Courtyard: Unstoppable is a 10-episode docu-series featuring talent in pursuit of their own personal and professional passions. More specifically, the talent in question are all connected to the NFL, whether they be designers, skill coaches, or management and operations personnel. Each unique episode of the docu-series profiles these multifaceted individuals in a way that is very personal and completely human. The series launched in June 2018 with a ten episode run. In partnership with the Courtyard Brand Marketing and Social/Digital team, the Content Studio produces and distributes the series in collaboration with Whistle Sports. Episodes live on their own dedicated Facebook Watch channel, which is a first for Marriott. Brand Storytelling caught up with Marc Battaglia, Executive Creative Director: Global Creative + Content Marketing at Marriott International, to ask how Courtyard: Unstoppable fits within Courtyard’s key brand positioning, what it’s like to partner with the NFL, and what the addition of this series means for Marriott’s big picture programming strategy:
Courtyard Unstoppable represents a natural evolution in the growing Marriott content library in terms of message - that being said, how did you arrive at the creation point of Courtyard Unstoppable, and with Whistle Sports as a partner?
The objective for the content studio was to challenge ourselves to develop an original story-driven franchise that could both generate awareness of Courtyard being the official hotel of the NFL while laddering up to the brands new positioning of “Passion Moves Us Forward”. We began collaborating with Whistle since they understood our philosophy of building a community around a series rather than one and done type content. In addition we were able to connect with the right audience of next gen football fans across the Whistle fanbase and combine our relationships in the NFL and sports influencer worlds.
What was it like to have the NFL as a major part of this series?
The NFL is a great partner, beyond content it expands to experiences, events while also building custom moments for our members. The NFL was very supportive of the series itself and was a fantastic promotional partner. From a storytelling perspective we decided early on for this series we wanted to avoid the expected player focus but rather take fans on an all access journey to showcase some of the unsung heroes within the football culture world driven by their passion. We focused on characters that were relatable, natural business travelers and had unique careers in which we could take the viewer on an inside look that only Courtyard could do. We then supported each episode with relevant NFL player integrations. The creative approach worked really well and gave fans that highly desired sneak peek behind the scenes while also celebrating characters that connected to the brand and it’s new positioning in a meaningful way.
You chose to differentiate your content distribution strategy for this series - can you elaborate on that? How did those changes affect viewership/post-release data?
In this case, Facebook Watch made a lot of sense, it was important to use a platform in which we could launch an episodic series and build an engaged community around. In addition, we had a good drumbeat of social content leading up to each hero episode as well as integrating Facebook Live events. In all, we released 10 episodes in the series and planned them around key tentpole activations for the brand such as the NFL Draft, the London game, season kickoff and Super Bowl. Each episode averaged around 1.5M views but more importantly beat industry benchmarks by 50% when it came to engagement which is what we really wanted to see. We also saw double digit results in brand awareness, consideration and affinity so audiences weren’t just watching and talking about the episodes but connecting it directly to Courtyard.
With Courtyard: Unstoppable, you were able to diversify the type of content Marriott puts out, all while tying back into a single ethos. In your view, what is the long-term value of building a library of diverse content?
It falls into our overall big picture programming strategy, we have key genres such as sports, music, lifestyle, destinations and experiences with travel always being at the core of every story. We are focused on continually building our library of premium travel content with a long-term vision to be the world’s favorite travel company. With over 135 million members globally, editorial platforms, apps, social channels and a global in-room network (Marriott Bonvoy TV); premium storytelling is a key part of connecting and building audiences into brand fans for life while establishing the building blocks for future platforms.
About Marc Battaglia
Marc Battaglia is an award winning global creative executive and content marketing leader. He has a proven track record of building and leading creative teams for content studios and agencies. His expertise is in developing and executing branded entertainment, innovative marketing and story driven content that connects with consumers. Currently he is the Executive Creative Director of Global Creative + Content Marketing for Marriott International where he is in charge of leading creative for the internal agency and content studio for Marriott's 30 brands worldwide, across 5,700 properties in 110 countries on 6 continents. Prior to his role he served as VP+Creative Director for Spectrum, an emmy-award winning entertainment, branding and content studio.There he led a team of in-house producers, live-action directors, editors, animators, writers and interactive designers. He worked with partners such as Disney, Fox Sports and NatGeo Wild on developing new entertainment brands, online original content, marketing initiatives and network promotions that went way beyond traditional media solutions. Before joining Spectrum, he served in several creative lead roles including Head of Creative for multiple Fox Sports Net brands as well as Senior Producer of Branding for global retail giant HSN. Through his experiences, he has garnered several accolades including numerous National Promax/BDA, ADDY, Emmy, BizTech, ANDY & W3 Awards.