Starwood Launches a Katrina Online Relief Auction

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I recently came across a great travel/advocacy campaign sponsored by Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide (up from October 20-27).  Taking the idea of donating your frequent flier miles to the next stage, the site features an online auction with more than 800 travel related items including a "Carolina Getaway with tickets to a pro football game" and a "Deluxe 4 Night Stay at the St. Regis Shanghai."  The site’s main purpose is to raise funds for the more than 900 displaced Starwood employees from the New Orleans region, with 100% of donated funds going to help them.  This strikes me as a particularly successful promotion for several reasons:

  1. It humanizes the organization’s employees: Too many travel companies focus on their services and amenities, while travellers read in the press about new pay cuts, layoffs and other examples of employee devaluation.  This comes across as a great example of a company sticking up for their employees and doing what they can to help them.
  2. It promotes national and international Starwood destinations: Ok, advocacy is great … but this also ties to marketing result, getting more Starwood properties in front of consumers and judging by the many bids on these packages, consumers see most of the offers as a good value.
  3. It is low cost and low maintenance: All they needed to do was enlist support from properties worldwide willing to participate.  The entire auction is online and presumably self sustaining, and promotion is through their current hotel properties (as well as possibly some online advertising which I haven’t seen)

In all, a strong example of combining a corporate social responsibility, crisis management, employee relations, and marketing promotion into a cohesive single effort.  I’d love to see more travel companies give marketing like this a try.

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