SBJ/Jan. 10-16, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Starwood Hotels checking in with IndyCar

The IndyCar Series is close to finalizing a multiyear agreement with Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide that will give the sanctioning body its first official hotel partner.
The deal, which sources valued between $400,000 and $600,000 annually, makes Starwood the official hotel and resort of IndyCar and could be announced as early as this week. The series will host a State of IndyCar address featuring CEO Randy Bernard at a Westin Hotel in Indianapolis, and a Westin executive is expected to speak at the event.
Westin, Sheraton and St. Regis are among Starwood’s hotel brands.
Starwood hotels will become the preferred hotels for IndyCar Series staff. The series will make preferred hotel rates available to its 20 teams during the 2011 season.
Sources familiar with Starwood’s plans said the hotel will incorporate the IndyCar Series into its Starwood Preferred Guests reward system. The hotel and resort chain allows frequent guests to accumulate points and redeem them for Starwood Preferred Guests Moments that can include everything from backstage passes to a Tom Jones concert to a golf clinic with PGA Tour player Rich Beem to a private dinner with celebrity chef Mario Batali. Starwood is expected to develop similar “moments” around IndyCar by offering preferred customers the chance to redeem points for Indianapolis 500 tickets, hospitality and even driver meet-and-greets.
Starwood also is expected to activate the sponsorship online and promote it at its hotel properties, sources said.
“They’re all about unique experiences for key consumers, and that program’s been well-received,” said Ed Kiernan, GMR Marketing senior vice president, sports, who has worked with Starwood in the past. “Open-wheel racing matches their other sports and entertainment platforms and is a natural for them.”
IndyCar is Starwood’s only motorsports sponsorship. Its other sports deals include the New York Mets, New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, PGA Tour, the NCAA basketball tournament and several universities.
Starwood is the 14th sponsor IndyCar has added in the last 12 months. It recently signed agreements with AirMed, an air ambulance provider, and Cenveo, a print service provider. Those deals are expected to be announced this week.
IndyCar’s total sales revenue for the 2011 season is 30 percent above its 2010 total.
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