Personal Finance

A look at the swag some Oscar nominees get

Key Points
  • Many Oscar nominees are sent some serious swag.
  • Gifts include a trip to Africa and one-of-a-kind artwork.
  • Here's a look inside this year's eclectic selection of freebies.
The Oscars statue
Andrew H. Walker | Getty Images

Regardless of who wins the Oscar, no nominee will walk away empty handed.

Increasingly, the Academy Awards is a chance for brands and their marketers to catch the eye of A-listers and everyday Americans alike by gifting stuff. That might explain why this year's swag bags furnished by Distinctive Assets offer a particularly wide assortment of goods.

Indeed, there are the ultra-luxe travel packages (12 nights in Tanzania with a private safari, a week in Hawaii and a beachfront villa in Greece), as well as spa treatments, skincare and herbal tea.

But if pampering is a theme, so is anxiety. Also included are underarm sweat patches, pepper spray and a golden gift certificate good for a session with a "phobia relief expert."

And then there are a few items that defy categorization, like an original commissioned work of art valued at $10,000, a storage tote and a "wearable" water bottle (it fits on your forearm like a sleeve).

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Altogether, the "Everyone Wins" gift bags are valued at over "six-figures" although Distinctive Assets declined to say exactly how much (however, the trip for two to Tanzania is worth $40,000 alone, the company said).

They are sent to all 25 Oscar nominees in the acting and directing categories in the week leading up to the big night and, yes, celebrities are taxed on the fair market value of what they use or redeem. (Want to get a jump start on your filing? Here's how.)

This year's nominees include Meryl Streep, Margot Robbie, Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson, among others.

For the chance to land in those celebrity hands, the participating companies, including 23andMe, Hydroxycut, Jarritos Mexican soda and Posh Pretzels, donate the goods in addition to paying a pricey promotional fee, which starts at $4,000.

In return, the contributors get "bragging rights," said Distinctive Assets founder Lash Fary. "To have their brands associated with the most buzzed about people in the world is potentially priceless."

And if Meryl Streep doesn't want the diamond necklace or DNA kit, she is welcome to pass it along, Fary said. "We are fans of regifting as well."

Actress Meryl Streep poses in the press room at the 84th Annual Academy Awards.
Jeff Kravitz | FilmMagic

To be clear, there is no direct connection with the swag and the Academy Awards. The Oscars, in fact, filed a complaint against Distinctive Assets in 2016 for promoting the impression that the gift bags were affiliated with the awards show. "The Academy has no affiliation, connection, or association with Distinctive Assets' "gift bags" or their contents, and certainly does not sponsor, endorse, or approve of Distinctive Assets, its services, or the products it promotes," it said in the suit.

Still, the swag continues — now in its 16th year — with a disclaimer that says "the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences does not award, sponsor, endorse, or provide these gift bags."

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