Q&A: Wyndham Rewards Loyalty Program’s Partnership with the New York Yankees

Wyndham Rewards is an official sponsor of one of the most famous global sports franchises−The New York Yankees.

Mike Mueller, Vice President of Loyalty, Marketing and Partnerships, Wyndham Hotel Group, participated in a scintillating Q&A with Loyalty360 to discuss the company’s partnership with the Yankees and how it leverages this envious relationship.

How did this sponsorship come about and what does this mean for Wyndham Rewards to be associated with, arguably, the most iconic professional sports team in the U.S.?

This marks the third year that Wyndham Rewards has been an official sponsor of the New York Yankees and it continues to be a partnership that we believe strongly in. As you mentioned, the team is arguably one of the most iconic sports entities around and for us that brings a lot of opportunity, particularly as it relates to exposure of our program to their fan base, which isn’t limited to the New York area, but rather scattered across the U.S. and for that matter, the world.

How can Wyndham Rewards leverage this sponsorship to attract new members?

One of our biggest challenges is awareness—especially the breadth of our hotel portfolio. As such, our focus day-in and day-out is making sure that we’re doing everything we can to not only continuously enhance our program and its benefits but also ensuring that we’re exposing as many new members as possible to the Wyndham Rewards name and the number of brands within program. High-profile sponsorships, like those with the New York Yankees or as another example, our recent partnership with 20th Century Fox for the summer blockbuster X-Men: Days of Future Past, are a key part of executing against that strategy.

What attracted the Yankees to Wyndham Rewards?

I don’t want to speak on behalf of the Yankees, but I can tell you that the attraction for us is the opportunity to connect with the Yankee fan base, one of the largest in the world, many of whom we know are traveling to follow and support the team, whether locally in the New York area or on the road. The sponsorship helps us stay top of mind with those fans and remind them that, with over 7,000 hotels around the world, Wyndham Rewards is there when they need to travel. I also think they appreciate our diversity of hotel properties, from economy to upscale, which allows us to appeal to the widest range within their fan base.  Many of our brands have long successful legacies, from Wyndham Hotels and Resorts to Ramada—which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year—to Travelodge, Days Inn, Super 8 and Howard Johnson. These brands are household names that conjure up images of childhood vacations, Americana road trips and being with family—which are all consequently values that baseball engenders.

How do you define loyalty, what does it mean to your organization, and how has it changed in recent years?

Our goal as a program is to create an offering that engages our customers, rewards them for their patronage and entices them stay with our hotels again and again. In the past several years, focusing on making sure that the program is easy to use and that customers feel as though the rewards are easily attainable has become pivotal to our success.

What’s more, member expectations seem to always be on the rise. So for us, it’s about anticipating and when possible, exceeding those expectations to ensure that regardless of a member chooses to engage with us, they immediately understand our value proposition and are reminded of why they should remain active in the program.

It also means that we demonstrate to our franchisees that the value proposition to our consumers translates into better business performance for their hotels. We strive to have this manifest in higher contribution, more direct bookings and ultimately better RevPAR as a result of the program.

What does Customer Experience/Customer Engagement mean to your organization, and how has it changed in recent years?

The customer experience is critical to the success of any program. You can have the best hotels in the world at the best rates with best rewards, but if nobody understands how to access or use the program or worse, encounters barriers when trying to do so, they’re not going to engage. As a result, in the past several years, we’ve launched a host of new tools and initiatives—think websites, mobile websites, apps, Guaranteed Rewards, Gold Status, etc.—to not only make it easier for our members to engage with the program but have a more rewarding experience in doing so. It’s an ongoing process for any program that wants to remain competitive and something that we continue to pay close attention to. We’ve also made free nights at our hotels much more accessible over the last few years by lowering the points required for an entry-level award, redistributing our hotels among more accessible tiers and eliminating the top tiers. All of these initiatives are designed with both the consumer and our hotel owners in mind.

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