Academy Awards

At $47,802, Oscar swag bags cheapest in 5 years

Feb. 22, 2013 at 2:47 PM ET

Adrees Latif / Reuters /
Even if Jennifer Lawrence doesn't bring home an Oscar on Sunday, she'll still get to keep a $47,802 goodie bag.

A gold statue is nice, but Hollywood A-listers nominated for Oscars will get a consolation prize even if they don’t win: a $47,802 goodie bag.

That’s about the same as the MSRP for an entry-level Mercedes Benz M class (and it’s within shouting distance of America’s 2011 median household income of $50,054). Still, it’s the least-expensive this gift bag has been in five years; in 2010, Oscar swag topped $90,000.

“I am confident that having a $48,000 gift bag vs. a $58,000 gift bag will go unnoticed by Amy Adams, Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Lawrence,” Lash Fary, founder of marketing firm Distinctive Assets, which has put together the "Everyone Wins at the Oscars®" gift bag for the past 11 years, said via email.

There’s still plenty of swag that evokes the typical A-list lifestyle: a $4,100 weeklong weight-loss retreat, $406 hand cream, a $795 water filtration device and and $1,800 pass to the VIP club at London's Heathrow airport.

Others are quirkier and cheaper, albeit more practical, like a $19.99 clothing de-fuzzer and a $3.99 cleaning product from Windex. There is even a six-pack of condoms valued at $20.

Fary said a smaller number of big-ticket vacation packages contributed to the lower overall value of this year’s gift bag. “This year, we had more physical items than in past years.  The past couple years we included more trips and gift certificates and decided to scale that back a bit this year,” he said. “Redeeming 12 trips in one year is difficult for anyone … let alone a busy celebrity.”

There are still some trips included in this year’s gift bag, including a choice of one of two $12,000 Australian vacations either on the Great Barrier Reef or in the Outback. There’s also a $7,400 gift certificate for interior decorating services, among others.

The appeal for companies is that they’ll score publicity if a red-carpet fixture like Robert De Niro or Sally Field uses, eats or wears their offering. This exposure is invaluable, which makes Academy Awards swag big business.

“Part of the good news about all the attention we receive during Oscar week is that we get a lot of last-minute inquiries about being added to the bags, and sometimes the company is able to mobilize to make it happen,” Fary said. Companies pay between $4,000 and $20,000 to participate, not including the cost of the items they donate.

In addition to the “Everyone Wins” gift bag, there are gifting suites like the GBK Luxury Gift Lounge and the Oscar Celebrity Gifting Suite, not to be confused with Connected's Pre-Oscar Celebrity Gifting Suite.

Courtenay Madsen, owner of jewelry start-up Courtenay J Designs, spent about $1,250 to contribute 100 hand-stamped, sterling silver and copper necklaces for the GBK Luxury Gift Lounge, which totaled about a third of her annual marketing budget.

“The cost was definitely a factor,” she said. “I had to watch every single penny.”

Madsen said she’s hoping for payoff in the form of a celebrity shout-out on Twitter, which could help grow her wholesale business. “A  lot of times the actor’s fan base will click on your information,” she said. “You have a little bit more credibility... other people start to take notice.”

“It takes quite a lot of work and time and effort to make it happen,” said Julian Harrison, president of Premier Tours, which donated a $45,000 African safari to the “Everybody Wins” gift bag in 2010 and had participated for the past four years. His company isn’t giving away a trip this year, but he said, “More than likely, we will be back next year.”

TOP