Skift Take

Marriott Bonvoy is taking a risk with such an unusual marketing strategy for the hotel industry. It could work or it could be a flop — but at least they're trying new ways of reaching a younger audience.

In the world of TikTok and social media influencers, hotels and tourism agencies have had to experiment with new ways of reaching younger audiences. 

Marriott Bonvoy took that experimentation to the next level as the first hotel company to release a video game within the online world Fortnite.

Skift spoke with Brian Povinelli, senior vice president and global head of marketing and brand at Marriott International, about how the experiment has been going and what could be next.

A trailer of the gameplay for Marriott Bonvoy Land

Why a Video Game?

Fortnite is most well-known as an online fighting game. But it is much more than that, including as a metaverse containing multiple independent places where players can meet, attend events, and play other sorts of games. It exploded in popularity during the pandemic as a place where people gathered virtually for gameplay as well as for concerts by Ariana Grande and Travis Scott, movie screenings, and more.

Marriott Bonvoy Land is a self-contained digital park within the Fortnite world where players can explore representations of four of the company’s brands: Moxy Hotels, Westin Hotels & Resorts, W Hotels & Resorts, and Autograph Collection Hotels

Povinelli said establishing the park was a way to promote the fact that Marriott Bonvoy covers 32 brands, and some are designed for younger generations. The company has other advertising initiatives focused more on driving bookings.

“Gaming became a very interesting platform for us because we believe if we could integrate into the gameplay, we have a much longer period of time, potentially, to have people engaged and learn and understand what these brand experiences are about without actually having to travel and go to a hotel,” Povinelli said.

Moxy, for example, has no traditional front desk. Check-in happens at the bar and comes with a free cocktail.

“Moxy is a brand that was built for the younger generations,” Povinelli said. “They’re very focused on engaging in the public space, creating a real lively food and beverage atmosphere. So it’s about introducing them to this brand that’s out there that they probably would have great interest in — we just need them to be more aware of it.”

A representation of a Moxy hotel lobby in Fornite
A representation of a Moxy hotel lobby

Marriott Bonvoy Land

Players enter in the center square of Marriott Bonvoy Land and can roam the park as they wish.

The virtual park contains four hotel buildings that are not exact replicas but include a lobby and some other aspects of the real thing. Each hotel contains short games to promote exploration of the properties and what they offer. 

The Westin hotel has a race that shows off the brand’s fitness center, pool, and spa offerings. The W Hotel labyrinth-style game leads the players toward the rooftop pool and bar, where the avatars can dance to music from a DJ. The Autograph Collection hotel has a scavenger hunt game that ends with a fireworks display on the rooftop. The Moxy brand has a hide-and-seek type game that includes a disco and arcade games. 

The Autograph Collection game ends with a fireworks display from the rooftop. The Moxy hotel is in the foreground.
The Autograph Collection game ends with a fireworks display from the rooftop. The Moxy hotel is in the foreground.

The park isn’t a full game with a complex storyline that takes dozens of hours to complete — those can take years and hundreds of millions of dollars to make. But there are countless video games of varying styles and lengths, some made with no budget at all. There’s a large video gaming community that enjoys trying them all.

Marriott partnered on design with SuperAwesome, a firm owned by Epic Games that specializes in gaming marketing for kids. Other clients have included Adias, Nickelodeon, and Mattel. SuperAwesome designed the park and buildings based on visits to real-life hotels and guidance from the Marriott team. 

Celebrity Influencers 

As a way to promote the project, Marriott has been contracting video gaming influencers to livestream gameplay in the virtual park, host contests, and give away Marriott Bonvoy loyalty points to fans who can use them to book a stay. This type of influencer generally hosts livestream gameplays that often last hours, typically on the platform Twitch. 

“That’s more where we’re driving people right into our booking ecosystem,” Povinelli said. “There’s not a direct connect to the game right now.”

Influencers Sommerset (1.7 million Twitch followers) and Mr. Savage (3.3 million Twitch followers) each did sponsored livestreams playing in the Marriott Bonvoy Land. Sommerset spent 90 minutes playing in the virtual park and was joined by Brooklyn Beckham, the son of former soccer player David Beckham. The sponsored content got more than 87,000 views. 

There have been other partnerships for shorter videos with gamers Loserfruit, Alarming Amber, Dagwummy, Txkeoff, Zemmie, Alia-A, Birdo, Rapid Reacts. 

Brooklyn Beckham live streaming gameplay in Marriott Bonvoy Land
Brooklyn Beckham live streaming gameplay in Marriott Bonvoy Land

What’s Next

Marriott is following the project into next year to understand how much of an effect it has on brand awareness. The company could add a couple more brands to the park if the team determines it’s worth the investment. Or, it may just be a one-time experiment. 

“Our goal is to really look at how the engagement is playing out, get feedback from the gamers, and then determine — do we further invest in building out more opportunities for brands or different types of games, or do we take those learnings and move on to another space?” Povinelli said.

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Tags: fortnite, future of lodging, loyalty, marketing campaign, marriott, marriott bonvoy

Photo credit: The W Hotel game in Fornite leads them to a rooftop pool and bar, where the avatars can dance to music from a DJ. Marriott Bonvoy

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