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Sheraton asks NCAA fans to do the wave

Sheraton Hotels and Resorts has launched SheratonWave.com, where NCAA college basketball fans can post videos of themselves doing the iconic “wave.”

The chain of 190 US-based hotels said it hopes that the Sheraton Wave site will “inspire friendly competition.” Users who upload videos to the site are eligible to enter a sweepstakes. The winner will receive two tickets to the 2009 NCAA men’s Final Four basketball tournament in Detroit.

“Part of Sheraton’s overall online strategy is to try to have consumers interact with each other,” said Jeff Mirman, director of interactive marketing for Sheraton Hotel & Resorts. In the past, the hotel chain has encouraged its guests to upload travel stories and photos onto its site.

“It’s important because our research indicates that Sheraton guests are social beings,” Mirman said. “They enjoy interacting with others while they travel, therefore we’re trying to do the same type of thing online.”

Sheraton Hotels & Resorts is an official NCAA corporate partner. The Sheraton Wave site, developed with Avenue A/Razorfish, is part of a larger multifaceted marketing campaign that includes TV, online and in-game billboards and programming, among other promotions. The SheratonWave site launched on March 11 and the campaign will run through April 30.

Partnering with the NCAA made sense because college basketball fans are frequently willing to travel regionally to watch games, said Barbara Ward Thall, VP and client partner with the New York office of Avenue A/Razorfish. This was another great opportunity to connect with this social traveling audience, she said.

So far, fans of Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC, have posted 34 videos to the site —the most of any school in the tournament. When users click on the “Winthrop” link, the clips stream across the page as people (and two dogs) swing their arms (and paws) in the air one after the other.

To drive people to the site, Avenue A/Razorfish developed rich media video banner ads that have run on sites such as Sportsline.com and NCAA.com. Some of the banner ads played off classic rivalries with animated school letters doing the wave, she said. Visitors can also pull the videos from the Sheraton site and place the content on their blog, MySpace page or Web site.

Mirman said that Sheraton plans to keep the site up for a while, as it may be able to be leveraged for other sporting events in the future.

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