By: Gibson Johns
Swag bag connoisseur and founder of GBK Productions, Gavin Keilly, breaks down the business of award show gift lounges.
Every year, when awards season comes around, so do rumors about celebrity swag bags. Do celebs really get all of those products for free? Who decides which products are included in the gift lounges? Which celebs snag invites and which don't? Tired of always asking myself the same questions, I decided to get to the bottom of those mythical swag bags once and for all.
So, I talked to celebrity swag bag extraordinaire, Gavin Keilly.
Keilly is the CEO and founder of GBK Productions, one of the top celebrity gifting suites of its kind. His company has been producing top-notch events for A-list celebrities around major award shows for 10 years now, so he knows a thing or two about how these gifting suites come to be.
As we all begin to gear up for award season, allow Gavin Keilly to break down everything you need to know about how celebrities score free products (and how businesses crucially get their products in the hands of celebrities) below:
On when and where gift lounges pop up:
We typically produce anywhere from 8 to 10 luxury lounges a year surrounding any type of award show or major event. That varies from the Grammys, the Oscars and the Emmys to South by Southwest and The Food and Wine Festival.
On how companies get their products into gift lounges:
It happens in a variety of ways. Mostly, it's [about] what products we think the celebrities are going to like. Some of the products are returning products [from previous events], because we have found that the celebrities really like them, so we allow them to come back. But very often it's new and different products that they haven't seen before. We like it to keep it high-end with products like electronics and high-fashion and vacations.
Companies will invest anywhere form $50,000 to $100,000 in one of these events, but they'll get a $3-4 million ROI, which they've done numerous studies on. It's worth the investment!
On how many products/companies get to participate in a given gift lounge:
The average number of products at a gift lounge is around 25 or 30, and 60 - 70% of our businesses are small to medium-sized businesses that have only been around for three to five years. They are really trying to educate the celebrities and the press about their products and want to get them into influencers' hands.
On why he doesn't believe in actual swag bags:
[Swag bags] are not a very good investment. [You shouldn't] just put your products in a gift bag, because you never really know who's getting it. Our lounges are quid pro quo, meaning the celebrities are taking a photo with a product in exchange for that product.
See photos of Gavin Keilly with some celebs that have stopped by his lounges through the years:
On how celebrities get invited to gift lounges:
We have three criteria [for deciding which celebrities get invited]: The first criteria is if they're nominated or presenting, they automatically get accepted. Our second criteria is if a celebrity is on one of the shows that's nominated and has a recognizable name. And the third criteria has a lot to do with social media and the amount of followers they have. We want someone who has a lot of followers, but at the same time they have to have a good reputation, because they'll be representing the brands, too! But just because someone has a lot of followers doesn't mean they're going to be accepted to the event.
Believe it or not, but we do actually turn down about 400 to 500 celebrities that want to come to our gift lounges, and that's really because either they're not associated with the event or, more importantly, we're only allowed to have 80 - 90 celebrities at a particular event. Brands will only bring that amount of product, so we have to be very exclusive in regards to who we allow.
On the charitable component of gift lounges:
A lot of companies will incorporate a charitable component, too. For every event Pilot Pen does with us, for example, they do a social media campaign where they have the celebrities that come to their booth tweet about their charity of choice. And [the celebrity that] targets the most people, they'll make a $5,000 donation to their charity.
Also, for every event that we do -- ever since the beginning -- we've given back 20% to charity. In addition to that, we'll have 3 to 4 charities that are on site at the event. We've found this to be really beneficial, because it allows the organizations to educate celebrities about their causes in the hopes of getting them involved. Very often many of these causes will build their honorary board this way and get talent to come out and support their events later on.
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