Stars In Our Eyes: The SAG Awards Is The Standout Performer This Season

Some viewers and even industryites out there might hit awards show burn-out this time of year, but not me. I love everything from the strategic nominee campaigns to the red carpet fashion, and I think Billy Crystal’s Oscar monologues are among the best TV moments in the history of the medium.

This year, I’m particularly excited about “The 19th Annual Screen Actor Guild Awards” (a.k.a., The SAG Awards), which will be simulcast live on TNT and TBS on Sunday, Jan. 27, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. It’s always been one of my favorites because it’s a fast-moving, two-hour show and the only one to exclusively honor performers. As Rosalind Jarrett Sepulveda, executive in charge of publicity for the SAG Awards, says of the show, “You know all the nominees.” 

Yes, I definitely do. Daniel Day-Lewis. Denzel Washington. Jessica Chastain. Helen Mirren. The 13 SAG Awards for acting in film and television, presented by SAG-AFTRA, feature these superstar nominees and many others. You can find the complete list of nominees at http://www.sagawards.org.

But thanks to the PR and marketing efforts of Jarrett Sepulveda and her staff, I also know that the SAG Awards stand apart from the awards-show crowd in several other ways. 

For one thing, Jarrett Sepulveda explains, “One of the guiding principles of the SAG Awards is that they be self-supporting, never funded by member dues. In addition, the Awards are a source of income for our union and provide support for the Screen Actors Guild Foundation, which provides education and emergency assistance for actors as well as nationwide and online children’s literacy programs.”

To support the SAG Foundation, the SAG Awards forms strategic partnerships with sponsors that are “organic to both the sponsoring brand and to our brand,” says Jarrett Sepulveda.

Two of the longest-running sponsors are People magazine and the Entertainment Industry Foundation, the philanthropic leader in the entertainment industry. People and EIF will co-host for the 17th year the official Post-Awards Gala immediately following the SAG Awards on the Shrine Auditorium’s back lot. The two organizations will also make a $100,000 donation to the SAG Foundation. 

Other longtime sponsors include 13-year sponsor Champagne Taittinger, Subaru (a 10-year on-air and Foundation sponsor), Graff Diamonds, L’Oreal Paris, FENDI CASA Luxury Living and FIJI Water. Each sponsor also offers brand-appropriate perks to presenters and guests, including backstage make-up touch-ups, luxury green-room décor, and welcome sips of spring water on the red carpet.

Having spent too many hours on the red carpet myself, I’m more than happy to be watching the action from the comfort of my living room. And now I’ve become a two-screen junkie, with the TV going and the computer on at the same time, tracking the social-media commentary on the outfits, the speeches, and the awards themselves. 

Jarrett Sepulveda and her staff cleverly started playing the social media card many years ago—remember MySpace? They were among the first to create a MySpace page for the Awards, and have continued to break new ground ever since. 

“Even when social media was in its infancy, it was clear to me that this was going to be a powerful way to start an enthusiastic conversation about your brand among influencers and especially among consumers—the people who buy the movie tickets and watch the TV shows,” says Jarrett Sepulveda. “So my department developed a number of online outreach programs that actively engage the public in the SAG Awards.”

Among the highlights is a trio of online auctions benefitting the Foundation (you can see them at sagawards.org/auction). The first online auction featured travel and entertainment items suitable for holiday giving and ran in December. The second auction, called the Red Carpet Bleacher Seat Auction, ended on Jan. 13 and allowed fans to bid on 135 bleacher seats from which they’ll be able to see and photograph their favorite stars walking the red carpet and have the opportunity to request autographs.  

The grand finale is the SAG Awards’ Ceremony Auction, which runs Jan. 21–31. This auction features exclusive items from this year’s nominees and presenters, such as autographed scripts and posters, wardrobe and props. Participants can also bid for the chance to visit the sets of films and TV shows; other auction items include packages and “experiences” from sponsors and entertainment news outlets. 

And what would an awards show be without Twitter and Facebook? But the SAG Awards PR team has upped the ante: in addition to their own SAG Awards and SAG Foundation Twitter accounts, they’ve also named actress Busy Philipps (star of TNT’s “Cougar Town”) their social media ambassador for this year’s Awards. Philipps announced the award nominations with Taye Diggs on Dec. 12, and will be offering behind-the-scenes stories as well as posting from the red carpet on the night of the awards. 

But for Jarrett Sepulveda, the biggest pleasure of the night is the old-fashioned kind: greeting the people she’s known for decades, some going back to her years at ABC.

“It has been special for me to be able to greet people on the red carpet or to stand in the wings and congratulate them after they’ve accepted their award, having known and worked with them for so many years,” says Jarrett Sepulveda. “Some of them I’ve known since they were just starting out, and it’s a privilege to have watched them grow and see their careers take off.”

Sometimes new media just can’t compete.

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