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Big Brands Roll Out Bucks for Awards-Season Soirees

Gift bags, specialty cocktails, logo-covered step-and-repeats, and champagne toasts. When it comes to awards season, it is impossible to set foot on a red carpet without being introduced to a product of some sort, be it a Champagne split with a custom sipper or a brand-new luxury car.

“Today, everything is a sponsorship event,” says Howard Bragman, chairman and CEO of Fifteen Minutes PR. But what is in it for the brand? In a fragmented marketplace where it is increasingly harder to reach a large audience, having your product visible at one or several of the year’s most publicized events makes sense. “Awards seasons offer an opportunity to aggregate a great deal of audience, and there’s also a whole press corps surrounding it who does nothing but cover this. It’s a chance for a brand to get all kinds of attention.”

Cadillac, the official automotive sponsor of the Academy Awards, knows what a spot on the broadcast, with more than 30 million viewers, can do. A year after announcing its global reinvention during the Academy Awards in 2015, the carmaker marked the highest in global sales for the brand in 30 years. Its involvement outside the ceremony, including chauffeuring Academy Award nominees, talent, and industry executives in Cadillac CT6 vehicles to pre-Oscar events and the awards show, offers a more targeted approach.

“The Academy Awards is one of the most-coveted and exclusive properties in all of Hollywood and being the official automotive sponsor sets us apart from our competitors,” says Melody Lee, director of brand marketing. “Our partnership allows us to highlight our products at events and unveil new brand creative.”

Delta Air Lines considers its role as the Grammy Awards’ official airline as an opportunity to reach a targeted group. “We’re trying to earn the trust of Angelenos to be their preferred airline,” says Ranjan Goswami, vice president of sales for the West region. “There are certain industries that are really critical to this, and the entertainment industry is high among that.”

The Delta Artist Spotlight, which highlights an up-and-coming artist, is an outgrowth of the 10-year partnership. Delta also hosts an annual pre-awards event that highlights artists on the rise.

“Music really is a part of travel when you think about it,” Goswami says. “There’s a discovery element of music. There’s a discovery element in travel. So for us, there’s alignment on travel and music.”

“There’s a discovery element of music … [and] travel. So for us, there’s alignment on travel and music.”

It’s even more vital for a good fit when two organizations depend on each other financially. Women in Film’s year-round sponsors MaxMara and BMW both provide support for the foundation’s programs and receive brand dividends.

MaxMara, a WIF partner since 2004, considers supporting the organization a path to spread the company’s own message.
“It is a way to do something important, to support women in entertainment in a way that is in line with the philosophy and the values of the company,” says Max Mara CEO Cristian Notari. “For us, to underline the importance of a woman’s position and career is absolutely part of our DNA because that’s what we are. ”

“Naturally, we do get greater brand awareness with people in that industry, specifically with women,” says Charlie Silva, BMW’s vice president of the western region. “Historically, we’ve been thought of as a brand that was more applicable to men, and we don’t feel that that’s the case.”

But brand awareness is not the only reward for BMW. “We don’t want to just have our logo somewhere,” says Silva. “It’s not just about brand awareness. It’s more about being actively engaged in supporting those endeavors. And it’s quite frankly, much more rewarding for us as an organization because it speaks to our core values as well.”

As the exclusive spirits partner for the Governors Ball, beverage giant Diageo is using the opportunity to roll out one of its newer brands, the Hilhaven Lodge Whiskey. At the official post-Oscars fete guests will be able to saunter up to a Hilhaven bar that will feature classic cocktails, including the old-fashioned.

For Diageo, having a product associated with a high-profile event such as the Governors Ball is an immediate endorsement of its quality, says Dan Sanborn, senior vice president of culture & partnerships. “I think the ability to be naturally integrated into events like these can’t be duplicated in advertising,” he says.

“You can put an advertisement out, but it doesn’t really bring it to life, per se,” says Tim Irwin, marketing director of Sterling Vineyards who debuted the label of its Napa Valley Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon at this year’s SAG Awards. “Here you’ve got the celebrities consuming our product and actually organically enjoying our product.”

And you are also one step closer to media placement or a social-media hit.

“The angle is that you get the celebrity there,” Bragman says. “Then you’ve got to show Leo DiCaprio walking by your car or, God willing, looking at your car. And by implication, ‘Look — Leo DiCaprio looked at our car — isn’t it a great thing?’ All of a sudden, people go, ‘Look at that. That’s really cool.’

“And it gets the right kind of exposure. It’s about coming up with the right idea and getting bang for your buck.”

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