Today, the largest online media site and the largest global hotel brand announced a co-branding effort that will bring free, Yahoo-sponsored Internet access to Sheraton lobby computers.
Pilot versions of the project, which were launched just after Christmas, are currently being conducted in San Diego, Boston, Stamford and New York Sheratons, where sections of lobbies feature Yahoo-branded workstations set up at round conference tables, essentially creating a lounge area. Wi-fi and broadband service can also be accessed without charge from the guest’s hotel room.
Murray Gaylord, Yahoo’s VP of Brand Marketing, tell ADOTAS how this concept came about. “We had been working with Sheraton, an advertising client of ours, and were pleased with the way things were going,” he explains. “So we thought we ought to try something even beyond an advertising relationship and partner on something. We’ve found that our users love us in our home and our work, and they’d love to see a physical manifestation of Yahoo. As we started to talk, we realized there was a real opportunity to create a real physical presence for our users and their guests.”
Gaylord says that the Yahoo workstations, which are free and open 24/7 (unlike normal hotel business centers), meet the demand of customers seeking a more social environment where they can escape the “loneliness of their rooms.” By allowing guests the option to book tickets, find restaurants, and print flight tickets among other things, Gaylord adds, the sites operate “almost like a virtual concierge. Start with this Sheraton/Yahoo co-branded homepage [and] it allows the person to [explore] the whole web.” Whether these programs expand into further cities will be decided by both parties, jointly, and will depend on overall success in the launch cities.