Will Add Entertainment to Its Branding Mix

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LOS ANGELES – Much the same as Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels Corp. has signed a deal with a Hollywood talent agency and is shifting more of its marketing efforts toward branded entertainment.
Hilton is shifting shifting its marketing strategy to include more entertainment elements.

The Hilton deal was the result of lengthy talks that began last year but are just now coming to light.

Hilton, which operates more than 2,300 hotels and reports $3.6 billion in annual sales, has retained the William Morris agency and NMA Entertainment & Marketing to assist it in adding entertainment to its advertising mix. Its brands include Hilton and Conrad Hotels, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inns and Homewood Suites.

Like a TV network

Beverly Hills-based Hilton, the third-largest lodging chain in the country, is trying to become more than four walls and a place to rest one's head. Like its competitors, Hilton imagines itself almost like a TV network with an audience for which it needs to provide content through its lobbies, rooms, restaurants or poolside, for example.

The talent agencies are expected to help Hilton to facilitate use of the hotels as backdrops for films and TV shows, and as headquarters for film production crews. They also will develop exclusive entertainment content for the venues, which could be used as distribution points for content such as DVDs, magazines and music -- entertainment that could be created by William Morris' other clients. The properties also could be the focal point of other branded entertainment ventures.

Starwoods, which has more than 730 facilities and has $5.3 billion in annual sales, also recently signed on with talent firm Creative Artists Agency. Last October, the chain hired Steve Heyer as its new CEO. Mr. Heyer, formerly the president and chief operating officer of Coca-Cola Co., was one of the early pioneers in the contemporary movement to combine marketing and entertainment in new ways. He plans to re-energize Starwoods with a splash of Hollywood at the chain's Sheraton, Westin, W, St. Regis, The Luxury Collection and Four Points by Sheraton brands. The chain is headquartered in White Plains, N.Y.

Starwood's music ventures

Starwood's W Hotels have been a leader in links to music and other creative ventures. Eclectic artist Moby recently played several invitation-only record release parties at W Hotels, where the CD is being promoted in 5,100 rooms and sold in the retail shops. The chain made a broad alliance with Moby for sweepstakes, consumer promotions and online exposure.

The W also has a program called Adventures in Wonderland that aims to draw in locals and travelers with film screenings, wine tastings and book readings.

Even the Ritz-Carlton chain, known for its older, upscale clientele, has launched an ad campaign aimed at trendy travelers who have preferred boutique accommodations and hip hangouts like the W.

Hilton executives confirmed they signed on with William Morris and NMA, but wouldn't elaborate on the details. William Morris representatives also confirmed the arrangement but declined to comment further, as did Norm Marshall, president of NMA Entertainment & Marketing.

Las Vegas connections

This is not William Morris' first foray into hotels. The agency also represents Harrah's Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The deal with Hilton does not cover the chain's Las Vegas venues.

NMA Entertainment & Marketing, based in Los Angeles, works with clients such as Heineken, Samsung, General Motors Corp., Sears and Microsoft’s Xbox.
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