February 21, 2008
How To

How to Get Your Product Placed Into Celebrity Gift Bags

SUMMARY: Besides the movie stars who walked away smiling from Sunday’s Academy Awards, others will end up earning Oscar-like rewards, too: marketers who got their products placed in celebrity gift bags.

See how to get your brand into the hands of trendsetters at Oscar-type events and create a “wow factor” buzz among consumers. Plus, a mini-Case Study of one marketer who got his item into the gift bag trifecta: the Oscars, Grammys and Emmys.
Getting a product into the hands of trendsetters at Sunday’s Academy Awards show and other celebrity events can turn products into “must-haves” for consumers overnight. Nearly as good as the words “The Oscar goes to …” are “This item was handed out at the Oscars.”

These gift-bag items don't have to be expensive. There are plenty of products like sunglasses and sneakers that consumers shop for every day. That’s a good thing, especially since the extravagance of celebrity gift giving was curtailed in recent years because of the IRS imposing taxes on these so-called “swag bags.”

Here’s a breakdown on what you need to know to get your product into the hands of celebrities:
o Where products are distributed to celebs
o What other “influencers” may receive them
o Cost and lead time
o What makes sense for you
o Potential pitfalls and PR boons
o Gift-bag success story

In the end, your hard work can pay off. “I can tell you that for our last Emmy event, we had over 50 million impressions in terms of both print, TV and electronic media,” says Britt Johnson, CEO, mediaplacement inc. “That number [50 million] was divided among 12 total sponsors. But, that’s not even counting what showed up on the blogs.”

Products for Gift Bags
A range of products make sense for gift bags. Trendy products that you want to get into catalogs and ecommerce sites for specialty retailers like Sharper Image or Herrington’s can be perfect for celebrity gift-giving. But that’s just where the ideas begin.

“Anything that would make a good gift can work,” says Karen Wood, President & Founder, Backstage Creations. “But it depends on the type of product and event. You have to choose wisely.”

What specific categories work best? Vendors brought up these products more than any others:
o Women’s footwear
o Handbags
o Scented candles
o Perfumes and colognes
o Casual clothes (think designer jeans and cool sneakers)
o Electronic gadgets -- both gaming devices and household items
o High-end liquors
o “Smart” drinks
o National chains dealing in health spas, hairdressing, manicuring, massages, etc.

Among the items being included in this year’s ‘Everybody Wins at the Oscars’ gift bag to Academy Award nominees: a $2,000 diamond-and-gold Gothic Dog dog collar charm; Obli Organic clothing for children and dogs; and BuzZen Box, interactive tools and techniques that women can use for a girls’ night out option.

Who Will Get Your Product
A-list actors and musicians aren’t the only folks who may receive a free sample of your product.

With certain campaign buys, other types of *influencers* will get a look at your brand, including:
o Hollywood writers and photographers
o Fashion designers
o Party and event planners
o Celebrity chefs
o Famous models

Who ends up with one of your product depends on which event and what promotions package you choose for your campaign. Different numbers are promised in terms of guests and influencers for each scenario. For instance, some vendors target only the celebrities who are nominated for Oscars every year.

The bigger the event, the more gifts distributed to celebrities, the higher the cost. “Something you have to keep in mind is that it is not an inexpensive proposition,” Johnson says. “You have to commit to it to do it right. It has to be a gift that makes sense for the weekend.”

Cost & Lead-Time Facts
There’s a range in cost for these campaigns -- anywhere from $1,500 up to $5,000 for each gift-bag item or basket. If you want inside the “gift suites,” where you can have a booth display and a representative on hand to interact with the celebrities (not unlike a trade show), the cost can run anywhere from $10,000 and up. Dig deeper in your pocket for title sponsorships, which can cost $100,000-plus.

So, you’re still interested in, say, the 2009 Academy Awards show? Johnson says March is a good time to start getting in touch with vendors. Golden Globes is an event which takes place in January; most of those spots are sold out before the end of summer.

Venues & Events That Distribute Gift Bags
Swag bags aren’t just handed out on the red carpet. Plenty of other locations provide countless photo opportunities for celebs. Call that a script for some serious buzz.

The Oscar, Emmy and Grammy shows may be the three best-known events for celebrity gifting opportunities. But other star-studded entertainment events, including the Sundance Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival and Screen Actors Guild Awards show, are prime product placement spots. So are fundraisers like “The Geffen Gala” and the “Fashion with a Passion Benefiting Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times” event, among others.

Using the Oscars as an example, here are four venues where gift bags are typically distributed:

- Before-event parties
Hotels like the Beverly Hills’ Four Seasons, through which 100 or more celebrities flow during the 36 hours before the Oscar ceremony.

- After-event parties
Similar hotels host parties for celebrities and entertainers after events.

- “Luxury lounges” near the Kodak Theater
Celebrities are escorted through a variety of products in a manner not unlike “shoppers” being escorted by “sales reps” in a retail store

- Rehearsals for events

Pitfalls & PR
To be clear, tapping this product-placement market has real challenges. For instance, you may see a spike in sales in the weeks after getting your product seen with the rich and famous. But there’s really no good way to accurately track the effectiveness of celebrity gifting.

“Nothing happens in a vacuum,” Wood says. “And most marketers have other campaigns running in other channels at the same time to maximize the overall results.”

But you might end up with a bang for your buck that you’ll never see any other way. Rap artist Ludacris received a Maurice Lacroix watch in a gift basket at the American Music Awards. He then wrote the item into his 2003 song, “BR Right”? The lyric: “I might make you famous and buy you watches by Maurice Lacroix.” The song went on to chart in the top 50 R&B/Hip-Hop Singles.

Marketers who push specific products to wholesalers and retailers through celebrity gifting events can hit monster home runs. In terms of the PR potential alone, it could take a year to gather the number of relevant press clippings and photos that you can get in a single weekend with one of these buys.

Mini-Case Study: Brugo Coffee Mug
Spero Pavlopoulos, President, Jolex Industries, wanted to spark sales in 2006 for his ‘smart’ coffee mug, the ‘Brugo.’ A services vendor in this niche pitched him with an offer to get it inside gift bags for celebrity events.

The product had received a bit of techie buzz in print magazines and the blogosphere for its temperature-controlling, thermodynamic features. Pavlopoulo decided he needed more. Each of the three events cost him $2,500 and 200 product units.

“I was able to say to wholesale or retail prospects, ‘Hey, we just gave these things away at the Oscars.' That’s got a real value to it. After the Oscars, we then did the Grammys and Emmys.”

In the six months after these events, revenue jumped by more than four times compared with the first half of the year. And Pavlopoulos struck distribution deals with retail powerhouses Federated Department Stores and QVC Inc. “If I was launching a new product today, I’d do it again. It’s a fun deal that can have a real impact.”

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from celebrity gift bags:

Jolex Enterprises:

Backstage Creations:

mediaplacement inc.:

Distinctive Assets - vendor who administered the Brugo campaign and distributes the Everybody Wins at the Oscars gift bag:

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