By Barry Janoff
March 2, 2017: If you go to a Marriott International destination this month you are sure to experience a taste of March Madness, and not just on the TVs or in the lounge areas.
Marriott International has signed a multi-year deal to become an official NCAA corporate partner across all 90 NCAA championships. The alliance designates Marriott International and its 30 brands as the "official hotel partner of the NCAA."
The pact brings Sheraton, a division of Marriott International, back into the NCAA corporate ranks. The brand had been the NCAA’s official hotel partner for several years beginning in 2008.
Sheraton is a division of Starwood, which was acquired by Marriott in 2016.
The union kicks in immediately with multi-media activation for both the NCAA Div. I Men’s and Women’s Basketball tournaments this month leading to the men's Final Four and women's Final Four.
Also upcoming are the Div. I Men’s and Women’s Hockey tournaments leading to the respective Frozen Fours.
"We are incredibly excited and honored to serve as the official hotel partner of the NCAA," Steve Heitzner, Marriott’s chief sales officer and CMO for the Americas, said in a statement. "College sports bring people from all walks of life together in much the same way travel does and so the affiliation is a natural fit within our larger goal to provide our guests with inspiring and meaningful experiences."
In partnership with the NCAA, Turner Sports and CBS Sports, Marriott International said it would have the "opportunity to support college student-athletes and communities across the country."
As an official partner of the NCAA, Marriott is now able to use NCAA logos, trademarks and markings in marketing, media, and activation.
The hotelier is expected to support with TV, print, Internet, social media and activation at games and in its destinations.
Marriott later this month plans to launch a dedicated sub-site with the NCAA (at NCAA.Marriott.com).
The company said that Marriott Rewards members now have the opportunity to use their points to bid on an "Ultimate Men's Final Four Weekend Experience," with just two spots available, through March 17.
The experience includes two tickets to the men's Final Four and national championship game, being played in University of Phoenix Stadium.
It also offers VIP access to a variety of Final Four weekend events and overnight accommodations in the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa with transportation to and from all weekend events in Phoenix. (Details here.)
According to Dan Gavitt, NCAA svp-basketball, "The goals of Marriott International and NCAA championships are the same — to provide a world-class and memorable experience. We look forward to working with its numerous hotel brands that will provide our student-athletes, coaches, athletics administrators and fans with high level hospitality and service during NCAA championships and events."
Including Marriott, Starwood, Courtyard and other brands, Marriott International has more than 5,700 properties in more than 110 countries and territories worldwide and more than 1.2 million rooms (as of Sept. 23, 2016).
"The goals of Marriott International and NCAA championships are the same — to provide a world-class and memorable experience."
"Fans travel to over 800 sites each year to attend NCAA championship events and Marriott is the perfect partner to enhance that on-site experience," Will Funk, evp-property marketing and corporate partnerships for Turner Sports, said in a statement.
"The experience is everything, and Marriott is uniquely positioned to provide the best hotel and hospitality options for the millions of people who love seeing student athletes compete at the highest level."
"As a global hotel company, we have long been passionate about sports and their power to transform and connect," said Marriott’s Heitzner. "Across our 30 distinct hospitality brands, we provide unparalleled variety to suit every traveler's needs, and through our partnership with the NCAA, we look forward to creating memorable experiences for students, alumni, fans and families."
NCAA corporate champion partners include AT&T, Capital One and Coca-Cola.
In additon to Marriott International, NCAA corporate partners include Allstate, Amazon Echo, Microsoft Bing, Buffalo Wild Wings, Buick. Enterprise, Infiniti, Lowe’s, LG, Nabisco, Northwest Mutual, Pizza Hut, Reese’s, Unilever and Wendy’s.
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