Some swag suites at Sundance look to do good

Mon Jan 24, 2011 1:16pm EST
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By Jane Clark

PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters Life!) - When the Sundance Film Festival opened last week, its director John Cooper lamented the "ambush marketers" who had returned in bigger numbers with free gifts for stars than in recent years when the bad economy had driven many away.

Cooper told a press conference he understood a major event like Sundance would attract companies seeking to publicize their brands, but he wanted them to give back.

"I honestly wish they could find some way to contribute to independent films or art, in general," he said.

Some of the so-called "swag suites" at Sundance 2011 have gotten the message. Several are sponsoring events that support the arts and social causes, and others are making charitable donations comparable to the value of the gifts given to the stars.

More product marketers are also switching strategies and looking to associate with an idea or cause.

One person who years ago understood the importance of giving is fashion designer Kenneth Cole. A member of the Sundance board for seven years, he has been making jackets for volunteers. This year the net profits from the Sundance-branded down-filled vests will benefit the Sundance Institute.

"I've always sought ways -- when I get involved outside of what I do -- to lend more than just my name or my voice or writing a check," Cole told Reuters. "There are a lot of great stories out there that need a platform in which to be told, so Sundance's work is important."


<p>A Levis representative (R) speaks to a man taking free samples of the company's products in a gifting suite during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah January 23, 2011. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>