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What Went on at the 2009 Emmy Awards Gifting Suite

September 21, 2009

I was lucky enough to leave San Diego and drive 2.5 hours in rush hour traffic to Hollywood on Friday morning for a chance to participate in the Gifting Suite at the Emmy Awards.  A pretty cool opportunity for a young brander/marketer/social media lover if I may say so myself.

For all you who aren’t familiar with a celebrity gifting suite the concept is pretty simple.  Celebrities come to an event where different companies have their products and services on display.  The companies give away their products to the celebrities in exchange for: pictures, autographs, and whatever they would find beneficial to their company.

When I say products and services, I’m not just talking wingdings and useless items.  Some of the products this weekend included: Jeans, Bourbon, fashionable shirts,  Sunglasses, small home appliances, and about 20 other venders.  The celebrities left with very full bags and seemed quite content with their scores.

Yes, this does seem like a funny practice.  Celebrities make lots of money being celebrities, so why in the world should they go to an event where the purpose is to give them everything for free?

The answer is exposure.

Businesses spend a decent amount of money for space at the event and product that they give away for free.  The promotion and exposure that they can get in return for their investment could very well be priceless.

One of the visitors to the gifting suite was American Pie star Shannon Elizabeth.  Lets say for example, she liked the bourbon that she had at the event.  Next time she goes to a club, she and some friends order a bottle or two.  If a picture is taken of her drinking the bourbon that the public sees, (on the internet, on tv or in a magazine) that could dramatically boost sales.  If Romi Dames (star of Hannah Montana) wears a shirt she got at the event (either on the show or out in public) millions of preteens could want the same shirt and boost the sales of the shirt company for years to come.

This is the basic idea of the trade; product for publicity.

Worst case scenario is that a celebrity doesn’t ever use your product again, they leave the event and immediately throw it away.  Well that sounds like a big waste doesn’t it?  Thats why these events are great opportunities to promote social media.  At the booth I was at, every celebrity that found something that they liked would have their picture taken with the product.  These pictures are very valuable because they are easily used on all sorts of social media and web sites.  If I’m a fan of a sunglasses company on Facebook, and I see a picture of William Shatner on their blog, Facebook Page or web site wearing a pair of their sunglasses, I may have a more positive opinion of their brand of sunglasses.  Taking pictures and video is the way to guarantee some sort of return on your investment at the event.

The event was hot, long and fun.  It’s exciting not knowing who was going to walk up next.  It’s also a very cool experience to talk face to face to people who you normally see on TV or on the big screen.

The thing that killed me was I heard stories of a couple of venders asking, “Why are we taking pictures?” or “Why are we here?”  I mean I guess it would be neat to have pictures of Eric Estrada on your computer, and fun to have some good stories, but you have got to be kidding me.  If you don’t even know what benefit you are getting from an event like this; you shouldn’t be doing it.  If those venders didn’t understand what they were getting in return for lots of product; they shouldn’t be there. Plain and simple.

This brings us to the most important lesson from this event.

If you don’t know why you are doing something marketing wise for your business (whether it be a gifting suite, marketing strategy/execution, or anything else regarding marketing your business) you shouldn’t do it.  That is how valuable time, money and resources are wasted and companies fail.  The companies who went into this gifting suite without an understanding of how the event fit into their overall marketing strategy will not get the same benefits out of it than the companies who went in knowing why they were there.

So there it is, a glimpse into the secret world of gifting suites.  Shannon, Romi, Bill, Eric; call me.

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