Stars say so long to swag, hello to an eco-friendly 'experience'

Stars are known for their luxe lifestyles, much attributed to the companies that lavish them with free gifts, in hopes that a celebrity association will bring reputation and revenue.

Stars are known for their luxe lifestyles, much attributed to the companies that lavish them with free gifts, in hopes that a celebrity association will bring reputation and revenue.

Awards season, the pinnacle of all swag giving, featured a new approach to currying celebrity favor. After the Internal Revenue Service ruled that celebrities would be responsible for paying taxes on gifts received during awards season, the goody bags slowed. The new swag, which The New York Times referred to as a "branded retreat," offers invitation-only guests with food, drinks, entertainment and spa treatments - all on the house.

As marketers seek endorsements, they are focusing more on experience than on material goods, which experts seem to think are protected from taxation. Concerts, parties, even "acceptance speech consultations" are being offered. Marketers have also drawn stars to charity-giving and eco-friendly products.

Why does it matter?

"It's creating an experience, rather than getting celebrities to pick up a gift bag," says Jimmy Floyd, partner at ProducersAdvantage.net. At his "Haven," a multi-layered retreat center, there were a few hundred stars coming in over a three-day span.

"This opens doors for marketers in a different way," he adds. "PR pros could go several steps further than just popping something into a bag and hoping it'll [get] to the right celebrity." By actually placing products into the hands of a celebrity, the experience is more intimate. Also, PR people appreciate opportunities to connect with stars on deeper levels. Once a star becomes a fan of your brand, you can continue the client relationship.

In a year where Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth won an Oscar, Christie Communications set up the Ultimate Green Room, where stars could learn new eco-friendly living trends.

"It is important for eco-friendly companies to accelerate the message of changing our habits to incorporate eco-friendly products," says Gillian Christie, CEO and founder.

Five facts:

1 Celebrity swag gifts can include free cruises, laser surgery, and plasma televisions, amounting up to tens of thousands of dollars.

2 According to multiple media reports, former Beverly Hills 90210 star Tori Spelling had her baby shower sponsored by Tupperware.

3 The '05 Oscar swag bag had an estimated $150,000 value, reportedly including a Samsung high-def TV and subscription package and $500 cashmere pajama bottoms.

4 The New York Times reported that Cadillac, Delta Air Lines, and Mulberry each feted attendees of the Academy Awards this year by sponsoring retreats at mansions.

5 A diamond manufacturer and a destination offering up free products and a trip found one inquiry, but no takers, according to The New York Times.

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