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What is Swag?

Amy Pollick
Updated May 16, 2024
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We hear about celebrities and their fabulous goody bags they receive for presenting awards, attending opening parties and the like. These little perks are called “swag,” which is short for “stuff we all get.” In other words, it is a common practice. Most people who are in any kind of entertainment business receive swag.

Giving swag is usually an attempt to curry favor with a celebrity or a media outlet. It also serves as excellent advertising for various products. Before most major awards shows, some entertainment magazine will do a story about the swag. The Oscar swag, for instance, ain’t chicken feed. Presenters at the 2006 Academy Awards received swag bags containing over $100,000 US Dollars (USD) worth of goodies like iPods, trips to Hawaii, digital cameras and silk kimonos. However, the Internal Revenue Service decided that the Oscar swag was not really a gift and so the Academy voted to discontinue the gift baskets after 2006.

Swag is good advertising. It’s an age-old truth that associating products with famous people guarantees a rise in sales. So, when an international star like Nicole Kidman, for instance, is spotted with that Prada bag she got in a swag basket, it’s great advertising for Prada. It also gives other companies a chance to see the Prada bag and reproduce it for a lower end market, thus raising their sales. This is incentive for companies to keep sending little swag items to celebrities, hoping for that 15 seconds of exposure on a television show or in a magazine.

Although celebrities are usually associated with swag, media outlets and representatives receive it as well. The kinds of swag they receive varies, but it is usually nowhere near as expensive or elaborate as that which celebrities receive. Magazines, television stations and newspapers with a big fashion emphasis, for example, may receive samples of premium cosmetics. The manufacturers are hoping for a review of their product. Media outlets also receive books, compact discs, DVD movies, mugs, food samples, even small appliances like coffee and a coffee grinder! Almost anything that can be legally mailed may find its way into a media outlet’s post office box. Sending swag is a proven method of promoting a product.

With the IRS looking more closely into swaggery, it is likely to become less common, at least as a bulk enterprise as at awards shows. It is likely the practice will be scaled down and done at intervals throughout the year.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Amy Pollick
By Amy Pollick , Former Writer
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at SmartCapitalMind. With experience in various roles and numerous articles under her belt, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers across various platforms on topics of all levels of complexity.

Discussion Comments

By Moldova — On Mar 23, 2011

@Sunshine31- I understand what you are saying but there are times when celebrities do use their status in order to get freebees.

For example, a have a friend who is in a very prominent position in a cosmetic company and was doing a special event with a celebrity. They were sponsoring her makeup for a television show and all she kept saying was, “Do you have anything for me?” and “What else can I get?”

She expected to receive free cosmetics just because the company was sponsoring her makeover. I have to say that it is a little unseemly. I am sure she is not the first, nor the last celebrity to act this way.

I think that this is why some people are turned off when they hear about the swags that the celebrity receives at these award shows. But I do agree that it is one thing to receive a gift and clearly something else to request that a gift be given.

By sunshine31 — On Mar 22, 2011

@Cupcake15 -I know what you mean but the celebrities are not asking for the swags they are just given to them. Some may not want to insult the companies that are offering these gifts because who knows if there may be an endorsement deal in the future.

I think that there is another side to consider and maybe the celebrities that accept the swag don’t want to be labeled as rude. Maybe they don’t have the clout that other stars have and feel uncomfortable with such a stance.

I really don’t care one way or the other. I just know that if I was a celebrity, I would probably keep the swag and not draw attention to it.

By cupcake15 — On Mar 21, 2011

It is really amazing the swag baskets that these celebrities receive. While I totally understand why a company would offer free items to a celebrity because of the high exposure that celebrity has and the potential for addition sales, it just does not sit right with me.

These people make very generous sums of money and in addition they get showered with gifts that they can easily buy themselves. I don’t know but it seems a bit greedy to me.

I know that there are some celebrities that refuse swag and I applaud them. There is nothing wrong with a celebrity receiving swag; from a public relations standpoint the general public might consider the action of receiving these free gifts a little tacky.

It would be the equivalent of a celebrity going on a game show and instead of giving the money to charity; they keep the money for themselves. I imagine that the swag is fun to receive, but I think that the celebrities should be above the freebees and refuse the swags.

Amy Pollick

Amy Pollick

Former Writer

Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at SmartCapitalMind...
Learn more
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