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Volume 23 No. 13
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Moment in time: Starwood delivers for baseball fans

Rabbi Dan Eleff’s Starwood points led to his World Series Game 7 appearance.
Starwood Hotels and Resorts’ multiyear deal with Major League Baseball makes Sheraton the official hotel of MLB, and Starwood Preferred Guest the official hotel loyalty program of MLB.

Who did the deal? Bob Bowman, MLB president of business and media; Noah Garden, MLB executive vice president of business; Bill Morningstar, MLB senior vice president of sponsorship sales; Dana Rosenberg, Starwood vice president of global partnerships; Dave Marr, Sheraton global brand leader; Mark Vondrasek, Starwood Hotels senior vice president of commercial services; and Bob Jacobs, Sheraton vice president of brand management.

How did the discussions get started? MLB had an open hotel category following the conclusion of the league’s deal with InterContinental Hotel Group’s Holiday Inn brand from 2006-11. Since the realignment of MLB’s business functions that came with the arrival of Commissioner Rob Manfred in early 2015, the Starwood/Sheraton pact arrived along with other new pieces of sponsorship business, including deals with Esurance, The Hartford, Falken Tire and Maytag.

How did the activation work? Instead of focusing strictly on category sponsorship, many of the activations focused on getting more baseball to more fans. MLB Network, not available on many other hotel TV systems, is now part of Starwood hotel rooms in the U.S. Elite Starwood Preferred Guest members get free access to the MLB.TV out-of-market streaming package. And Starwood hotel booking widgets are placed on and online team schedule pages.

Why was the it unique? MLB was also folded into Starwood’s SPG Moments program in which loyalty program members can use points for various baseball experiences, such as game tickets, the ability to take batting practice, deliver a lineup card, or throw out a first pitch, in both fixed-price and auction-style packages. Ohio-based travel industry blogger and Rabbi Dan Eleff last October spent more than 1 million SPG points, the largest ever bid in the SPG Moments program, to throw out the first pitch prior to Game 7 of last year’s dramatic Cleveland-Chicago World Series. The points were equivalent to more than a month of free nights in a superior room at the St. Regis New York.

Why do we like it? The partnership expands access to several of MLB’s core media products, and creates experiences and amenities that can’t be obtained anywhere else.

— Eric Fisher