Starwood Bets Big on LinkedIn as Part of $30 Million B-to-B Campaign

Digital fuels new loyalty program

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Starwood Hotels & Resorts is pouring $30 million into a new advertising campaign to expand its Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) loyalty program into the business-to-business market.

The SPG Pro program, which launches today, builds on the company’s consumer-facing initiative that already skews towards tech-savvy members. Just last week, Starwood said that 50 percent of online traffic came from mobile when it launched a smartphone game as part of its U.S. Open sponsorship.

Starwood’s digital media plan centers around the company’s first LinkedIn ad buy designed to attract business professionals on the social site. "This is the first large scale, targeted ad campaign we’ve done on LinkedIn, but Starwood continues to test a variety of platforms as digital continues to rapidly evolve and decide what works best for us in each corner of the globe," said Chris Holdren, senior vp of global and digital at Starwood Preferred Guest. "That platform was so well-suited to the launch of SPG Pro because we are reaching out to the business community [and] to professionals across every industry." 

In addition to LinkedIn, Starwood is also buying promos on Facebook and will ramp up YouTube and Twitter content. Leading up to the program’s launch in October and throughout the year, Starwood will post new videos on YouTube that leverage all nine of the company’s hotel brands to show real customers’ stories.

On Twitter, Starwood has set up a new hashtag—#spgpro—that will expand the Twitter and Instagram efforts already in place for the consumer-facing program.

The hotel chain claims that 50 percent of global bookings are made by SPG members, many of whom stay for business. "One of the things that we’ve seen is that one-third of our lead SPG members also tell us that they book meetings," Holdren noted. "It’s a shift in valuing people as people and recognizing them for their entire relationship with us."

Starwood is the latest hospitality marketer to ditch glitzy hotel shots and stock photos in advertising to instead focus on real customers and associates, following a similar move from HotelTonight last month. Holdren said that the majority of b-to-b creative shows photos of empty boardrooms or generic people. Instead, Starwood enlisted its sales team to pick top business customers to be the faces of the campaign across different categories. For example, one set of creative features a music industry event planner who is looking to book a VIP function at a suite at the St. Regis New York.

"We’ve really taken a multichannel approach to reach our current customers as well as new customers in the places that they are today," Holdren said.


@laurenjohnson Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.