Rising occupancy rates, the growing popularity of consumer loyalty programs and new hotels in the U.S., Asia, Middle East and other markets are driving a groundswell of new deals around the world, bringing the category back to life after taking a hit a few years ago.

Those include Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. and the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One team; InterContinental Hotels Group and the LPGA, and Marriott International, Inc. and the Barclays Center, home to the NBA Brooklyn Nets.

More recently, IHG last month announced a one-year partnership with the East Coast Hockey League, a deal that affords status as the league’s preferred hotel partner across the company’s various hotel chains.

Those deals follow a spate of new ties over the past two years. Those include Marriott and the National Football League and IHG and the PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Web.com Tour.

IHG in 2010 extended Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resort’s title of the PGA Tour Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial through 2015.

Below, IEG SR highlights the three primary hot buttons in the hotel category:

Drive bookings. To no surprise, hotel companies use sponsorship to gain new and incremental business. That includes business from fans and other frequent travelers as well as sponsored properties.

Hotels drive bookings by offering discount rooms to fans, athletes and other stakeholders. For example, IHG activates the ECHL with a special portal that ECHL teams and coaches can use to book discount hotel rooms for out-of-town games and recruitment initiatives.

“This partnership provides a terrific opportunity to showcase team travel accommodations for the ECHL’s players and officials,” said Doug Dixon, IHG marketing manager, U.S. sales & marketing.

Hotel chains also drive bookings through links on property Web sites. IHG activated USA Cycling—another new partnership in 2012—by posting a link on USACycling.org. IHG sponsors USA Cycling on behalf of the Holiday Inn brand, although NGB members can use the partnership to access exclusive rates at any of the company’s participating hotels.

Other hotel chains bundle discount pricing with other perks. Marriott activates the NFL with an exclusive fan package that includes a $50 discount on a two-night weekend stay and a 15 percent savings on purchases over $100 on www.NFLShop.com.

Engage frequent customers. Hotel chains are increasingly using sponsorship to engage and reward frequent customers. That involves accessing unique, one-of-a-kind experiences for customers enrolled in loyalty programs. 

For example, Starwood uses Cirque du Soleil, Live Nation, Penske Racing and other properties to access money can’t buy experiences for members of the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program. That includes VIP access to NASCAR races and behind-the-scenes tours of Penske Racing’s shop in Mooresville, N.C.

Other reward programs include Best Western Rewards, Hilton HHonors and IHG’s Priority Club Rewards.

Support growing brands. Domestic and international expansion is driving new interest in multi-market properties.

Case in point: Starwood partnered with the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One team to support its expansion in Abu Dhabi, Singapore and other Middle East and Far East markets, while IHG earlier this year partnered with championship winning BMW driver Joey Hand on behalf of the Crowne Plaza brand.

With more than 400 hotels and 100 in the pipeline, Crowne Plaza bills itself as one of the hotel industry’s fastest-growing brands.


Best Western
Best Western International, Inc.
6201 N. 24th Pkway.
Phoenix, AR  85016

Glen MacDonell, managing director, strategic partnerships and field marketing

Targets/Objectives/Key Activations: Not-for-profit membership association focuses sponsorship activity on its long-running partnership with Michael Waltrip and the Michael Waltrip Racing NASCAR team. Best Western—which franchises more than 4,000 hotels around the world and 2,200 in North America—activates the tie with the “Fan Swap” promotion that gives business travelers that chance to swap jobs with Waltrip. The company also uses sponsorship to engage Best Western Rewards members. For example, Best Western leverages its new partnership with Hotels for Heroes by giving BW Rewards members the opportunity to use points to provide free hotel accommodations for returning soldiers receiving medical treatment. The company this summer leveraged its partnership with Disney Media Sales and Marketing with a promotion that offered BW Rewards members the opportunity to meet the cast and receive dance lessons from the stars of Shake It Up. Most sponsorships emanate from individual franchises or co-op marketing funds.

Current Deals: Anderson Speedway, Ind.; Caldwell Night Rodeo, Idaho; Central Washington State Fair; Elon University Athletics; Lafayette College Athletics; Make-A-Wish-Foundation; Maryland International Raceway; Michael Waltrip Racing NASCAR team; Portland Rose Festival; Southern Utah University Athletics; Virginia Arts Festival.

Additional Comments: Sponsors annual AAA pet photo contest to promote pet friendly hotels. Touts NASCAR content on www.YouMustBeTrippin.com; Best Western dropped its partnership with NASCAR after the 2009 season.


Hilton Worldwide, Inc.
7930 Jones Branch Dr.
Mclean, VA 22102

Jeff Diskin, senior vice president, global customer marketing

Targets/Objectives/Key Activations: With more than 3,900 hotels in over 90 countries, Hilton takes an international approach to sponsorship through its seven-year-old partnership with the U.S. Olympic Committee. The company expanded its Olympic platform in 2011 with a tie to the Chinese Olympic Committee, a partnership that afforded tickets and hospitality at the 2012 London Summer Games. More recently, Hilton in 2012 inked a two-year tie to USA Volleyball. The USOC partnership affords status as the official family of hotels for Team USA; Hilton activates the tie with booking links on NGB web sites. The company also activates sponsorship to support the Hilton HHonors loyalty program. For example, Hilton leverages its long-running partnership with the Grammy Awards by offering customers the opportunity to donate points to the Grammy Foundation. Hilton also leverages the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula One team to access perks for Hilton HHonors members.

Current Deals: Conrad Hotels & Resorts: Tribeca Film Festival. Doubletree: Npower Football League Milton Keynes Dons FC; World TeamTennis. Hilton: Advocare 100 Independence Bowl; AHL Milwaukee Admirals; America’s Baby Cancer Foundation; AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic; Auditorium Theatre, Chicago; Auto Club Speedway; Autozone Liberty Bowl; Bank of America Chicago Marathon; Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl; California Polytechnic State University Athletics; Chick-fil-A Bowl;  Chris Evert Raymond James Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic, Boca Raton, Fla.; Cinequest, the San Jose Film Festival; Cleveland Convention & Visitors Bureau; College of the Holy Cross Athletics; Florida University Athletics; Florida State Fair; Indianapolis Motor Speedway; ING New York City Marathon; Kansas City Power & Light District; Kennesaw State University Athletics; Merriweather Post Pavilion; MLB Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay Rays; Nashville Symphony; NBA Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Hornets, NFL St. Louis Rams; NHL Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues;  OC Marathon, Newport Beach, Calif.; Ohio Natural Gas Taste of Cleveland; Ohio State Fair; Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon; Orange County Fair; Oregon International Airshow; Outback Bowl; Palm Springs International Film Festival; PGA Tour Principal Charity Classic presented by Wells Fargo; Portland Marathon; Portland Rose Festival; Sacramento State University Athletics; Southwest.com Chinese New Year Festival & Parade;  St. Jude Country Music Nashville Marathon; Thunder in the Valley Air Show, Columbus, Ga.; TicketCity Bowl; University of California-Irving Athletics;  USA Volleyball; USA Water Ski; USA Wrestling; Wolf Trap, Vienna, Va.; XL Center, Hartford, Conn. Hilton Garden Inn: Albany Marathon and Half Marathon, Ga. Hilton Honors: Aviva Premiership Rugby; Chinese Olympic Committee; Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions; Little League Baseball; Special Olympics; Sundance Film Festival; U.S. Figure Skating; USA Curling; USA Luge; USA Rugby; United States Olympic Committee.

Additional Comments: Hilton has an endorsement deal with swimmer Michael Phelps. The Marketing Arm helps activate USOC partnership. Touts sponsorships and strategic alliances through www.HHonorssponsorships.com.


Intercontinental Hotels Group
InterContinental Hotels Group, Americas
3 Ravinia Dr., Suite 100
Atlanta, GA 30346

Del Ros, vice president, Americas Sales & Marketing

Targets/Objectives/Key Activations: IHG—which bills itself as the world’s largest hotel company by room count—has significantly expanded its involvement in golf over the last two years. The company in 2010 inked a five-year partnership with the PGA Tour and extended Crowne Plaza’s title of the PGA Tour Crowne Plaza at Colonial through 2015. More recently, IHG this year inked a partnership with the LPGA on behalf of the Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn Express brands. Crowne Plaza serves as the exclusive hotel of the LPGA, while Holiday Inn Express is the official hotel of the Symetra Tour. Crowne Plaza activates the LPGA by offering players, their families, caddies and LPGA Tour staff a custom portal to book accommodations at IHG properties around the world. IHG this year also inked a new tie to Leeds United A.F.C.

Current Deals: Candlewood Suites: NHRA: NHRA Kalitta Motorsports team. Crowne Plaza: Title: PGA Tour Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, Fort Worth, Texas. Cosponsor: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta; ATP Tour/WTA Tour AEGON International, Eastbourne, U.K.; Australia Rugby Union; Columbus Jazz & Rib Fest, Ohio; LPGA; Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. Holiday Inn: British Swimming; Buc Days, Corpus Christi, Texas; 94.5. Country Stampede presented by Verizon, Manhattan, Kansas; Indiana State University Athletics; Merriweather Post Pavilion; USA Cycling. Holiday Inn Express: Bucknell University Athletics; Delaware State University Athletics; Kennesaw State University Athletics; Lake Erie Speedway; LPGA Symetra Tour; PGA Tour 3M Championship presented by Post-it Products. InterContinental Hotels Group: American Theater Wing’s Tony Awards; Atlanta Pride Festival; Atlanta Symphony Orchestra; Canadian Soccer Assn.; Give Kids the World; IZOD IndyCar Series Lotus HVM Racing; Leeds United A. F.C.; Monterey Bay Aquarium; PGA Tour.

Additional Comments: IHG in 2012 inked an endorsement deal with PGA Tour pro Rickie Fowler on behalf of the Crowne Plaza brand. Candlewood Suites this year extended Kalitta Motorsports through 2014.


Marriott International, Inc.
10400 Fernwood Rd.
Bethesda, MD 20817

Janis Milham, vice president and global brand manager, Courtyard by Marriott

Targets/Objectives/Key Activations: The operator and franchisor of more than 3,700 properties in more than 70 counties has increased sponsorship activity on behalf of the Marriott brand. Recent deals include the NFL and the Barclays Center. Marriott this fall also inked a new partnership with the NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers on behalf of The Renaissance and Ritz-Carlton brands. In Europe, Marriott this year extended and expanded its partnership with the Rugby Football Union for four years; the contract includes title of the Marriott London Sevens and official partner status of England Rugby.

Current Deals: Courtyard by Marriott: Brigham Young University Athletics; Bumbershoot: Seattle’s Music & Arts Festival; Carlsbad 5000; Cooper River Bridge Run; Experience Music Project; Florida State Fair; National Football League. Fairfield Inn & Suites: Florida A&M University Athletics; National Aquarium in Baltimore; PGA Tour ACE Group Classic. Marriott: Adrienne Arsht Center for Performing Arts; AIDS Walk San Francisco; American Cancer Society; American Express presents Downtown NYC River to River Festival; Atlanta Ballet; Barclays Center; Big Sur International Marathon; Brooklyn Book Festival; Broward Center for the Performing Arts; California Mid State Fair; Chicago International Film Festival; Children’s Miracle Network; Chris Evert Raymond James Celebrity Tennis Classic, Boca Raton, Fla.; Coconut Grove Arts Festival, Fla.; Colorado State Fair; Colorado State University Athletics; Columbia Museum of Art, S.C.; Detroit Jazz Festival; Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT; MassMutual Center, Springfield, Mass.; MLS Chivas USA and Los Angeles Galaxy; NBA Denver Nuggets; NHL Florida Panthers; Rugby Football Union; USA Football; USA Swimming; Utah Arts Festival; Valero Alamo Bowl; Vectren Dayton Air Show presented by Kroger; Virginia Arts Festival. Marriott Residence Inn: Alliance Theatre Company, Atlanta; Kennesaw State University Athletics. Multibrand: PGA Tour Allianz Championship presented by Insperity; NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Sonoma Raceway; Xterra Trail Run Series. Renaissance Hotels: Atlanta Motor Speedway; ATP Tour Farmers Classic presented by Mercedes-Benz; Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl; Broadway in Chicago; Capital Pride, Washington, D.C.; Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra; Institute of Contemporary Art; Iowa State Fair; IZOD IndyCar Series Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg; Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International; PGA Tour Franklin Templeton Shootout; Wildfire Arts & Music Festival, Richardson, Texas. Ritz Carlton: Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance Foundation; Boston Ballet; Dallas Symphony Orchestra; NHL Los Angeles Kings; World Golf Championships, Accenture Match Play Championship.

Additional Comments: Marriott sponsors the Barclays Center on behalf of the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge; the hotel leverages the tie by hosting basketball teams, concert goers and others who attend, play and perform at the arena.


Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.
One Starpoint
Stanford, CT 06902

Paulo Peno, vice president, global partnerships

Targets/Objectives/Key Activations: Starwood—which operates more than 1,000 properties in more than 100 countries—uses sponsorship to accomplish one primary goal: access unique experiences for its Starwood Preferred Guest Loyalty program. The company is placing more focus on global properties to support its international expansion. For example, Starwood this year partnered with the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One team to build its presence in Abu Dhabi, Singapore and other growing markets.

Current Deals: Aloft: Live in the Vineyard, Napa, Calif. Starwood Preferred Guest: Cirque du Soleil; Live Nation; Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One team; Penske Racing. Four Points Sheraton: Loyola University Maryland Athletics. Sheraton: BBVA Compass Bowl; Boston Pride; California International Marathon; Canadian National Exposition; Chicago Auto Show; Delaware County Fair; Delaware State University Athletics; Fashion Week Montreal; FC Bayern Munchen; Fiesta San Antonio; Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York; ING New York City Marathon; Keep Austin Beautiful; Mercedes Marathon and Half Marathon, Birmingham, Ala.; Merriweather Post Pavilion; National Aquarium in Baltimore; NBA Phoenix Suns; New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell; Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon; Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra. Westin: Beef ‘O’ Bradys St. Petersburg Bowl; Belk Bowl; Columbus Arts Festival presented by Time Warner Cable; NFL Houston Texans; OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, Indianapolis; Opera Colorado; Ottawa Fashion Week; Outback Bowl; PGA Tour CIMB Classic, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; USTA US Open. W Hotels: ATP Tour/WTA Tour Citi Open; BNP Paribas Taste of Tennis; Colorado Ballet; Detroit Institute of Arts; Geffen Playhouse, Westwood, Calif.; Heritage of Pride, New York City; MLB New York Red Bulls.

Additional Comments: Spearheads sponsorship out of its corporate office in conjunction with local offices.

Lodging Industry Profile
Year Billion in Sales Revenue per available room Average occupancy rate
2011 $137.5 $61.05 60%
2010 $127.7 $56.47 57.6%
2009 $127.2 $53.5 54.7%
2008 $140.6 $64.37 60.4%
2007 $139.4 $65.52 63.1%
Source: American Hotel & Lodging Assn.