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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.