé could make a surprise appearance to perform with her “Levii’s Jeans” collaborator Post Malone during his April 27 headlining set. 

If she does, “Queen Bey” will be part of a lineup that already includes artists ranging from Eric Church, Miranda Lambert, Morgan Wallen and Willie Nelson to Diplo, Wiz Khalifa and Nickelback.

Coachella, meantime, has Lana Del Rey, Peso Pluma, Tyler, the Creator, Doja Cat, J Balvin, Ice Spice and Blur, among many others, on its roster. Tickets have sold out for both festivals, known as annual sponsor magnets, with heavyweights such as American Express, Coca-Cola, Google, Toyota and Marriott signing on this year.

Day drinking

A variety of spiritless booze brands are headed to Indio’s festival grounds, about 130 miles outside of Los Angeles, as part of The New Bar’s Stagecoach and Coachella programs, among them French Bloom, Recess, Ritual Zero Proof, Optimist, Hop Wtr and Kin Euphorics

Several participating brands will be using the influential music shows—held on three consecutive weekends at the same rural polo grounds—to introduce new and refreshed products to the young tastemaker crowds that flock there.

Executives at Free Spirits said they see their festival participation as a strong launching pad for their new ready-to-drink cocktails, a Kentucky mule and a margarita, packaged in slim, colorful cans. (RTDs are the “most rapidly expanding no-alcohol subcategory” in the U.S., per IWSR, with 18% growth by 2026.)

“The amount of creativity and artistry and energy at an event like Coachella is just stunning, yet all-day drinking kind of defeats the purpose,” Milan Martin, founder and CEO of Free Spirits, told ADWEEK. “This partnership means that people can choose to have delicious, complex drinks that elevate the experience further—so they can keep their wits about them and they’re not stumbling around in the desert by noon.”

The New Bar’s stand-alone cocktail bars and inclusion in pop-up restaurants and concessions around the festival grounds makes a statement to consumers, Martin said.

“The alcohol industry has been telling everyone for years that alcohol has to be the star player,” Martin said. “But the more people see NA drinks all over these events, the more they will start to connect the dots and realize that alcohol doesn’t have to drive a good time.”

Almave, a non-alcohol spirit made with blue agave, will use Coachella and Stagecoach as springboards for a new Blanco product crafted specially for mixed drinks. The brand—backed by Formula 1 champ Lewis Hamilton and Mexican spirits group Casa Lumbre—is trying to stand out in a “clearly competitive” arena and tap into the dual trends of booze-free cocktails and exploding tequila demand, per Troy Gorczyca, chief marketing officer at Casa Lumbre.

The festival settings “encourage consumers to experience the product in the context it’s meant to be consumed,” Gorczyca said. “We hope to keep showing up in relevant spaces.”

Lessons learned

Learnings from year one of the Coachella relationship gave Gonzalez some ideas on how to tweak the program for year two. She and her team redesigned the physical walk-up bars to include more lounging areas with “tables, chairs, protection from the sun, places to hang out,” Gonzalez said.

Free Spirits is using The New Bar partnership at Coachella to tout its new RTD cocktails.Free Spirits

And based on consumer feedback, there will be an amped up focus on education so that bartenders can readily explain the booze-free products and cocktail ingredients. Knowing and detailing the benefits of the tipples—which can include adaptogens and other nootropics—helps support their cost, which is about 80% of their alcoholic counterparts.

Gonzalez will invest more in her marketing around the events, via paid ads on TikTok, Meta, Google and YouTube, geotargeting the top metro areas where festivalgoers live. The New Bar is also exploring guerrilla-style outdoor ads, while bulking up its themed merchandise, in-store promos and product bundles that consumers can buy ahead of the events.

The soberest generation

The abstinence movement—already carving out space in the popular consciousness via Dry January, Sober October and other mainstream events—continues to pick up momentum in 2024. 

Young demographics have been leading the way, with 53% of Gen Zers saying they want to curb their booze consumption, compared to 40% in 2023, per NCSolutions. In the past six months, 54% of legal-drinking-age Gen Zers have abstained from alcohol. In the meantime, millennials are also shifting their drinking habits, with 49% aiming to imbibe less in 2024 compared to 26% last year, according to IWSR.

The New Bar, a pioneering curator in the category, is also growing. The brand added a second retail location in the trendy West Hollywood neighborhood, and it is slated to open its first San Francisco store in May.

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