How The Grateful Dead Live On Through Licensing Partnerships


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Brands Are Alive With The Dead

The Grateful Dead, one of the most influential rock bands in history, is known not only for their music but also for their unique approach to brand partnerships. Emerging in the 1960s, the Grateful Dead has managed to maintain its cultural relevance through strategic collaborations that resonate not only with its fan base (AKA "Deadheads") but also with a broader audience. These licensing partnerships appeal even to those who may not know or listen to their music but are fans of the band's iconic imagery and symbols.

This enduring popularity is a testament to the band's ability to transcend music and embed themselves into various facets of pop culture. In this article, Hollywood Branded pulls back the curtain on several unique and powerful licensing partnerships that have helped the Grateful Dead maintain their cultural relevance and connect with diverse audiences.
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In 2020, the Grateful Dead teamed up with Nike to release the SB Dunk Low sneakers, featuring the band’s famous dancing bears. These sneakers, with their fuzzy textures and vibrant colors, captured the band’s eclectic style and quickly became one of Nike’s most sought-after releases. The sneakers were designed to evoke the playful and psychedelic essence of the band, with hidden stash pockets adding a whimsical touch. This collaboration bridged the gap between sneaker enthusiasts and Deadheads, highlighting the band's ability to stay relevant in contemporary fashion and attract a new generation of fans.

Nike SB Dunk LowPhoto Credit: Amazon

Chinatown Market

The Grateful Dead’s collaboration with streetwear brand Chinatown Market resulted in a series of popular releases from 2020 to 2021. The collections included tie-dye Crocs adorned with dancing bears and apparel featuring the slogan "Positive Mental Attitude." NBA star LeBron James was even spotted wearing the collection, which introduced the band's imagery to a younger, fashion-forward audience. This partnership showcased the Grateful Dead's ability to adapt to modern trends while maintaining their distinctive identity. The collaboration was a hit among streetwear aficionados and highlighted how the band's ethos could seamlessly blend with contemporary fashion.

LeBron x Grateful Dead

Photo Credit: Celeb Stoner


In 2021, the Grateful Dead ventured into the world of high fashion through a collaboration with luxury brand Gucci. Dubbed the "Custie" collection, this line included clothing and accessories that merged Gucci’s high-end designs with the band's psychedelic aesthetics. The collection featured re-releases of iconic items such as Augustus Owsley "Bear" Stanley III’s belt buckles, now available at premium prices. This partnership elevated the Grateful Dead’s imagery into luxury fashion, proving their broad cultural appeal and influence. The collaboration also sparked conversations about the commercialization of counterculture symbols, blending high fashion with the band’s historic roots in the 1960s counterculture movement.

Gucci x Dead

Photo Credit: Live for Live Music

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Hedley & Bennett

The Grateful Dead took their iconic imagery into the culinary world in 2021 through a collaboration with Hedley & Bennett. This partnership resulted in a collection of high-quality aprons and culinary accessories featuring symbols like dancing skeletons, terrapins, and bears. This unique collaboration connected with fans who appreciate both the band's music and the culinary arts. The aprons were designed to be both functional and stylish, allowing fans to bring a piece of the Grateful Dead’s legacy into their kitchens while expressing their love for the band through their cooking.

Dead x Hedley Bennett

Photo Credit: Bon Appetit

Igloo Coolers

In 2020, the Grateful Dead collaborated with Igloo Coolers to bring their iconic imagery to a line of coolers and drinkware. Featuring designs with the band’s famous skull and roses and dancing bears, these products became popular among fans for outdoor events and gatherings. The coolers were not only practical for keeping beverages cold but also served as a nod to the band’s storied history of outdoor concerts and communal gatherings. This partnership highlighted the band's ability to seamlessly integrate their imagery into everyday products, making the Grateful Dead a part of fans' daily lives.

Dead x Igloo

Photo Credit: Rolling Stone

Gotham Greens

In 2022, the Grateful Dead partnered with Gotham Greens, an innovative urban farming company, to create the "Grateful Greens" salad. This collaboration celebrated shared values of community, sustainability, and plant-based eating. The limited-edition salad featured the band's iconic Dancing Bears on the packaging, making it a collectible item. Named the "Grateful Greens Shakedown Salad," it paid homage to the band's famous "Shakedown Street" and emphasized sustainable agriculture. With each package sold, Gotham Greens planted trees in partnership with Forest Nation, promoting environmental stewardship. This unique collaboration brought together music and sustainability, offering fans a nutritious and eco-friendly product.

Gotham Greens x Dead

Photo Credit: Food Beast

What a Long Strange Trip It's Been

The Grateful Dead's innovative approach to brand partnerships has allowed them to maintain their cultural relevance and reach new audiences long after their emergence in the 1960s. Through collaborations with brands like Nike, Chinatown Market, Gucci, Hedley & Bennett, Igloo Coolers, and Gotham Greens, the band has successfully integrated their iconic imagery and ethos into contemporary fashion, culinary arts, and sustainable products. These partnerships not only appeal to loyal Deadheads but also attract those who appreciate the Grateful Dead's unique symbols and cultural impact. By transcending music and embedding themselves into various facets of pop culture, the Grateful Dead continue to thrive and resonate with diverse audiences.

Eager To Learn More?

For more insights into how iconic bands and brands leverage strategic partnerships to stay relevant, explore these articles from the Hollywood Branded team.

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