The Best Brand Experiences and Activations at Art Basel & Miami Art Week 2018

by Mikey Centrella

Every December, Miami becomes the center of the art world when Art Basel comes to town. The four-day event, which annually coincides with Miami Art Week, connects collectors, galleries, and artists, and is a driving force in supporting the role galleries play in nurturing the careers of artists. According to show organizers, the 2018 edition of Art Basel Miami Beach drew a record attendance of 83,000. When you factor in the dozens of unaffiliated art fairs that take place during the tentpole event, plus all of the parties, fashion shows, music festivals and concerts, it’s no wonder why brands desire a presence at Art Basel.



Overwhelming as it were, I set out to discover which brands were making the biggest impact in the spirit of celebrating art and creativity with consumers at Art Basel. Some brands, such as Red Bull and Chivas Regal, doubled down on their presence this year, producing memorable brand activations and experiences in partnership with fellow brands and local businesses. After experiencing them both, first-hand, the anecdotal take-homes not only demonstrate the effectiveness of brand activations and experiences — our specialty at INPHANTRY — but also some valuable insights on how brands can creatively and strategically take consumer experiences to the next level.


Red Bull / Pac-Man Activation

Red Bull, through its joint campaign with Pac-Man, took the crown for best brand activation: a 30-foot-tall rainbow bridge that Basel-goers could climb, take selfies, and really see the massive extent of the Miami Art Week Wynwood events. The bridge featured an impressive LED feature with the iconic Pac-Man character moving along the bridge. There was a DJ bumping really great ‘80s tunes as well.


As with any effective brand activation, the goal is to create a personal interaction resulting in a favorable opinion about the business, and the hope that the consumer will spread their opinion to others. To this end, the coolest part of Red Bull’s activation was playing the game, which was updated with retro-animated Red Bull cans that you eat for more speed. It was a cool concept that extends to the app component of the joint campaign, where you can compete for rewards based on high scores. 


As an ‘80s child who loved Pac-Man growing up, it would seem that I am clearly the target demographic for this activation. But even so, Red Bull managed to embrace nostalgia while reintroducing a cultural icon to a new audience in a branded experience that didn’t feel forced. Quite the marketing feat for the notoriously wary millennial generation. The activation hit the mark on a lot of levels.


Chivas Regals / Miami Motel Stories: MiMo

Whereas activations get the consumer’s interest by allowing consumers to try out a product or service, brand experiences are designed to create specific, valuable interactions between brands and the people that matter most to them. The goal with an experience is to create interactions that result in deeper emotional connections and in greater brand affinity or preference. Enter Miami Motel Stories: MiMo, an immersive real-time theatre (art) experience produced by Juggerknot Theatre Company and sponsored by Chivas with exceptionally tasteful product placements.


Taking place inside The Gold Dust Motel on Biscayne Boulevard, you interact with the motel owner/managers (Clint Archambault and Susie K. Taylor, who will drink Chivas with you as she laments her martial secrets), a bookie (Gregg Weiner, pictured above, who will give you a shot of Chivas if you beat him at cards), an anti-preservation commissioner (Vanessa Elise), a fisherman (Luckner Bruno), a bartender (Jeff Quintana), a waitress (Coley Campany), a feminist (Thiana Berrick, pictured above) and a pair of disruptive teens (Adam D. Crain and Brandon Hoffman).


The first-floor experience involves scripted material and improvisation before ending with a short dance party to celebrate the Gold Dust’s 1957 grand opening. Chivas is a big sponsor (the speakeasy is called the Chivas Room). You know the saying, “If these walls could talk?” Well, this is a place in the 305 where the walls do talk, and Chivas gives you the liquid courage to talk back and interact with the actors. You leave with a favorable impression of and preference for Chivas, remembering how awesome it was and how much fun you had.

There are many wonderful brand-related works to see during Miami Art Week at Art Basel, and these were some of the best; but I was really hoping to find a cutting-edge digital branded experience. There were some really cool interactive art exhibits and public art installations, which you can read more in my next blog post.

I guess we will have to wait and see what next year brings!