And the Oscars winner is…branding

David WallerToday the who’s who of Hollywood turns out to find out who has won at the Oscars. In this guest post Dr. David Waller breaks down the ways brands are jumping on the bandwagon.

The Academy Awards are on today. The winners will give their speeches and be celebrated; the losers will try not to look too disappointed and commiserate with each other; and while the recent controversy on the lack of diversity will have some people watching to see how the host, Chris Rock, will respond, many will be watching just to get their fix of celebrity star power.

Each year millions of dollars is spent on the Academy Awards event in both advertising and sponsorship. While behind all of the glitz and glamour is just more glitz and glamour, it can be asked “what are the Oscars really about?”

oscars 2016

Of course, the aim is to reward the best in the film industry for the previous year, as voted by those in the Academy. Eddie Redmayne, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, and so on are all competing for golden statues, but from a business perspective, it is all about marketing, and particularly branding.

Basically, the Oscars can be extremely valuable for brand awareness, as well as brand association (linking the brand to famous/infamous fashionable people). This can be seen in the following areas: Film, Fans, Fashion, and more recently Freebies.


The Academy Awards are given by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) www.oscars.org, so ideally it should be all about the films. This year films such as The Revenant, Spotlight, Room, The Martian, and Mad Max: Fury Road, are nominated, which provides extremely important publicity and generates positive word of mouth. This can be extremely valuable to smaller films like Room and Trumbo.

The Martian is nominated for Best Picture

The Martian is nominated for Best Picture

According to one study, a Best Picture award can add tens of millions to a film’s box office, while a Best Director award can add $11 million in revenue, Best Actress is worth $2.3 million but Best Actor is worth just over $1 million. It can also add publicity to boost DVD sales, online downloads and television rights.


The Academy Awards are the Superbowl of the film industry. It is a multibillion dollar industry and movie lovers and celebrity spotters have a keen eye on who are winners and losers of the precious golden statuettes, and which film they should see.

As for the TV coverage, the number of viewers has been increasing in the last few years, which means the higher the viewers the more advertisers will pay for advertising space. Last year in the US there was more than 43 million viewers with a 30 second advertisement claimed to be $1.8 million – $2 million.


It is probably the most asked question on the red carpet: “Who are you wearing?” – at least the most asked to female celebrities, much to their growing annoyance:

However, the fashion has become an integral part of this and other Awards show, like the Golden Globes, Emmys … and the Logies. There are regular critiques on and off the red carpet which discuss the hits and misses. For designers this can be a perfect time to get their gown and brand name in front of millions of viewers at a relatively low cost.

Freebie Gift Bag

An aspect of the Academy Awards that is gaining more interest recently is the nominations gift bag. At a time when the economy is tightening and paid advertising is losing some of its appeal, some companies are offering the mega-rich celebrities ‘freebies’ in official and unofficial gift bags in a hope to gain some publicity from potentially reflected star power endorsements.

For the last 14 years LA company Distinctive Assets www.distinctiveassets.com has been organising its ‘Everyone Wins’ at the Oscars gift bags. While it has no affiliation with AMPAS, it is given to all of the losing nominees in the acting and director categories and presenters at the Oscars.

Over the years the gift bags have grown in popularity, value and publicity generation. This year it is reported that the total value of the bag is $US232,000 with goods.

So what is in this year’s gift bag? There is a range of clothes, jewellery, food, travel and pampering. For example: 10-day first class trip with Explore Israel ($55,000); 15-day walking tour of Japan ($54,000); a year’s worth of unlimited Audi car rentals from Silvercar ($45,000); meal donation to a choice animal shelter or rescue from Halo Natural Pet Food ($6,300); Vampire Breast Lift ($1,900); Joseph’s Toiletries toilet paper ($275), and Hydroxycut Gummies ($19.88).

While it would be doubtful that the celebrities would put their name behind all of these gifts, having them in the gift bag can give them the publicity to associate their brand name with the rich and famous.

So while there can only be one winner for an Oscar, there are many winners on the day, and for many businesses – branding is the winner!

Dr David Waller is a lecturer in marketing at the University of Technology Sydney


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