Managing Editor, Lodging
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3/2/2012 | 'Lodgical' Thoughts
Special events that engage consumers and franchisees can be a fun, cost effective way for brands to give back in the major markets where they have hotels and help promote a positive brand image.
To deliver and spread its brand message of goodwill and giving back, Howard Johnson launched an initiative called “The Give Happy Challenge” about three years ago, which has grown and become more successful since then. This year, the brand chose four high schools, based on their goodwill efforts in the community, to participate in the challenge. The first three events were held in San Antonio, Texas; San Diego, Calif.; and Hartford, Conn., and the final event will take place in Orlando, Fla., March 8.
These are also cities where the brand has a heavy distribution of hotels, so franchisees can engage with the brand and see the value of sponsorships. Franchisees are invited to each event to help with set-up and execution so they can see firsthand the impact that each event has.
For the challenge, students compete against members of the Harlem Globetrotters for a chance to win a $2,500 donation courtesy of Howard Johnson. The series of fun and wacky 60-second competitions range from sliding cookies down their faces and into their mouths with no hands, to quickly rolling eggs across the gym floor by fanning them with pizza boxes.
The events introduce the brand to students and spread its message. “It's allowing us to build the equity of our brand through PR exposure and markets where we have a presence,” says Rui Barros, brand senior vice president at Wyndham Worldwide, who has been the emcee at the events.
Howard Johnson also uses these events as a way to engage with its signature charity, the Starlight Children's Foundation. Starlight is an international organization that dedicates itself to improving the quality of life for children around the globe with chronic and life-threatening illnesses and life-altering injuries by providing entertainment, education, and family activities. Prior to each event, Howard Johnson holds a private meet-and-greet for local Starlight families with the Harlem Globetrotters and treats them as VIP guests. They get to learn tricks, take photos, receive autographs, and more. The families the get front row seats for the school event, as well as free tickets to the official Globetrotters show later that night.
Barros says the brand wants to continue to focus on the goodwill component of its culture, not only at the corporate level, but also by encouraging franchisees at the local and regional levels to do so. For example, properties receive an allotment of Globetrotter game vouchers they can donate to local charities.
Shortly before forming its partnership about three years ago with the Harlem Globetrotters, Howard Johnson launched its new brand culture of “Happy.” Barros feels like the brand culture is really starting to take hold. “It's not a sprint, it's a marathon,” he says. “We have to continuously remain focused on it.”
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