It's probably safe to say that it was the first time that former Manchester United and England captain Bryan Robson had made mooncakes. As the footballing legend joined the chef from Wan Hao, a Chinese restaurant at the Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza, a small audience of diehard United fans could barely believe their luck. After watching Manchester United play Inter Milan in Singapore, complete with VIP hospitality and appearances by former players, getting up close with the 1980's icon as he made the festive Chinese treat was a whole different level of excitement.
The unique opportunity came as part of a multi-year marketing partnership with Marriott International's Bonvoy loyalty programme, which offers members once-in-a-lifetime experiences to get up close and personal with Manchester United's players in Perth, Singapore and Shanghai, as part of their pre-season tour.
Meet-and-greet opportunity with Manchester United Legend Bryan Robson in setting of a locker room.
If football isn't your thing, however, you could choose to meet the creator of Mr Men in Tokyo, hang with Maroon 5 before their concert or maybe have a private swimming masterclass with an Olympic gold medallist. Each "Moment" is designated as culinary, lifestyle, entertainment or sport, and can also be aligned with a Luxury, Premium or Select property or brand under Marriott's portfolio.
Marriott Bonvoy launched in February, bringing together the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), Marriott Rewards and Ritz-Carlton Rewards. The accompanying massive marketing blitz has clearly been effective, as their 130 million global members have been growing at a staggering 1.5 million new members every month, with no fewer than 40% of them from China, through their program known as Wan Hao Lu Xiang Jia Wan Hao, which has included a tie-up with Alibaba.
Senior director of loyalty programme & member experience Yumiko Kodama, who has over 20 years' experience in marketing customer loyalty experiences and was responsible for leading the recent Bonvoy unification in Asia Pacific, shared with Meetings & Contentions Asia how the programme benefits MICE planners who can earn up to 60,000 points per event on eligible room, food, beverages and A/V charges.
"Meetings and incentives are an important part of Marriott Bonvoy, and there are rewards and incentives on offer throughout the year for both planners and their guests. Marriott Bonvoy Events allows planners who are members to earn points and status when booking and hosting their event at a participating property. They can then turn this into benefits for the meeting (e.g. discounts on food and beverages) or into nights or airline points for their own travel."
Through an Asia-dedicated website, the programme also endeavours to act as a resource and ideas hub for event planners, added Kodama.
"It's clear from (our) research that planners are hungry for inspiration and expert tips to keep their events fresh and exciting. As a result, we introduced Marriott Events Asia, a customer-facing, Asia Pacific website that provides planners with inspiration and expert tips. It covers trends and tips on events, ranging from destinations, technology, food and beverage."
In a quarterly earnings call earlier this year, Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson said that amongst the group's portfolio of 30 brands, "the brand that is most important is Marriott Bonvoy."
Explained Kodama, "Bonvoy is so important as a company strategy because it's not just a travel programme but one that also connects all of our hotel brands."
As to what may lie ahead, she is coy but stresses it's still a new initiative. "Marriott Bonvoy is still only five months old, a baby! We're definitely continuing to bring it to life through more experiences because that's what people are looking for when they travel. We'll scale up opportunities for our members to be part of it, looking to accelerat eenhancements and make it more relevant. We still have a very high recall awareness rate which is great but there's always room to do a better job."