Brian Povinelli has spent the last five years with Starwood Hotels & Resorts. Coming from footwear manufacturer Reebok, Povinelli has a history of brand building. While at Reebok, he was named Footwear News Marketer of the Year and won several creative awards including being honored by Time magazine for creating one of the Best 10 Ads of 2001. And he came to the hotel company at a time when one of its stalwart brands was just beginning to re-invent itself.
“I came in on the Sheraton Global Brand team. They were really just starting to bring in a team to craft the reinvention of Sheraton,” Povinelli says. He continued that job for a few years as the brand launched its multibillion-dollar refresh around the world. Since then he’d been working as a brand manager for Westin and Sheraton, running the brands in North America.
When former Global Brand Leader for Westin Nancy London left the company this past spring, Povinelli was tabbed to take over the reigns of the iconic hotel brand, one known for innovation and wellness.
“I’m thrilled. I think it’s a great opportunity to take what I’ve learned and really apply it,” he says. “The challenge here is to stay out in front. As a leader you have a target on your back. We’ll have to continue to innovate. It’s a great challenge that I’m really excited about.”
From Sneakers to Hotels
Coming from a high-profile consumer brand like Reebok, Povinelli is used to working in competitive environments. He says despite appearing much different, his footwear industry experience has taught him a lot that can be applied to hotel branding. “At Reebok, we were just laser focused on the end consumer, and I think that’s one of the great things I learned in that industry—at the end of the day, the consumer votes with their wallet. It’s no different [in the hotel industry],” he says. “How do we make sure we’re no only delivering a great product, but also a brand that people emotionally connect with.”
He believes Westin has the product right in that regard. The next steps, he says, are to continue to work to secure the emotional connection with consumers and to continue to grow Westin into a true lifestyle brand.
Throughout its history, Westin has cultured innovation. It debuted the Heavenly Bed in 1999, ushering in an area of branded hotel sleep systems. “As we look forward on the lifestyle side, we’ve been extremely successful in bringing that sleep experience into people’s homes, through our retail program, through Nordstrom, and through our Westin-branded store,” Povinelli says. “We will now integrate that into a brand that is really focused on our guests’ well being.”
That means continuing the brand’s nutrition program and fitness programs. “I really want us to become a partner in people’s well being before, during, and after their stay,” he says.
Povinelli cites the brand’s partnership with athletic shoemaker New Balance as an example. “Travelers have to make decisions when packing and often their sneakers and workout clothes end up staying home,” he says. “We allow guests to borrow that gear at the hotels. We’re partnering with guests in their fitness and allowing them to get that workout in without having to check that bag on the plane.”
Innovation & Growth
“Absolutely,” Povinelli says, when asked if Westin will maintain its focus on innovation under his watch. “It’s a key focus.”
He says the brand will focus on two areas: to be the premium choice for business travel and also innovations in the leisure area—something he says will start to debut within the next year or two. “We want to bring unique experiences to our weekend leisure stays and resort properties,” he says.
Povinelli also says the brand is still on a growth path. “There are key markets where I’d like to have a Westin, and London is a great example,” he says.
Growth in Asia has been tremendous for Starwood, and also for the Westin brand, Povinelli says. The brand has eight hotels opening in China this year, and a robust pipeline for the next few years. “Most of the growth for the next few years will come of the Asia-Pacific reason, but we are opening all around the world.”