Virgin Invites Locals to Test Out Its New Nashville Hotel by Accomplishing ‘Firsts’

With many travel plans stalled, staycationers are a priority

Locals are being invited to break in Nashville's new Virgin Hotels location. Joan Creative
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No one’s suggesting that visitors to the new Virgin hotel in Nashville should act like rock stars, circa 1969, tossing TVs off balconies, smashing plate-glass windows and trashing the place.

In fact, the hotel would rather you didn’t.

But if you want to get up to some mild 2020-style shenanigans—like checking in with a fake name, stealing the toiletries or hosting a socially distanced gathering—that’s fine. It might even win you free accommodations. 

Indie agency Joan Creative and Virgin have collaborated on a promotion for the opening of the boutique chain’s Music City location that targets locals who may be primed for a post-pandemic change of scenery in their own backyard.

The campaign, called “Be the First,” challenges staycationers to make some history for themselves and the venue. Within reason, of course.

“When you’re launching a new hotel for Virgin, pretty hotel pics won’t cut it,” said Dan Lucey, executive creative director at Joan. “You need something a little different, like a fairly naughty interactive art project with their local audience.”

At check in, guests will pick up a disposable camera to document the ways they’ll choose to christen the hotel before any out-of-towners get the chance. To keep the stunt from going too far off the rails, the partners have helpfully made dozens of suggestions (be the first to empty the minibar, marry someone you just met, turn the bedsheet into a toga, get photobombed at the pool), though people are free to brainstorm their own concepts.

User-generated content is already coming in, with Nashvillians being the first to pull harmless pranks like “push all the elevator buttons at once” and shoot an Instagram-worthy “cliche sunset pic from the rooftop.”

The campaign is enlisting influencers for some of the specific “firsts,” and the brand has placed wild postings and billboards around town, with paid and owned social ads adding extra hype. 

The photographic proof of visitors’ “firsts” will be compiled into a hard-cover book and also shared on social media and the hotel’s website. Winners will receive a free weekend stay at any Virgin property in the country (so far, there’s Dallas and Chicago; a San Francisco venue temporarily closed due to the Covid-19 public health crisis). The Nashville hotel is the first to open this year for the chain, which plans to expand to New York, Las Vegas and other cities.

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@TLStanleyLA T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.