The State of the Red Carpet: Why Brands Are No Longer Banking on Awards Season

Between postponed awards shows, outright cancellations and the return of virtual film festivals and premieres, in-person events are again being dramatically impacted by the COVID-19 surge.

To start, after a year of controversy over the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s membership and nominations process, the Golden Globes were held with no audience and no red carpet, and no one seemed to notice. Then the Grammys were moved from its original Jan. 31 date due to coronavirus concerns, and the ceremony will now take place in Las Vegas instead of Los Angeles in April. Sundance Film Festival shifted to online while the Palm Springs International Film Festival and Awards Gala were cancelled altogether. Plus, the premiere of the highly-anticipated “Scream” film was called off this month.

With that, a traditional awards season has seemingly gone out the window, which has had far-reaching effects beyond the movie business. For fashion brands, the red carpet has historically provided a platform to raise major brand awareness and in turn, sales. Now, this crucial aspect of business has been turned on its head for two years in a row, and its importance may no longer be as clear-cut.

“These big happenings generate a huge amount of coverage, with press and social media, which have a positive impact on brand awareness,” designer Giuseppe Zanotti told FN. “I cannot deny that the absence of the American award season has had an impact on the brand.”

H.E.R., winner of the award for best original song for "Fight For You" from "Judas and the Black Messiah," poses in the press room at the Oscars on Sunday, April 25, 2021, at Union Station in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, Pool)
H.E.R.’s Giuseppe Zanotti platform heels make an appearance at the 2021 Oscars.
CREDIT: Chris Pizzello/Pool Via PMC

He said placements have slightly decreased as less celebrities attended events in 2021, but social media has placated the situation. “[It] partially compensates for the lack of major events. We saw a lot more social media posts from celebrities as they still wanted to include their fans in their lives in an even more personal way,” Zanotti said, noting Ariana Grande and Paris Hilton both chose to wear Giuseppe Zanotti on their wedding days. “I wouldn’t say we necessarily shifted PR strategies. Celebrity placements are still very beneficial for us, but nowadays you need to work on several touch points and constantly have fresh ideas if you want to remain relevant in your industry.”

For Shana Honeyman, founder of The Honeyman Agency, it’s been key to not put all her eggs in one basket when forming marketing stategies for clients such as By Far and Andrea Wazen. While she believes the red carpet will key from some players, street style, social media, and other platforms, are now providing more potential for brand visibility.

“Before this current surge hit, we were busier than even before the pandemic, and I think this will be true in the coming months as well,” Honeyman explained. “What we have all taken away from the past two years is that everything ebbs and flows. There doesn’t have to be a massive amount of events to gain visibility or momentum for a brand. My tactic has always been to nurture our clients and make sure their products are being worn by celebrities who have a real and organic connection with their brand.”

With the constant state of flux, it’s clear that the red carpet is no longer a north star for companies looking to grow in terms of reach, and smaller companies are seeing the shift.

“The red carpet has been crucial to my success over the years,” said Chloe Gosselin. “I think it’s still very important but not for the same reasons. Very few people will directly impact sales, but they will elevate the brand and spread the word about it. It also gives the opportunity for smaller brands like mine to align themselves with major players like Chanel or ODLR as the shoes will complete the look.”

Gosselin, who scaled down her business early on in the pandemic, admits that nothing is the same. Today, she is focused on a less-is-more approach by editing collections and reducing waste. The same goes for her celebrity placements: “I’m focusing on the people I have worked with in the past, and creating fewer moments, but some to remember,” she said, citing Nicole Kidman in her Busy pumps at the premiere of “Being the Riccardos.”

Nicole Kidman attends the New York premiere of 'Being The Ricardos' at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City on December 2, 2021. Photo credit: Nancy Rivera/Bauergriffin.com / MEGA
Nicole Kidman attends the New York premiere of ‘Being The Ricardos’ at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City on Dec. 2, 2021.

“Red carpet placements are an opportunity to represent a brand message, its values. It isn’t about quantity anymore but quality,” Gosselin said.

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