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Swing low, sweet Marriott as hotel chain targets rugby fans


The Marriott hotel chain is using Skype in a new marketing initiative that could capture the imagination in a huge year for English rugby.

Sporting events are always a magnet for marketers because of the captive audience, as was the case in events like last year's Football World Cup in Brazil and the recent Superbowl.

One big event of great interest currently is the Six Nations, a tournament that unites passions and divides nations as England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland are joined by France and Italy.

With the weekend before last bringing the opening round of fixtures, the rugby fraternity is naturally engaged and Marriott Hotels has used this fact to time its new cross-platform campaign.

At the centre of it has been an initiative called #ReuniteMeWith, run jointly with Microsoft Advertising and MEC Access across several Microsoft platforms in the UK, such as MSN, and Windows 8.

Using Skype, the campaign has been targeted at creating content generated in the form of messages by England rugby fans aimed at friends or family living overseas. The idea is not just to send greetings, but to nominate people to be flown back to the UK all expenses-paid and put up in a Marriott Hotel, before being given complimentary tickets to see one of England's matches at Twickenham.

Business director for MEC Access Ben Bradley said: "In what will be a cluttered marketplace for brands trying to leverage the rugby buzz, we have partnered with Microsoft Advertising to develop a creative campaign rooted in consumer insights, which looks at the million-plus fans who live abroad and their connections to friends and family back in England, giving Marriott a clear space of ownership."

There will be four winners at each of four games, the first of which is England's match at home to France in the final round of the championship. Things may get even better for Marriott and the fans if matters continue going to plan as they did when England secured a fine victory against Wales in Cardiff. With England currently on a winning streak, the lucky fans could be flying home to see England playing to win the title in the clash with the French.

However, this year isn’t just about the Six Nations, but the year England hosts the Rugby World Cup, meaning the notion of flying back home to see the biggest event in the sport is an even more compelling one for ex-pats.

Of course, much of the success of the tournament will depend on the buzz created by a strong home team showing. Equally, however, Marriott and other hotels cannot help but benefit from successfully marketing themselves to rugby fans, as there will be thousands of visitors travelling from far flung lands following their teams across England when the tournament takes place in early autumn.

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