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Luxury Living

Oscars swag: inside the $205,000 Academy Awards gift bag

The pandemic killed off a number of Hollywood traditions in the past year, but the Oscar season swag bag wasn’t one of them.

Every year, celebrity and product-placement marketing company Distinctive Assets puts together a gift bag that the 25 nominees for best actor, actress and director awards take home with them, whether they win or not. Each of 2021 Oscars’ swag bags is valued at around $205,000. That’s a combined value of $5.1 million, just $1 million shy of the worldwide box office for this year’s best picture front-runner, ‘Nomadland’, which tells the unglamorous tale of a woman who’s lost everything in the Great Recession.

The value is a drop of $20,000 from last year, the first dip since 2016, when it was cut by half after a legal dispute between Distinctive Assets and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The Academy, which is putting on its 93rd Oscars this year, has complained about the “less than wholesome” nature of some of the gifts and the negative press surrounding it. This year’s gift bag reflects the twin events overshadowing the ceremony – calls for social justice in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the outbreak of Covid-19.

“We did want the bags to feel like they had a bigger purpose than just, ‘Here’s a bag full of free stuff’,” said Distinctive Assets 49-year-old founder Lash Fary, whose marketing company takes pains to make it clear the Academy has no association with the freebies. “So, all of the bags that we’ve been doing have been from female-owned businesses, black-owned businesses, disabled entrepreneurs and companies who give back – even ones that you wouldn’t necessarily think give back.”

The brands absorb the cost for all the gifts, which range from chocolate-covered biscuits and wafers and sweet and savoury nuts, to pricey personal services, such as a package of workout sessions with celebrity trainer Alexis Seletzky, a liposuction procedure with cosmetic surgeon Dr. Thomas Su and complementary project management for the nominee’s next home construction or renovation project. This year’s swag bag is noticeably lighter when it comes to getaways, given the perils of travelling in the midst of a global pandemic.

The cost for inclusion in the ‘Everyone Wins’ bag starts at $4,000 and rises to $25,000 for ‘sponsors’. Lavish sums? Yes, but far less than the $2 million advertisers pay for a 30-second spot during tonight’s awards.

Brands reap the rewards of their marketing spend through celebrity mentions on talk shows or social media, as when 2019 supporting actress nominee Melissa McCarthy showed off the sad clown painting artist Reian Williams created for her husband’s birthday during an appearance on the ‘Ellen show’, or when Amy Adams was photographed wearing the ‘Strong is the New Skinny’ T-shirt the day, after her bag was delivered that same year. Recipients also pay income tax for the monetary value of all accepted gifts.

View the original video here.

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