American Marketer


Luxury brands align with amfAR for first Hong Kong gala

March 12, 2015

Harry Winston Forget Me Not necklace Harry Winston Forget Me Not necklace


Harry Winston and Marc Jacobs are among the luxury brands participating in the inaugural amfAR Hong Kong Gala.

On Saturday, March 14, The Foundation for AIDS Research will host a black tie evening with a cocktail reception, dinner and auction, as well as live entertainment. Luxury brands frequently partner with amfAR for events in other major cities, and this gala enables them to help the cause while reaching international and local celebrities and affluent consumers.

"Almost every company is looking for ways to be known for 'philanthropy,' and supporting a foundation that is fighting AIDS is a popular way to get recognition for doing good," said Al Ries, founder and chairman of Ries & Ries, a Roswell, GA-based marketing strategy consultancy.

Mr. Ries is not affiliated with amfAR, but agreed to comment as an industry expert.

amfAR did not respond by press deadline.

International appeal
This joins events in international cities such as Milan, Paris and Rome. Typically, these affairs include impromptu performances by stars and celebrity participation in the live auctions.

Tickets begin at about $2,574 a head, gathering an audience of wealthy individuals who have the ability to both make a large impact in amfAR's funding, as well as buy luxury goods from the participating brands.

amfAR Asia

amfAR in Asia

Some of the event co-chairs hail from the European fashion scene, including Victoria Beckham, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell. There are also key local players, including Christie’s Asia deputy chairwoman Xin Li, jewelry designer Michelle Ong and president of Iconix China Veronica Chou.

"The usual crowd of socialites tend to attend these events for two reasons," Mr. Ries said. "To meet other socialites and to generate publicity for themselves and their companies."

The dinner will feature cocktails made with signature sponsor Moët Hennessy spirits and Champagne.

Swiss art collector Simon de Pury will oversee a live auction, with lots donated by a number of luxury brands.

Presenting sponsor Marc Jacobs is putting up an exclusive fashion week package, including two front row tickets to the brand’s runway show in February 2016 during New York Fashion Week, two round-trip tickets to the show on Delta, a shopping experience valued $5,000 and both a fragrance and beauty gift set.

Marc Jacobs' fall/winter 2014 runway show

Marc Jacobs' fall/winter 2014 runway show

Moët Hennessy is appealing to wine enthusiasts with an experiential lot, including an overnight stay at the Domaine de Clos des Lambrays in France, dinner at the vineyard and a jeroboam of Clos des Lambrays Grand Cru 2007. The experience will continue in New Zealand at Cloudy Bay, with a wine tasting, private boat ride and a dinner overlooking the vineyards.

Presenting sponsor Harry Winston is auctioning its Forget Me Not lariat necklace, which features 189 pear-shaped diamonds. The brand will also present Michelle Yeoh, the gala’s Humanitarian Leadership Award recipient, with a rose gold Midnight Monochrome timepiece.

amfAR Michelle Yeoh

Michelle Yeoh

This gala is part of the jeweler’s three-year partnership with amfAR, which is the biggest corporate alignment in the nonprofit’s history, centering on direct monetary support and in-kind donations. Harry Winston will be a presenting sponsor at 27 galas during the partnership, and will be a head sponsor of amfAR’s Countdown to a Cure, which aims to uncover a scientific cure for HIV by 2020 by putting $100 million in research funds toward the project over the next five years.

In a brand statement, Nayla Hayek, CEO of Harry Winston, Inc., said, “Harry Winston has long looked to the glamour of Hollywood and the allure of its most famous and important gemstones, as a way to raise awareness and funds for local charitable causes. amfAR’s history of hosting some of the world’s most prominent charity events to drive support for its pioneering work towards finding a cure for AIDS, mirrors the same philanthropic principles and beliefs the Harry Winston brand was founded upon.

"Through amfAR, we are proud to not only continue our commitment to bringing more healthy and brilliant futures to all, but also to support the organization’s mission to ending a global epidemic, which continues to impact more than 35 million people worldwide.”

Hong Kong has a relatively low prevalence of AIDS, but the number of new infections is growing steadily, particularly among young individuals and gay men. For 20 years, amfAR has been active in Asia, investing about $50 million in its TREAT Asia program.

Joining the cause
Many brands have gotten behind amfAR, using their craftsmanship and skills to help raise funds.

Geneva-based luxury smartphone manufacturer Savelli-Genève contributed to the fight against AIDS by auctioning a bespoke mobile device.

The bespoke smartphone was auctioned during the sixth annual amfAR event in Milan Sept. 20. The high-profile fundraiser took place during Milan Fashion Week, ensuring that items auctioned off were visible among the design-savvy guests (see story).

Marc Jacobs helped Playboy celebrate its 60th anniversary by creating an exclusive t-shirt with an image of supermodel Kate Moss in a bunny suit.

The t-shirt is based on Ms. Moss’s limited-edition cover for the magazine, and was sold on the Marc Jacobs ecommerce Web site, as well as in its Bookmarc bookstores, with all of the proceeds benefiting amfAR. With this risqué partnership, Marc Jacobs was able to position itself as a brand that pushes the envelope, and pique interest in the brand and its Bookmarc stores (see story).

"Companies tend to sponsor these events primarily for the publicity and not for influencing the people who attend the events," Mr. Ries said.

"Almost every company in the world wants to be known for their support of good causes," he said. "And AIDS is a popular choice since it tends to particularly affect gay people.

"In other words, companies want to be known for their lack of prejudice toward minorities and other segments of the population."

Final Take
Sarah Jones, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York