Plenty of dreams swirl around the Oscars. Nominees dream of walking away from the gala with a gold statue, fashion designers dream of their red carpet creation scoring praise, and dozens of businesses dream of their product finding a home in the Oscar gift bag.
The gift bags for Oscar presenters, a.k.a. swag bags, contain a variety of trinkets and opulent baubles. For example, the items in last year's bag included a one-ounce bottle of Purell hand sanitizer with a jelly sleeve that was gold and bejeweled with crystals, valued at $135, and a four night-stay for two at Abu Camp in Botswana for an elephant safari, valued at $15,000. Altogether, the items in the 2012 gift bag were valued at more than $62,000.
Because of the glamour of the Academy Awards and the celebrity connection, a spot in the Oscar swag bag can boost brand awareness and possibly lead to a bump in sales. There are also unofficial gift bags handed out to both presenters and attendees, but the official bag gets the most attention and carries the greatest promotion value for the brands tucked inside.
Here's how you can try to get your product in the official Oscar gift bag:
Define your end game.
Before you jump into the placement process, decide on your promotion goals, says Stacy Jones, CEO of Hollywood Branded Inc., an El Segundo, Calif., company that places products in awards show gift bags. That will help you determine how much you want to spend.
"Do you want to [issue] a press release and shout from your social media roof tops about the honor?" Jones says. Or is a photo of your product in the hands of a celebrity what you're after to use for PR and social media? If so, you'll need to invest more money in the placement process.
Prepare to pay to play.
Typically, you need to start trying to get your product in the Oscar presenters' bags months before the big day. "At a minimum you need to allow a month, but on occasion a product can be placed in the last couple of weeks if it is a standout product that fits a category the bag organizers do not have a lot of" or it's really distinctive, says Audra Hamlin, owner of HKCMedia, a PR firm in Elmhurst Ill., who has placed client products like Snomee, a snow globe with a hidden compartment for a gift card and a message, in swag bags for the Grammys, Golden Globes and other award shows.
Getting your product in the Oscar swag bag can be costly because you need to hire a PR firm that specializes in product placement, as well as pay a placement fee to the bag producer. Placement fees for the bag given to Oscar presenters range from $5,000 to $20,000, says Roberto Torres, president of Black and Denim, a clothing brand that was included in the 2011 Oscar and 2012 Grammy and BET Awards bags. About $5,000 can get your product in the bag and maybe a photo of a celebrity holding your item, Torres says. If you can pay $15,000 to $20,000, he says, you can score a backstage pass and the chance to have a photo snapped as you shake hands with an Oscar presenter holding your product.
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Get set to be screened.
"There is always a screening process conducted by the producers of the swag bag to determine what brand will make the cut for inclusion," Jones says. A PR firm typically sends links to a product's website, makes a presentation about the product's attributes, and provides its dimensions so the bag organizers can determine if it will fit or if a gift certificate for the item will be necessary instead. Jones says companies need to submit two to five product samples, which won't be returned.
If your product is chosen, you don't necessarily have to supply samples to fill all the bags. Jones says some business owners opt to send products for a few bags and fill the rest with gift certificates.
In the end, however, the Oscar presenters may never even see your product. "Many gift bags are created to have enormous price tags attached to secure a lot of press around the gift bag itself," Jones says. "But the high ticket items and/or bags may not actually land in the hands of a celeb. The secret truth is many celebrities choose to forgo the bag due to tax responsibilities. Or they may just hand it over to their assistant."
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Gina Roberts-Grey is a freelance writer in snowy, but scenic, upstate New York. For more than a decade, she’s covered consumer issues and health topics for Glamour, Family Circle and NextAvenue.org. She’s also interviewed hundreds of celebrities, including Larry King, Trace Adkins, Jessica Alba, Jewel and others.