Skift Take

By partnering with South by Southwest for the first time, Marriott is targeting a new audience that it coins "experience seekers," while also adding a certain cachet to its loyalty program.

Marriott kicks off its first-ever major sponsorship of the South by Southwest (SXSW) 2016 Music Festival in Austin tonight in its continuing partnership with Universal Music Group (UMG).

The JW Marriott Austin will be the host hotel for Grammy-nominee Ryan Adams, who’s headlining a series of concerts running day and night through the week. This marks the first time UMG is taking over a hotel for musical performances at a citywide festival, versus scattering shows at typical music venues around the city.

Opened last year just in time for SXSW 2015, the JW property was designed with intimate artist shows in mind, including a large rooftop pool and private party space. With that venue now available, Marriott created this new arrangement with UMG to reward its loyalty members with VIP access to see Adams and the other performers.

Previously, Marriott Rewards has hosted Elite loyalty members at musical events such as The Grammys and MTV Video Music Awards.

“South by Southwest Music is one of the music industry events that’s hugely influential, especially as we look to target that next generation experience seeker, which is Marriott’s key target demographic,” says Jennifer Utz, VP of buzz marketing and partnerships at Marriott. “And in the spirit of the partnership with UMG, we thought it would be a great idea to do a first-of-its kind hotel transformation in our new headquarters hotel at South by Southwest.”

SXSW Music badge holders and hotel guests will have access to all of the day and evening events as space remains. However, Marriott has a second line specifically for Marriott Rewards members for preferred entry.

Members will also have a chance to meet some of the musicians and participate in special programming such as private yoga sessions on the pool deck with a UMG DJ.

“It’s really about creating experiences that go above and beyond for our loyalty members, because we know our guests today are passionate about unique experiences,” Utz told Skift. “That’s what motivates them, but at an event like South by Southwest, it’s really hard to break though the clutter. This gives us a chance to deliver something one-of-a-kind.”

To promote the year-old UMG partnership, Marriott Rewards launched its new That’s Rewarding website at the end of last year. The hashtag for the collaboration is #WithTheBand.

“I’m responsible for the NFL, NBA and UMG partnerships, and with all of these partnerships we’ve been able to generate great content,” Utz concludes. “What we were struggling with was, ‘Where should this live?’ So in addition to YouTube and the other social channels, we decided to create a content hub where people can go for behind-the-scenes video and exclusive concert footage produced by UMG and VEVO.”

The portal delivers information around all of Marriott’s artistic collaborations and value-added content such as a video Q&A with singer Nick Jonas.

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Tags: austin, events, loyalty, marriott, sxsw

Photo credit: Grammy nominee Ryan Adams is headlining the Marriott Rewards series of concerts at the SXSW Music festival in Austin. UMG

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