The Sundance Film Festival wrapped up this weekend and not only did many films come out with distributors, but celebrities walked away with a boat-load of free swag.Stars who attended this year’s festival — whether to promote a film like Naomi Watts or to party like Paris Hilton — received free trips to the Caribbean, beauty products, electric bicycles, flat screen TVs, Samsung tablets, head phones, jewelry, winter jackets and more.
We spoke with Kari Feinstein, founder of Kari Feinstein PR, who puts on elite annual gifting suites for Sundance, Golden Globes, Oscars, MTV Movie Awards and the Emmys to find out exactly what it takes to pair A-list talent with quality brands.
Business Insider: This is your 12th year doing a gifting suite at Sundance. Tell us your company’s role in getting certain brands into the hands of celebrities.
Kari Feinstein: I do gifting suites year round, I do them five to six times a year so product seeding is a core part of my business for my retainer clients and celebrity endorsement deals but then we also do the style lounges.
BI: How do you choose your clients? How do you get certain brands involved?
KF: We have sponsorship decks that, because we do these all year round, we have brands asking me what do you have for the Summer? What do you have for Sundance? So I have a lot of people that reach out to me. I work with a lot of other PR companies and I work with some advertising agencies as well that have clients, but we go out to companies that we think would be a good fit, and we also have people that come to us and want to sign up for the events.
Photo: Kari Feinstein’s Style Lounge
BI: What brands did you work with this year at Sundance?KF: Built, they’re out of New York, they’re one of our bigger sponsors and they make laptop cases and iPad cases, all out of waterproof material. It protects all of your electronics and that’s been a big hit because everyone has an iPad and a laptop. Then we have a handful of beauty lines, a bicycle worth $3,000, and $1,200 Apple laptops from Melrose Mac, which got like 10 press hits already over the past two days.
BI: How many trips to the Caribbean did you give away at Sundance?
KF: We’ve probably given away 25 trips. Katherine Heigl, Matthew Mcconaughey, Paris Hilton, Adrian Grenier, Allison Janey, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Casey Affleck are among the stars we gave vacation packages to this year.
Photo: Getty Images Collection
BI: Can you put a dollar amount on the cost of free swag celebrities walk away with in one visit?
KF: An A-list celebrity will walk out with over $10,000 for sure, because they’re getting trips to the Caribbean for a week, which is already
worth over $5,000. They’re getting Apple laptops which are worth $1,200 dollars. From bikes we’re giving to top talent worth $3,000 to high ticket items, because you need to have things that entice them.
BI: Are there any celebrities you don’t want in the suite?
Photo: Fingerprint PR
KF: Usually a publicist will submit names. We deal with all the publicists and agents and managers before the event and invites go out saying please submit your client for our upcoming event, so they know it’s not ‘invite your client’ it’s ‘submit your client.’ We do the filtering process and start approving names that make sense. There is a lot of up and coming talent at Sundance that aren’t exactly household names, but if they’re one of the leads in one of the main films then of course we’d love to have them come.
But there’s some people that come up to Sundance every year that aren’t really related to the festival in anyway but just come for the free stuff. I usually try to avoid them and decline and we say “unfortunately we can’t accommodate your client at this time” — we do that a lot. If you’re a main role in a Sundance film or if you’re an A-list actor then I would rather have quality versus quantity. I know there’s a lot of other lounges going on which is kind of like a party atmosphere, but ours is a fun, mellow, atmosphere. It’s like a lounge so I try to be really specific with the guest list.
BI: How exclusive and hard is it for a brand to get a spot in one of these gifting suites?
KF: If it’s a brand I think celebrities would like, then I take them into the event. But we have a range, from trips to the Caribbean to these hemp socks that have marijuana leaves on them.
Photo: Us Weekly
BI: Other than obviously these brands getting great press from you guys is there any financial benefit or is it strictly press they’re after? KF: A lot of the celebrity photos get utilized for sale purposes, like when brands have trade shows. Brands also send the photos and press hits to all of their existing accounts and potential new accounts. I’ve had many sponsors open new accounts now that they have a celebrity following.
US Weekly, for example, won’t write about your brand unless you have a handful of A-list celebrity photos and followers. So when somebody can go back and say, ‘Here’s my picture of Matthew Mcconaughey using my brand, and Katherine Heigl’ and they get placed in US weekly — Those press hits generate tons of sales. And we have celebrities tweeting and instagramming pictures. Jewelry by Veronique had a celebrity [Kourtney Kardashian] take a picture of somebody wearing her necklace and in one day this small brand did over five thousand dollars in sales.
Paris Hilton tweeted a picture using one of the beauty products from the Sundance lounge before she went to bed and that’s kind of priceless. If sponsors wanted to pay her to do that it would of cost them over six or seven figures, but they paid $20,000 to be here and things are coming out every hour. So it’s actually saving companies money for product placement.
BI: So sponsors pay you to put their product in your gifting suite? What is that investment usually worth?
KI: Yes, they pay me. For Sundance, the sponsorships range from $20,000 to $100,000, but I would say the majority of our sponsors pay between the $20 – $40,000 range.
Photo: BusinessInsider/Aly Weisman
BI: Is it the same price range at other gifting suites throughout the year?KF: For L.A. events such as the Golden Globes and Oscars, it ranges from $5,000 to $40,000. So some smaller brands can do the $5,000 level, while some bigger brands that have bigger budgets want to be exclusive in their brand category with types of brands that are like them. They want a bigger a booth at the event, so they’ll pay the $20,000 and up as a sponsorship fee.
For Oscars it starts at $5,000 and goes to $40,000. So if I have 20 sponsors paying a range of those fees there’s a nice profit for me. I think why I’ve been in business so long doing this is because I have a consistent good celebrity turnout and press coverage keeps it going and helps sign new sponsors. When other companies read about my event they want to sign up for the next one. And what is really key for me is having the right celebrities and the right press coverage.
Photo: Julie Zeveloff/Business Insider
BI: When you do an Oscar lounge, that’s the biggest entertainment event of the year, what’s the difference between the product brands are giving out there and at the more low key Sundance Film Festival?KF: Oscars we’ll have a lot more jewelry, fine diamonds. We have a company that’s doing cutlery that’s very expensive, but we do still have lifestyle and fun grabs there too.
BI: How does your company benefit financially?
KF: The sponsorship fees help pay for the cost of the venue, the production of the event, my staff, and so we obviously have to make sure for each event we bring enough sponsorship money to cover all the costs and make it worthwhile.
BI: What’s your background? How did you get into gift lounges?
KF: My first job was at CAA,. It was a big talent agency and I worked for two agents who repped a lot of A-list celebrities and I made a lot of connections and contacts that way. Then I started a PR company when I was 23-years-old and our first client was E! Entertainment and they hired me to do their event at Sundance and we did all the product placement and celebrity outreach and we did a gift bag sort of thing and we got photos of celebrities taken with the product and there wasn’t gifting suites at the time.
I decided that for the Emmys, I would do a gifting suite on a large scale because so many brands were so excited when I sent them those photos of celebrities using their product. The only gifting suites that were happening were maybe two brands at a hotel room displaying fine jewelry brand and a dress company for the red carpet and it was mostly stylists coming through and a celebrity here or there to look at the dresses but it was all for borrow, for loan.So what I did in 2001 was take over a few bungalows at the Chateau Marmont and brought in 15-20 companies. It was the first time there were ever gifting suites on a bigger scale, so it spiraled from there. Some other companies came up that replicated what I was doing — some were successful and some were not and they’ve kind of disappeared through the years.
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