“The energy is just amazing. I’m looking at a crowd that’s lining up for the NFL Experience and it says that tickets were already sold out for today,” Janis Milham, vice president and global brand manager for Courtyard by Marriott, says from her brand’s “zone” at the weeklong pre-Super Bowl extravaganza at the Indianapolis Convention Center. “There are people everywhere. It’s tons of fun.”
Last fall, Courtyard by Marriott became the Official Hotel Sponsor of the NFL, and with that sponsorship comes entry into the always-popular NFL Experience. For those who haven’t been to one, the NFL Experience is sort of a Disneyland for football fans. “It’s nine days leading up to the Super Bowl where they have all of the sponsors,” Milham says. “They have all sorts of interactive spaces where they are throwing footballs, have player appearance, and all sorts of fun.”
While Marriott has a large presence at this year’s big game considering its location in Downtown Indianapolis, which is not only home to Lucas Oil Stadium but also Marriott Place, featuring five different Marriott hotels all connected to the convention center, Courtyard is the only Marriott brand inside the NFL Experience. That comes courtesy of its sponsorship deal with the league.
“This is the first time that Courtyard has been in the NFL Experience,” Milham says. “We have a Courtyard lobby zone in the NFL Experience, where we are featuring our new Courtyard lobby space and having player appearances.”
NFL stars including Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford, DeMarco Murray, and Mark Ingram are just a few of the players who dropped by to sign autographs. Dhani Jones, former linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals and host of Travel Channel’s “Dhani Tackles the Globe” will also be in attendance. And, as Milham spoke via phone on Thursday afternoon with Lodging from the NFL Experience, she was waiting for The NFL Network to start doing a broadcast direct from the Courtyard Lobby Zone.
Milham says the NFL sponsorship targets Courtyard’s main customer base. In fact, Milham says, 70 percent of Courtyard customers have a passionate connection with the NFL. And there is no bigger week for the league than this one.
And the appearance at the NFL Experience has been a success for the brand. “We have had over 5,000 people visit the Lobby Zone,” Milham says. “And, we’re just warming up. Today is really when the action gets started because most of the hotels have a four-night minimum this weekend so Thursday is really that day that everyone is coming into town.”
Those fans at the Lobby Zone are experiencing the ability to relax in Courtyard’s renovated lobby on-site complete with video walls, public seating areas, media pods with TVs, and even the Courtyard GoBoard. Fans will also have a chance to experience Courtyard’s Greatness on the Road photo booth, where images of iconic football stadiums across the country will be dropped into a green screen for fans to create a virtual picture album of themselves in front of their favorite stadiums.
While fans watching the Super Bowl on TV won’t see a Courtyard commercial, several advertisements for the brand are being featured in and around Indianapolis this week.
It’s been tremendous exposure for Courtyard, Milham says, and a lot of fun for fans.