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The nominees at the Academy Awards may be anxious and excited about their chances, but the real opportunity in these events is for fashion designers. The awards broadcast attracts an average of 35 million television viewers worldwide each year, and the content gets reproduced and discussed for long after the actual event in magazines, through blogs, and at water coolers.

With this level of potential attention and the amazing brand recognition possibilities that result, fashion designers line up to lend items to stars they think will get the most publicity. The brands are proactive in their efforts too; when Fergie wore an Emilio Pucci dress with a Judith Leiber clutch, both brands sent out press releases to make sure everyone knew.

And the efforts seem to pay off. StyleSpot.com not only showcases the celebrities in their red carpet styles but also provides links to enable consumers to purchase the same or similar merchandise. It attracts 10 million unique users monthly and collects a percentage of the sales produced by click throughs from its site. From shoes, to clothing, to hair products, Oscar watchers can own everything their favorite star wears. Something worn by a popular actor such as Jessica Alba is likely to sell out almost immediately. Moreover, brand awareness entices these consumers to purchase similar items, or perhaps just a fragrance, by the same designer.

The fashion designers also realize that their brands offer intangible benefits, not just functional benefits. Events such as the Oscars provide an unparalleled opportunity to showcase the emotional benefits of the brand and make others want to be a part of it. Thus, the celebrities that designers pursue and offer their items are those that will sell the most or provide the best iconic images. In most cases, these are the celebrities to whom consumers can relate best. Sandra Bullock appeals to consumers with her down-to-earth image; Meryl Streep is widely popular with older consumers; and even celebrities who have never won an award, like Kate Hudson or Drew Barrymore, provide appeals for younger customers.

Discussion Questions:

1. Why is the Academy Awards ceremony such a big opportunity for fashion designers?

Christina Binkley, “Which Stars Sell Fashion?” The Wall Street Journal, February 4, 2010.