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IHG is kickstarting its revamped Rewards Club growth strategy with major USTA deal

Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) has mapped out a sponsorship strategy with the US Tennis Association (USTA) that will touch almost every brand in the hospitality company’s portfolio. Kicking off across the US Open, the deal is a cornerstone in IHG’s strategy to strengthen and centralize its loyalty program.

IHG will be activating across the entire two-week contest, which begins today (26 August).

The “entire brand family” is involved in the sponsorship, explained the company’s senior vice-president of global guest experience, Brian McGuinness, from its ‘mainstream’ property of Holiday Inn sponsoring Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day with Kids Eat Free meal vouchers, to an on-the-ground spa experience led by its recent luxury acquisition, Six Senses.

Meanwhile a number of activities will take place within company’s New York properties, including a live final viewing on the Kimpton Hotel Eventi’s Big Screen in Midtown.

“In some way shape or form, we have every brand touching this on our two-week journey,” said McGuiness. “That's the beauty of this – it’s not a one and done moment and it's about the ability to activate not just at the stadium but in our hotels.

“It's a big investment but the right one for us and we will spend what we need to spend to reward our best customers and guests.”

The development an activation strategy that crosses partnerships, marketing and guest experience across the entire IHG portfolio links to the brand's wider growth strategy set out in its 2018 annual report: elevate its central brand through its Rewards Club loyalty program.

The company noted loyalty members are seven times more likely to book direct, reporting increased loyalty room revenue contribution by four percentage points to 43%. As IHG eyes ‘accelerated’ and ‘high-quality’ growth over the coming years, developing the attractiveness of the loyalty program and promoting its benefits will be key to driving down booking margins and retaining custom.

“IHG Rewards Club helps build valuable relationships with members, strengthens their bond with our hotel brands, drives direct bookings, and encourages guests to further explore our hotel portfolio,” read the annual report. “It allows us to create experiences that truly reward guests for their custom, from promotions to partnerships, to welcome amenities and perks.

“We’re focused on making those experiences even better.”

It’s why the company signed up for a five year-deal with the USTA not just as the official hotel partner but as the hotel loyalty partner too. The company is making efforts to promote the one-of-a-kind tennis experiences it’s offering up to its top customer and clients, which include a tennis clinic with former US Open winner Andy Roddick at Flushing Meadows.

By integrating all brands from Holiday Inn Express to the flagship InterContinental into the scheme, the company is “really starting to tie all our brands together”, said McGuinness, speeding up growth across all markets.

The brand recently reorganized internally to achieve the same goal.

It combined its Asia, Middle East and Africa operating region with Europe to “better use [its] scale, share best practice, and increase investment in specific markets”, integrated its commercial and technology teams, and combined its marketing, brand and loyalty practices to create its internal ‘global marketing organization’.

To complement this centralized reshuffle, IHG recently handed WPP a consolidated chunk of its global PR business, with DeVries Global taking on the global PR accounts of its its luxury brands.

Featured by The Drum

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