Aspen wasn't just a destination for hard-core foodies over the weekend—brands hungry to connect with them also made the sky-scraping trek up the Rockies.
The annual Food & Wine Classic, whose principal sponsor is American Express, also featured lectures, tastings, parties and other experiences from of a range of other consumer brands, including Patrón, Celebrity Cruises, Lexus, Stella Artois, All-Clad and KitchenAid. Marketers also have relationships with many of the celebrity chefs and restaurateurs on hand, among them Hugh Acheson, Richard Blais and Scott Conant. (Watch the video above for our exclusive interviews with these and other personalities from the festival.)
Here, some of the best brand activations we sampled in Aspen:
Tequila—it's not just for margaritas anymore. A sponsor of the Classic for the ninth year, the leading spirits brand definitely had attendees buzzing. At its activation outside the Grand Tasting Pavilion, which was styled after a typical south-of-the-border hacienda, the marketer showcased the versatility of its product by inviting guests to "upgrade" their favorite cocktails with Patrón—like a Moscow mule made with tequila instead of vodka. Patrón also gave visitors a cool, virtual tour of its Mexican agave fields and factory by way of Oculus headsets and hosted a tasting and mixology seminar led by its director of brand education, Chris Spake.
Aspen may be hundreds of miles from the ocean, but that didn't stop the luxury cruise line from giving attendees a taste of the high seas. Each day of the three-day festival, the Royal Caribbean-owned brand, a first-time sponsor of the festival this year, hosted a "grand tasting" of a different variety, replicating the diversity of cuisine offered aboard its ships and their multiple restaurants. Our favorite: On Sunday, the final day of the festival, guests were invited to indulge in a seafood-centric menu inspired by the Galápagos Islands.
One too many Moscow mules? No worries—Lexus is your designated driver. The luxury automaker had a fleet of 25 branded SUVs in Aspen to whisk festivalgoers from place to place free of charge. Meanwhile, at its booth at the Grand Tasting Pavilion, Lexus gave foodies an up-close-and-personal look at its LC Hybrid model while serving up sliders.