By  on January 17, 2002

PARK CITY, Utah -- The Sundance Film Festival's mission is to promote independent cinema -- and that's why megabrands want a piece of it.

With 77 official sponsors ponying up to $250,000 each and hundreds more tagalongs donating free products to the actors who made the grueling trek to snow-covered Utah this week, it's no surprise that the films are being overshadowed by the all-powerful marketing machines. Fashion and beauty brands are increasingly flexing their presence in what began 20 years ago as a rather grungy, unglamorous event in a small mountain town. In most cases, stars are being courted more enthusiastically by the likes of Clinique, Revlon, MAC, Diesel, Reebok, Guess, Ray Ban and other household brands than by the movie studios.

"The fashion presence started about four years ago," said Angela Matusik, features editor for In Style, who has come to Park City for six years. "Gap started giving volunteers special parkas and we always used to covet them."

Parkas make sense. But what about diamonds? This year, European jeweler H. Stern co-sponsored William Morris's annual bash along with Diesel Jeans and Details Magazine. Mariah Carey, Patricia Arquette and Christina Ricci were given trendy -- and pricey -- baubles created especially for the event. H. Stern's marketing director Andrea Hansen even made house calls to provide them with pieces for future public appearances.

"I just left Zooey Deschanel, and I'm parking to go meet someone else," she said breathlessly into her cell phone on Tuesday. Hansen said that since she doesn't have a retail outlet in Los Angeles, she depends on opportunities like Sundance to meet celebrities. "I am gifting some of the celebrities after they wear something. When you think about how much they do for me, it's not a lot," she said.

How much, exactly, is "not a lot?"

"Some of the pieces we gift are upward of $10,000," Hansen revealed. "But we have things for $1,000."

Diesel, which also sponsors Sundance's Documentary Film competition, shelled out "a couple hundred thousand dollars," according to ceo Andreas Kurz. "For us, it's worth it because Diesel and Sundance share an independent approach to creativity."

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