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Bag of freebies given to stars

Take That singer Robbie Williams summed up the mood at the lounge in a gilded private room at the London Palladium for Royal Variety Performance last week. I think even Sir Richard Branson would be tickled by a freebie," he said. Robbie who picked up an eclectic medley of products including phone watches, electronic cigarettes and an underwater camera, looked genuinely surprised and a little embarrassed at the amount of swag he was leaving with.

My wife was invited up, so I thought, why not? The concept, as one might imagine, came from the Hollywood land of plenty, dreamt up as a way of getting companies products endorsed by stars. But recently it has been making an appearance on this side of the Atlantic. Lily James, the leading UK company for hosting the lounges, has been slowly building up its appearances over the past two years. The concept is fairly straightforward. The VIPs are invited to the event and are given tours of the stands, each of which has products on display geared to appeal to the sort of celebrity the event will attract.

What the brands usually ask for in return is a photograph, which, it is agreed. The concept comes with its own terms too. Companies don't give celebrities things, instead they "gift" them presents — a distinction that offers a fig-leaf of benevolence to all concerned.

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Joy Montgomery one of the founders of Lily James said they are filling a gap between the celebrity and the brand. We can also go further and introduce the brands outside of the lounge as well, if either party prefer that. Robbie's arrival caused a ripple of excitement among the ladies manning the stands. Not just because many of them were fans of Take That first time round, but also because they were delighted at the prospect of Robbie picking up one their products.

And in an era where celebrity endorsement is everything to consumer companies, the concept seems to be working.


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At one event Wayne Rooney was pictured with a Sound Asleep pillow with speakers. The following week, the company is said to have shifted an extra 80, units. While in America there might be several lounges, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to run, for each big event, here, it's a lot smaller.

Gary Dickinson, whose company was promoting teeth whitening and other dental care products at the Royal Variety awards, believes these events are at the heart of his marketing strategy. Indeed "the picture" is a big motivating factor for these companies.


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A new spa where tiny fish swim around your feet to nibble away the dead skin has pictures of various stars having the treatment, while several celebrities were happy to be pictured at a Palladium stand featuring electronic cigarettes. At the Royal Variety Performance, those "gifted", such as jazz pianist Jamie Cullum, seem to understand the quid pro quo of the night. Others are even more vocal in their support.

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Tulisa, singer with the group N-Dubz, said after happily posing with a watch phone: "What's not to like, there's lots of free stuff and people being nice and giving you gifts. I'm here for whatever I can get. Some of the stars already know the people giving them their products and approach them to thank them for gifts in the past.

Cat Deans, a publicist representing her client, a candle company, at her fifth lounge, knows all about the value of such introductions. Good friendships mean good endorsements," she said. Her approach paid off when she met former Spice Girl Mel B at a gifting lounge a couple of years ago. The singer asked her for several boxes of candles which were lit for a photoshoot she was having in her house.

The events always have a charitable aspect, where guests are invited to donate either money, memorabilia or a piece to camera to help highlight a cause. And while the younger visitors embrace the freebie philosophy, the older generation of celebrities seem less au fait with it.

Susan Boyle, who received much negative press over her teeth, pretended to run away when the word "dentist" was mentioned at the Palladium's teeth-whitening stand. And former Kinks' singer Ray Davies seemed uncomfortable about leaving with free stuff. I don't like candles and I don't like phones. I have always thought that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Maybe not, but in an era where even our best-known stars are feeling the pinch, the younger celebrities look as hungry as ever for free gifts. You can find our Community Guidelines in full here.

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John Rentoul. Chuka Ummuna. Robbie who picked up an eclectic medley of products including phone watches, electronic cigarettes and an underwater camera, looked genuinely surprised and a little embarrassed at the amount of swag he was leaving with. My wife was invited up, so I thought, why not? The concept, as one might imagine, came from the Hollywood land of plenty, dreamt up as a way of getting companies products endorsed by stars.

But recently it has been making an appearance on this side of the Atlantic. Lily James, the leading UK company for hosting the lounges, has been slowly building up its appearances over the past two years. The concept is fairly straightforward. The VIPs are invited to the event and are given tours of the stands, each of which has products on display geared to appeal to the sort of celebrity the event will attract.

What the brands usually ask for in return is a photograph, which, it is agreed. The concept comes with its own terms too. Companies don't give celebrities things, instead they "gift" them presents — a distinction that offers a fig-leaf of benevolence to all concerned. Joy Montgomery one of the founders of Lily James said they are filling a gap between the celebrity and the brand. We can also go further and introduce the brands outside of the lounge as well, if either party prefer that.

Robbie's arrival caused a ripple of excitement among the ladies manning the stands. Not just because many of them were fans of Take That first time round, but also because they were delighted at the prospect of Robbie picking up one their products. And in an era where celebrity endorsement is everything to consumer companies, the concept seems to be working.

At one event Wayne Rooney was pictured with a Sound Asleep pillow with speakers. The following week, the company is said to have shifted an extra 80, units. While in America there might be several lounges, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to run, for each big event, here, it's a lot smaller. Gary Dickinson, whose company was promoting teeth whitening and other dental care products at the Royal Variety awards, believes these events are at the heart of his marketing strategy.

Indeed "the picture" is a big motivating factor for these companies. A new spa where tiny fish swim around your feet to nibble away the dead skin has pictures of various stars having the treatment, while several celebrities were happy to be pictured at a Palladium stand featuring electronic cigarettes. At the Royal Variety Performance, those "gifted", such as jazz pianist Jamie Cullum, seem to understand the quid pro quo of the night.

Others are even more vocal in their support. Tulisa, singer with the group N-Dubz, said after happily posing with a watch phone: "What's not to like, there's lots of free stuff and people being nice and giving you gifts. I'm here for whatever I can get. Some of the stars already know the people giving them their products and approach them to thank them for gifts in the past. Cat Deans, a publicist representing her client, a candle company, at her fifth lounge, knows all about the value of such introductions.

Good friendships mean good endorsements," she said. Her approach paid off when she met former Spice Girl Mel B at a gifting lounge a couple of years ago. The singer asked her for several boxes of candles which were lit for a photoshoot she was having in her house. The events always have a charitable aspect, where guests are invited to donate either money, memorabilia or a piece to camera to help highlight a cause. And while the younger visitors embrace the freebie philosophy, the older generation of celebrities seem less au fait with it.

Susan Boyle, who received much negative press over her teeth, pretended to run away when the word "dentist" was mentioned at the Palladium's teeth-whitening stand. And former Kinks' singer Ray Davies seemed uncomfortable about leaving with free stuff. I don't like candles and I don't like phones.

I have always thought that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Maybe not, but in an era where even our best-known stars are feeling the pinch, the younger celebrities look as hungry as ever for free gifts. You can find our Community Guidelines in full here. Want to discuss real-world problems, be involved in the most engaging discussions and hear from the journalists?

Try Independent Minds free for 1 month. Independent Minds Comments can be posted by members of our membership scheme, Independent Minds. It allows our most engaged readers to debate the big issues, share their own experiences, discuss real-world solutions, and more.


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Our journalists will try to respond by joining the threads when they can to create a true meeting of independent minds. The most insightful comments on all subjects will be published daily in dedicated articles. You can also choose to be emailed when someone replies to your comment. The existing Open Comments threads will continue to exist for those who do not subscribe to Independent Minds.

Due to the sheer scale of this comment community, we are not able to give each post the same level of attention, but we have preserved this area in the interests of open debate. Please continue to respect all commenters and create constructive debates. Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later? Try Independent Minds free for 1 month to access this feature.

Find your bookmarks in your Independent Minds section, under my profile. Subscribe Now Subscribe Now. Final Say. Long reads. Lib Dems. US Politics. Theresa May. Jeremy Corbyn. Robert Fisk. Mark Steel. Janet Street-Porter. John Rentoul. Chuka Ummuna. Shappi Khorsandi. Gina Miller.