As the official hotel of the NFL, Courtyard by Marriott is hosting the winner of its Super Bowl Sleepover contest this week, where one lucky fan and a guest will wake up on the field on Super Bowl Sunday at US Bank Stadium.
This is the 7th year of the brand’s NFL partnership and third year of the Courtyard by Marriott Super Bowl Sleepover contest, which this year raised its game by adding more star power with the Manning brothers, Peyton and (at top) Eli, as well as a virtual reality activation that popped up in New York last September and is now open to fans at the Mall of America in Minneapolis.
The lucky winner—Denver Broncos SuperFan and US Navy Veteran Courey Marshall, who Peyton Manning surprised last week with the news that he’d won the ultimate Super Bowl experience.
For more insights on making a high-profile partnership like the NFL work across all facets of a brand, Interbrand Executive Creative Director Chris Campbell spoke with Michael Dail (right), Vice President of Global Brand Marketing for Marriott International, on-site in Minneapolis, Minnesota where the Courtyard by Marriott is busy making this year’s Super Bowl experience its best yet.
Michael, what are you doing in the lead-up to the big game on Sunday that makes this year’s activation unique?
This is our seventh year as an NFL partner, and in addition to being the official hotel of the NFL, one of the things that we have done with the NFL for Courtyard by Marriott is to give fans unique once-in-a-lifetime moments. This is our third year of doing our Courtyard Super Bowl Sleepover, so at Vikings stadium we’re taking one of the suites and converting it to a hotel room.
— Courtyard Hotels (@CourtyardHotels) February 2, 2018
Our social media contest winners will be spending the night starting Saturday evening, they’ll have some unique NFL experiences and then on the morning of the game, they’ll wake up, eat breakfast and enjoy being in the stadium from the fifth yard line to watch the big game.
This year we’re also bringing a virtual reality dome experience to fans. It’s at the Mall of America so anybody, even those who don’t have tickets, can come by—it’s open to the public—and see a virtual reality experience that gives a four-dimensional 360-degree view of the suite.
What’s nice about the Vikings stadium suite is that it’s on field level. It’s literally adjacent to the end zone, so you can walk out of the suite and see the athletes coming out of the locker room onto the field and also see the plays being made in the end zone, which is literally three feet from the suite.
— Courtyard Hotels (@CourtyardHotels) October 12, 2017
So that’s a once-in-a-lifetime viewing opportunity, and by turning that into a virtual reality experience everybody in the Mall of America will be able to walk through and get that feeling.
Also, at the Mall of America on Friday and Saturday, we’re giving away two tickets each day to the Super Bowl, so people can come, have a great virtual experience and then have a chance to win Super Bowl tickets. Eli Manning will be there, too.
We’re also sponsoring the Vikings House at the Super Bowl. There’s a restaurant downtown where we’ve taken it over so it’s a Courtyard by Marriott and Minnesota Vikings experience. We’re seeing a lot of the athletes in the NFL, sportscasters, Marriott Reward members, Starwood guest members, all adding to the experience.
How are you applying what you’ve learned over the year’s to this year’s Super Bowl activation?
When you’ve been doing it seven years, you apply what you’ve learned to the next years, and the NFL has been a great partner. We also work with the individual teams, and this year the Vikings have been a great partner, really amazing.
One of the things we’ve learned is access to the athletes is huge for fans. So having Eli Manning even though he’s not a player in this Super Bowl, a lot of people are big fans of Eli even if they’re not dedicated football watchers. So getting access to that really brings the passion for NFL. Courtyard being the brand that’s able to do that is great.
The surprise and delight factor is also key. As a hospitality brand we love hosting people, taking care of them, thinking about their every need. So when they come to the sleepver in the stadium, they’re expecting to have a great bed, a great meal and beverages, but then they don’t expect all of the great experiences that we provide in terms of having the athletes and the special one-of-a-kind NFL moments to go along with it.
What are some of the key performance indicators you track around Courtyard’s NFL partnership?
We have a lot of KPIs. We’re tracking individual impressions in terms of media coverage, engagement, likes/shares/follows on all of the social channels, we also do a lot of brand health and brand tracking. People who are aware of Courtyard and the NFL being partners see Courtyard as being more contemporary and more modern more professional. They are also 70 percent more willing and more interested in considering it for their next business trip.
Out of Marriott’s portfolio of brands, why was Courtyard by Marriott the best fit for the NFL partnership?
In terms of sheer distribution, Courtyard is our largest brand by number of units. It’s also very internationally distributed—although we have probably 80 percent of our properties in the U.S. or North America, we do have and are growing quite rapidly outside the U.S. Also the NFL has a fan base that is growing in Europe, in the UK, in Mexico, in China, which creates opportunities. Also when you think about other NFL partners—Bose, Pepsi, GMC—Courtyard really fits in with those sponsors.
Our partnership with the NFL is a year-round calendar, there’s not a month where there isn’t something happening. Most people think of the NFL as just the season, but there’s also the scouting combine, the draft, pre-season, the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl—there’s a lot going on. Rather than just activating it three months out of the year, we saw the opportunity to keep it going. Now we’ve got four or five major tentpoles every couple of months.
Are you offering the ability for members of your loyalty programs to have exclusive experiences around this partnership with the NFL?
Absolutely. Marriott Rewards and Starwood both had loyalty experiences which you could use your points. Now that we’re combining them into one program, the advantage is that you can use your SPG points to get that Courtyard NFL experience.
For example, the Vikings House is sponsored by Courtyard but we have a loyalty lounge on the upper level where VIPs and our members who are using their points and coming into town for the Super Bowl are welcome. Local rewards members and elite members who are also VIPs get to come and have access.
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