The Academy Awards changed several long-standing rules this year, but one tradition has firmly remained intact: the swag bag.
For nearly 20 years, the 25 nominees for best actor, actress, and director receive a commercial cornucopia of products and vouchers for exotic trips and services from brands hoping for some celebrity media exposure. This year, the “Everybody Wins” package, true to pandemic custom, will be delivered to nominees via Postmates.
Distinctive Assets, the Los Angeles-based product placement company that assembles the Oscar gift bags, says that they chose merchandise to evoke themes from the fraught pandemic year. “We did want the bags to feel like they had a bigger purpose than just, ‘here’s a bag full of free stuff,’” explained Lash Fary, the marketing firm’s founder, to Fortune. “All of the bags that we’ve been doing have been from female-owned businesses, Black-owned businesses, disabled entrepreneurs, and companies who give back—even ones that you wouldn’t necessarily think give back.”
Surveying this year’s loot, estimated to be worth $205,000, one sees many health- and wellness-oriented products and services. They include concierge vitamin therapy for hangovers, a 24-karat vape pen, sleep tracker headbands, free personal training, and liposuction sessions for “celebrity arms.” There are also free stays at stunning resorts, notably to Sweden’s secluded Pater Noster Hotel, a former lighthouse converted to a nine-room luxury hotel.
Inevitably, there are less glamorous items such as $20 games, face masks, socks, vitamins, grocery store biscuits, candles, and an “energy potassium broth.”
But the most 2021 item of all is an NFT tribute to the late actor Chadwick Boseman, who is posthumously nominated for best actor for portraying trumpet player Levee Green in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
The item included in the Oscar swag bag is actually a card. The cryptoart—a gif animation created by 3D artist Andre Oshea—is being auctioned on Rarible, with half of the proceeds going to the US Colon Cancer Foundation. Per the rules of crypto art sales, the winning bidder will receive a non-fungible token which acts as a certificate of ownership to Oshea’s work.
The item capitalizes on the burgeoning crypto art market, where anything from a jpeg, a tweet, a video clip, or even a news article can generate huge sums from cryptocurrency-loving collectors. Advocates say that NFTs will democratize how digital assets are traded, but its enormous environmental impact has made the practice controversial.
Apart from the nominee swag bags, celebrities can also accumulate free goods through a network of gifting suites set up at various hotels near the Union Station Los Angeles and the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, the two venues where the ceremony is being held this year. Actors still skittish of being around big crowds can avail themselves of swag-to-go via a “drive-thru gifting experience,” at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel or the Garden Suite hotel, as NBC reports.