Global Experience, Local Connections – Case Study 2020

Shortlisted 2020

Brand & Media Owner Partnership

Brand

Sheraton

Entered by:

Spark Foundry

Credits:

Business Insider and Insider Inc, M1M (Spark Foundry, Publicis Media Content, Digitas)

Global Experience, Local Connections

The Challenge

Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, Marriott lnternational’s most global brand, and a hospitality icon since 1937. A revitalisation of the Sheraton brand through a differentiated positioning and compelling proposition has been a top priority for Marriott International from the moment Sheraton joined the group in 2016.

In 2018, when the company announced its vision for Sheraton’s transformation to set the iconic brand on a new, successful path, Skift described it as “one of the biggest brand challenges in the hospitality industry.”

The company committed to a significant redevelopment and service innovation, followed by an introduction of Sheraton’s modernised logo redesign in 2019 to reinforce the brand’s position and vision for the future as ”The World’s Gathering Place.”

Marriott International also unveiled plans aimed at re-establishing the Sheraton brand across Europe with a series of refurbishments and exciting new openings.

To support the business and brand transformation in core European markets, our challenge was to reintroduce the iconic brand to our target audience and highlight the brand’s strong global credentials.

We set out the following objectives for our 2019 content and media partnership:

  • Increase consideration of Sheraton Resorts & Hotels among the target audience of 35-50 year olds business and leisure travellers in the UK, France, Italy, and Germany.
  • Highlight Sheraton’s strong global footprint through informative and engaging content that would tap into our audience’s professional and personal passions (business productivity and local experiences respectively).

The Creative Solution

We looked for a media partner with a strong creative concept that would feel authentic to Sheraton. It was a data-informed content strategy based on the blend of predictive audience analytics and editorial insights from Business Insider and Insider .

Here’s how the creative solution was researched and developed:

Insight:

  • Business Insider had previously run a popular monthly column highlighting the best places to travel for each month of the year, so we knew there was a definite audience intent to consume curated travel recommendations. Moreover, the audience was 7x more likely than the average user to search for the content while planning travel.
  • Audience segment analysis showed that 97% of the audience had a high propensity to seek out content focused on new and different local experiences.

Creative Concept:

  • We developed a content ecosystem under the overarching theme of “Global Connections, Local Experiences”
  • We anchored the partnership around an interactive showcase with clear utility value that would help our audience decide when and why to travel for business and leisure. “Around the World in 12 Months” combined 48 micro-pieces of thoroughly researched content focused on 48 destinations with multiple recommendations for unique experiences in the heart of local communities: from the Chopin recitals in Warsaw to the hikes across lunar-like landscapes of Costa Adeje.
  • The elegantly designed user experience guided our audience from month to month, experience to experience, with a clear call to action to the best places to stay with Sheraton, right at the heart of the local communities where people gather and cities come to life.
  • While our global selection span time zones from Sydney to Seattle, two-thirds of the content was dedicated to Sheraton’s European portfolio to support the business objective of driving consideration and purchase intent from target markets to flagship hotels and resorts in the region.
  • To give more depth to the European story, we published four original articles focused on the destinations where Sheraton unveiled its signature openings of 2019: Tbilisi, Milan, Istanbul, and Warsaw .
  • Our content manifesto was to stay true to Sheraton’s promise of making it easy for its guests to explore, relax, and enjoy the possibilities of travel across its many destinations where the brand has been the fabric of communities for over 80 years. So our globally focused, locally relevant content had to be easy to find, interact with, and share.

The Media/Content Amplification Solution

Business Insider in combination with Insider, provided access to an affluent audience at scale across our four priority European markets with the total monthly audience reach in our target demo of 35-50 year-old business & leisure travel enthusiasts of nearly 3.4M.

In addition, we were able to truly localize the content and media partnership creating multi-lingual assets across its editions in French, German, and Italian. This audience extension more than doubled our potential reach of total monthly users that would experience the new brand creative behind the Sheraton’s transformation.

Novel media formats:

  • To ensure visual consistency across content and supporting media, our media partner built a suite of custom units that combined Sheraton brand assets and content from “Global Connections, Local Experiences” series in immersive formats with robust performance benchmarks.
  • User journey analysis showed that nearly 80% of the target audience would access the publisher sites on mobile. So the priority was given to mobile-first and fully responsive, high-impact units such as Marquee, the above-the-fold header unit, and Interlude, the interactive in-content unit, that complimented rather than disrupted the overall user experience by improving content discovery.

Contextual fit & smart targeting

  • We deployed a mix of tactics including audience and contextual targeting and a customised keyword mix to deliver Sheraton messages within relevant contextual environments.
  • We created up-weight moments throughout the campaign with section takeovers that positioned Sheraton brand front and center across Travel, Strategy, and Lifestyle – environments most frequented by our target audience.
  • The publisher’s proprietary DMP allowed us to apply robust audience targeting based on the blend of 1st, 2nd and 3rd party data to target Business Travellers, Travel Enthusiasts, Business Leaders and Decision Makers, Luxury Consumers and Moderate & Heavy Visitors of Lifestyle, Finance, Strategy Sections.

Social amplification:

  • Each content component in our series – from the interactive centerpiece to four original articles were amplified through visually engaging, artfully designed social stories.
  • We distributed the core content in English and translated the articles into French, German and Italian to be published on our local editions. We promoted the content organically from relevant editorial handles to ensure we engaged with our audience at This worked to reinforce Sheraton’s position at the heart of the global traveller community.

The Result

The partnership delivered 12.SM+ cross-platform impressions from September to November 2019 across our priority markets . Media and organic promotion saw 110K+ active users engage with the “Global Experience. Local Connections.” series, outperforming page views and dwell time benchmarks by 50% and 40% respectively.

Social channels generated millions of additional impressions and 4.SK+ social actions, with fans actively commenting on experiences and best times to visit the destination: “That’s 2020 sorted!”.

We partnered with Dynata to execute a brand lift study to deliver measurable, business-focused results to our client. The study’s objective was to gauge the effectiveness of the custom content, specifically among the high-value business traveller segment.

As the following results demonstrate, the campaign was highly effective at communicating the benefits of Sheraton hotels for business travellers , results showed an increased brand awareness and consideration.

  1. Strong agreement with lower-funnel metrics
    Nearly 9 in 10 respondents had a more favorable opinion, with close to 70% considering a stay at a Sheraton hotel
  2. Sheraton is a desirable brand for business travellers
    Over 80% of exposed respondents thought that Sheraton offered specific benefits to business travellers. 75% of respondents also had an established relationship with the Sheraton brand, agreeing that it was a brand for people like them and a brand that made them feel like they are part of a community.
  3. Content with staying power and effective messaging
    Nearly 9 in 1O respondents in Sheraton’s target age demo liked the articles, and over 80% felt inspired to travel and stay at Sheraton hotels after reading the content
  4. Sheraton’s globally established reputation
    With a deeply engaged audience on both Insider Inc. on-site and social platforms, Sheraton enjoyed high levels of aided awareness and familiarity and reported a directional lift in brand favourability

Markets

UK, France, Italy, Germany