A music festival might not be the target group for all of automakers, but Coachella stands on its own. The festival in the heart of Indio, California, has become a giant in the world of music festivals, and its fame stems from a unique blend of factors. Coachella boasts a star-studded lineup year after year. We’re talking headline acts like Beyonce, Radiohead, and Daft Punk, alongside rising stars and surprise reunions. It doesn’t stop at just one genre either. Coachella throws together a mix of rock, pop, indie, hip-hop, and electronic dance music (EDM), ensuring there’s something for everyone. This diversity keeps the festival fresh and attracts a broad audience.

Beyond the Music

It’s not all about the music at Coachella. The festival grounds are transformed into an artistic wonderland. Large-scale art installations and sculptures become backdrops for photos and social media moments. The festival has become a trendsetter in fashion as well, with attendees rocking their most unique and eye-catching outfits. This artistic and social media savvy aspect adds another layer to the Coachella experience.

Partnerships With Global Artists

The landscape of Coachella has evolved into a vibrant arena where iconic brands like American Express, Coca-Cola, Google, Heineken, and YouTube engage both their core and extended audiences. Among them is BMW, the official automotive partner, which has participated in the event five times since 2017. Over the years, BMW has collaborated with global artists such as Hans Zimmer, Khalid, Doja Cat, and this year, Jon Batiste, to showcase their unique personalities and artistic expressions through custom BMW vehicles.

Furthermore, BMW consistently assembles a diverse global talent pool annually. Although the term “influencer” can carry negative connotations—I have my own thoughts about this, even though we sometimes create similar content for our social media platforms—I was positively impressed with the talent group hosted by BMW. This year, BMW, BMW of North America and BMW M extended an invitation to attend the event and understand it from within, without any strings attached or an agenda laid out for me.

Compared to other media events I attend, this one was more relaxed and decentralized. It was essentially, “Here’s where we are, here’s a cool car if you’d like to shoot some content, and we’ll catch up with you later.” I had no official agenda and was genuinely uncertain about what I would write or what awaited me.

Meeting Some Inspiring Young People

On my first day at Coachella, I needed transportation to the festival. A Coachella-branded BMW X7 arrived, accommodating myself and four others. Among my fellow passengers was an engaging young woman from Germany. Our conversation, which began with sports, including the Tokyo Olympics and the forthcoming games in Los Angeles, surprisingly transitioned into discussions about charity and nonprofit initiatives. She revealed her background as a Syrian refugee who had resettled in Germany, her cultural assimilation, and her aspiration to compete in swimming at the Tokyo Olympics, sparking my journalistic curiosity to learn more about her inspiring journey.

I’m quite the movie buff, a hobby I attribute to the many long flights I’ve taken where I sometimes catch a movie while working. There was one film from 2022 that particularly resonated with me. Quickly, I began to wonder—could it be her? One of the Mardini sisters? Indeed, it was. Yusra, 26 years old, sat casually in my shuttle car, sharing insights about life and imparting wisdom on charities and the importance of giving back.

Now, at 44, I didn’t grow up in an environment like today’s youth, nor did I inherit their inherent desire to contribute. I hail from a country that spent decades under communist rule, where the concept of charity was virtually nonexistent. For the next 45 minutes, our conversation revolved around her partnership with BMW and how she cherishes the platform it provides—not only to express herself but also to contribute positively. She talks about other non-profit projects she has in works, including some with BMW. Yusra didn’t come across as an influencer there to party. And she was genuinely humble and down to earth. In the end, she didn’t only have a great movie made about their life, but she competed in the Olympics. There are no bigger achievements in the world of sports.

And if you haven’t seen “The Swimmers” on Netflix, I highly recommend it. The film is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

Next, I met a gentleman from Iceland—stylish, expressive, yet remarkably down to earth. I’m not only a movie buff but also a fervent football aficionado, or soccer, as we call it in America. I follow it, play it, breathe it. The Icelander looked familiar, but I couldn’t place him, and he wasn’t one to boast about his past. After chatting, I realized where I had seen him: He played against the legendary Messi in a memorable 2018 World Cup match. Picture it: the future world champions, Argentina, up against a small, beautiful, and tenacious team from Iceland. Their 1-1 draw remains one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history.

Rurik Gislason, the gentleman in question, had a distinguished football career with stints in Germany and Denmark, gracing some of the biggest stages in the sport. Now, he serves as an ambassador for the SOS Children’s Villages, using social media to express his individuality and transition from an athlete to a broader identity.

I also met Thiago Mansur and Gabriela Prioli, a couple from Brazil excelling in their respective fields. Thiago is a celebrated musician, and Gabriela, formerly a lawyer, is now a TV personality. They are both understated yet possess inspirational stories that resonate positively with the youth. Especially in Brazil. Undoubtedly, among our large group of talent, there were many intriguing stories, including that of Jon Batiste—yes, that Jon. However, these are just a few of the encounters I had the privilege to experience briefly.

Road to Coachella

But what does this have to do with the BMW XM and Coachella? Let’s rewind to 2017. At that time, BMW was eager to highlight their pioneering electric vehicles, the i3 and i8—among the first electric cars produced for the road, a fact often overlooked. Back then, BMW was a leader in the electric revolution. They aimed to leverage Coachella’s explosive growth and iconic status, which has established it as arguably the most significant music festival globally. It also presented an opportunity for the brand to appeal to the younger Gen Z demographic, demonstrating that BMWs were not only for affluent individuals and die-hard M enthusiasts but also for those who view cars through a fresh lens.

The collaboration began with the “Road to Coachella” campaign, which featured the i3s and i8s adorned in funky, fun camouflage. This theme persisted over the years, including with the iX, culminating in the introduction of the BMW XM in 2023.

Why The BMW XM?

Now, the XM may be considered out of the price range for many, including festival-goers, and it’s also arguably one of the most controversial BMW products of the last decade. I won’t delve into the reasons for this controversy now. Instead, I want to focus on what the XM represents: an electrified performance car with quirky and distinctive aesthetics. While some might choose negative words to describe the car—after all, aesthetic preferences are highly subjective—around Coachella, the XM undoubtedly turns heads.

The festival transcends just great music, artists, and stunning scenery; it’s also a canvas for personal expression. Whether it’s through fashion choices or musical preferences, Coachella attendees are truly unique. While it’s reasonable to assume that many attendees might not be in the market for a luxury car—this is just my speculation, not based on hard data—the festival itself demands a substantial financial commitment. Spending thousands for a single weekend is not for the faint of heart.

On the flip side, Coachella also attracts an array of extremely wealthy individuals. Starting at the top, Jeff Bezos, the visionary behind Amazon, was spotted enjoying his time at this year’s festival. I was also within five feet of Will and Jada Smith, Justin Bieber, Jon Batiste, and Alessandra Ambrosio, among others, enjoying various performances. Needless to say, the celebrity turnout is always impressive. This year’s roster included Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce, Billie Eilish, Ludacris, Paris Hilton, Kendall Jenner, Shaun White, Heidi Klum, Suki Waterhouse, and more—just to name a few well-known attendees. And these are just the influential and/or wealthy people that I know, but I could imagine a lot more affluent people were present as well.

As Colorful As Your Individuality

Thus, BMW’s presence with its XM model at Coachella might not be about immediate sales but is certainly an effective strategy for maintaining brand relevance, showcasing progressiveness, and being one of the few—and notably, the only automotive—Coachella partners. Ultimately, marketing is also about brand awareness, and the Coachella-themed XMs were a hit. Under the theme “As Colorful As Your Individuality,” BMW showcased some of the 50 individual colors offered for the XM, perfectly aligning with the festival’s ethos of personal expression and style.

There were some stunning colors on display, like a beautiful Santorini Blue, a vibrant Sao Paulo Yellow, a gorgeous British Racing Green, and a striking Sakhir Orange. Paired with the scenic Palm Springs backdrop, these colors made for countless Instagram-worthy moments. So, while the BMW XM might receive its fair share of criticism online—to put it mildly—it certainly fits right in at a place like Coachella. If you’re going to be there, you might as well make a statement.

It was my first time at Coachella, and I must disclose that I was invited as a guest (not paid but hosted) to observe the festival and see firsthand what BMW has been involved with for years. From the outside, it may seem superficial, but from within, the experience often holds pleasant surprises, like meeting people with remarkable life stories. So, kudos to BMW and its agency, Pacific Media, for assembling a group of talents that positively influences everyone around them in a meaningful, non-superficial way. It’s also noteworthy how adept they are at identifying up-and-coming artists poised to become global stars.

Overall, it was a unique experience, and if you love music, Coachella should definitely be on your bucket list, no matter your age. [Photos: BMW / @tobi_holzweiler]