By Mike Szymanski
In an effort to set themselves off from similar “gifting suites” during the Academy Awards hype, a few of the companies putting on these giveaways to the stars now call themselves “branding events.”
Nevertheless, in this world of celebrity hype and Hollywood, there still remains a hierarchy, even among these give-away events. Gifting suites started in the early 1990s as a way for fledgling companies to get their new products into the hands of celebrities, and sometimes the stars would wear, mention, or promote the products when hitting the red carpet the next day at the Academy Awards, Grammys or Emmys.
It’s tough to get invited to a gifting suite, but you don’t necessarily have to be a nominee — or even have a ticket to the event — to get into one. You really mostly need some star power, some strong social media presence, and have a lot of hits online. There exists a few secret gifting suites that aren’t well publicized.
For example, two days before the Academy Awards, I was sitting with screenwriter Jeff Whitty, nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay with Nicole Holofcener for the Melissa McCarthy film “Can You Forgive Me?” at the International Press Academy (www.pressacademy.com), and he told me about the slew of gifting suites he planned to go to the next day, on the eve of the Oscars ceremony. He planned to bring his elderly mother and father, who were accompanying him to the Oscars, too.
“It is incredible, they just send you a notice and say, ‘Do you want to get a bunch of stuff?’ and I of course say, ‘Sure!’” said Whitty, who won the Golden Satellite from the international group of journalists, but lost the Academy Award to Spike Lee and his team for “BlacKkKlansman.”
Whitty was invited to “nominees only” gifting suites that were a bit less crowded and offering a whole bunch of better stuff. For example, the GBK Productions Pre-Oscars Celebrity Gifting Lounge (www.GBKproductions.com) offered a $50,000 bag of goodies that included a high-tech Smart Picture Frame from Aura Frames (www.auraframes.com) and a bag of hairstyling products from Wen (www.wen.com) by Chaz Dean. Along with more than two dozen Oscar nominees attending, they had “influencers” with more than 2 million followers who are invited to sample their products.
The press doesn’t always get invited to all of the suites, but this time, I got to hang out again with Brian Sebastian from Movies & More (https://theartofmonteque.com/2019/01/11/going-through-the-golden-globe-gifting-suite-with-brian-and-katerina/) to attend the Celebrity Connected Luxury Branding Suite Honoring the Academy Awards (www.celebrityconnected.net) and the Luxury Experience & Co. Ultimate Oscar Celebrity Gifting Experience (www.luxuryexperienceco.com) which were held at hotels both within walking distance of the Dolby Theatre in the heart of Hollywood. We bumped into some notable faces, like we did at the Golden Globes event a few weeks before.
“I love coming to these lounges, there is always something fascinating I find and I become a fan,” said Billy Porter, the actor notably for sporting a dress at this year’s Academy Awards.
At the Celebrity Connected Branding Lounge, Porter was “oohing” over the jewelry by Beth Carina, (http://www.bethcarina.com) who was giving out individually hand-created Australian designs made from rose quarts and other natural rocks. The 125 pieces she was handing out were hand-sliced and given by her directly as she explained her art to the passing stars.
Actor Donal Logue (known for his rugged roles in “Sons of Anarchy” and “Gotham”) loved the jewelry by Evawn McCoy (www.By-EJewelry.com) and wore one of the new copper bracelets from their new design line after stopping by to meet the artist.
“The bracelets have a healing quality and some people have said it has helped their arthritis,” said McCoy, who brought her sister out from Pennsylvania to help at the booth and introduce their line.
Many of the stars got to hear about Sportamix, (http://sportamix.com) an innovative sports social network that links up athletes of all ages and abilities to coaches, teachers and agents in order to help navigate their way through the world of sports. Already the site has half a million subscribers from 185 countries since launching earlier this year.
The free website connects people in more than 100 different sports, from chess to football, golf to martial arts, and includes overlooked areas such as women’s sports, Paralympics and extreme sports.
The legendary agent Leigh Steinberg, who is the newly-named president of Sportamix, said, “Athletes need to connect with trainers, club sports, colleges, coaches, pro teams, agents and marketers, and Sportamix provides a novel solution to find this opportunity.” Sportamix handed out shirts, ties and bags with their logos.
Some places offered unique samples of their products, such as Fab Pops (www.FabPops.com), which allows you to stick your phone anywhere (car, and toilet are the most popular spots).
And, there was Mati Energy Drink (www.drinkmati.com) the organic craft brew energy drink from Durham, North Carolina. Nearby, was CocaBee (www.cocabee.com) the organic, cruelty-free, handmade skincare line using simple ingredients such as honey, peppermint and coconut. And some of the stars particularly loved the LubeLights, (www.lubelights.com) the personal lubricant bottles with a light from Washington state.
From Australia, Phivo Christodoulou, was giving out samples of his A+ Augustine Approved Supreme Health (http://www.augustineapproved.com.au) which are supplements for dogs, but it’s “human food for dogs” and promotes a healthy weight range. Representatives from Neptune & Co. (www.neptunenco.com) were giving out art collars and leashes explaining how the San Francisco company gives out products to dogs in need. And, the Skippity Doo Dahs and Chix Chicken Dog treats from Bay Dog Biscuits (https://baydogbiscuits.com) from Chesapeake Bay, Maryland were handed out to dog owners, and celebrity dogs, that stopped by (and some of those dogs had very prestigious numbers of Instagram followers!)
Helping chronic pain for both animals and people, Feather Blake created a product line called No Crap In It, (www.nocrapinit.com) and the Pain Killer ball-rolling container she gave me (with a concoction of lavender, peppermint, grapeseed oil and eucalyptus) is the only thing that has helped some reason hip joint pain and chronic aches from Multiple Sclerosis.
“I began making natural beauty products about 17 years ago because I was in college and embarrassed about my skin,” Feather says. “I made my first product, a coconut oil-based facial cleanser, and my skin cleared up quickly and that’s when my love affair with natural beauty secrets began.”
At another booth, Canadian artist Dawn Reiffenstein of Divine Spark Art (www.divinesparkart.com) said she channeled the art she presented to people (I got a really cool dragon), while artist Cyndie Wade (www.CyndieWade.com) created hand-painted glasses of celebrities and animals.
Kevin Wachs, from the Get Together Foundation (www.gettogetherfoundation.com) talked about the My Medic kits for Kits For Classrooms (https://www.givekits.org) where they are trying to get these medical grade supplies into every classroom for free and offer training.
“It is a super first aid kit, and we are training for first responders in all kinds of incidents,” Wachs said.
Also being handed out was CBD Daily (https://cbddailyproducts.com) products to soothe aches, pains, sore muscles and cramping from Earthly Body. The cream includes avocado, coconut oil and CBD and absorbs into the skin quickly to reduce pain.
Emera CBS Hair Care (https://emerahair.com) also offered samples, and it’s the first prestige hair line infused with CBD.
Over at the Luxury Experience & Co. suites, an expert on HEMP Hydrate (http://www.hemphydrate.com) explained how people get confused and lump hemp and CBD products with marijuana products. But, these do not have the necessary elements that cause people to become stoned, and so they are safe to pass out to the stars.
They Hemp Hydrate also displayed a series of clothes offered to the likes of “Green Book” best picture producers Craig DiFrancia, Joe Cortese and Nicholas Turturro, as well as Terrance Blanchard who won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for “BlacKkKlansman” along with Spike Lee, and nominees such as Marc Shaiman and Scott Witman (score and song for “Mary Poppins”) and Terence Blanchard (song for “BlacKkKlansman.”)
Mark-Paul Gosselar (“The Passage”) and other notable stars posed for photos with Janet Song Yoga (https://www.janetsongyoga.com), Malibu Wine Safari (https://www.lasafaris.com) and Bloomers Frose, (https://bloomersfrose.com) a delicious drink mixer. They took home gifts from Universal Yacht Services (https://universalyachtservices.com), Bodies App. (https://www.bodiesapp.com/), and Haibu, (https://haibu.love) a colorful children’s book that helps youth understand the importance of preserving wildlife.
Corie Knights from Wild Aid (www.wildaid.org) said that explaining their concerns about wildlife to celebrities has helped in their cause, and they have reduced the demand in shark fin soup as well as rhino and elephant tusks substantially by getting the wore out. For example, now actor Josh Duhamel (“Transformers,” “Love Simon”) is now very actively involved in speaking out about illegal poaching.
Melissa Taylor explained the hair and skin care products of Nula (http://www.nuloversapothecary.com) with their plant-based products free from harsh and toxic chemicals. They are full of “yummy ingredients like essential oils, herbal infusions from homegrown plants, ginger, vanilla, rosehips and more.”
At one point both of the suites were jam-packed with stars stopping at the booths to hear from the artists and creators in person. Everyone seemed pleased with carrying out their bags of goodies.
Melissa McAvoy, who founded the Luxury Experience with Brittany Reimann, said having their gifting suite at the Loew’s Hotel was particularly exciting. “It was amazing to be at the official hotel of the Oscars during press day, and for our clients and guests to have a complete Oscars Weekend experience.”