Building A Mega Resort Brand

For the first six months of 2006, I had the opportunity to work with collegues and develop/deliver a comprehensive brand campaign to northern Nevada’s largest new resort development – The Grand Sierra Resort and Casino. The new brand is centered on the resort’s positioning as the upcoming regional brand for “luxury. life. style.” A far step from the previous Reno Hilton positioning locally and regionally. The new owners were serious about change.

The planned $1.8 billion dollar resort was founded, in part, with revenues created from the pre-sale of 825 hotel-condominiums that will occupy the top 11 floors of the existing Reno Hilton site – now called The Summit at Grand Sierra Resort. I served to help direct the marketing efforts for these unique luxury units, which initially resulted in some pretty astounding results.

We actually contracted to sell well over 30% of the proposed hotel-condominium units even before the Grand Sierra purchased the property from the Hilton corporation. Generating over $33 million in sales before you even own a property has rarely (if ever) been heard of before in the real estate sales industry. If you consider the fact this sales and marketing success was accomplished in less than 6 months, the results from the campaigns are nothing short of astounding. Here are a few details of our accomplishments:

➢ $33,000,000+ in revenues secured in 2.5 months at an expense of just under $800,000
➢ 2.4% expense ROI in an industry that normally dedicates 4-5% of unit value to the marketing effort.
➢ E-blasts: 150,000 per week over the course of 5 weeks, with an average response rate of 3.5% (an average higher than direct mail).
➢ Direct mail: 80,000 qualified individuals of wealth and investment demographics.
➢ A renovated GSR hotel-condominium website launched in early February, 2006. In the six months of previous sales and marketing efforts, the website received 441,134 hits to the site. In the three months the site increased to 1,401,299 hits, or a 317% increase in web traffic.
➢ 5,000 video presentations in DVD format have been produced and distributed at events and in sales kits.
➢ Sales kits were produced in February, 2006. Floor plans, project renderings, frequently asked questions, amenities lists in GSR sales kits were produced.
➢ Print campaigns placed in the San Francisco Examiner, San Jose Mercury, Oakland Tribune, Sacramento Bee and Reno Gazette-Journal to support 5 California sales events, and the final closing event dates in Reno.

Needless to say…this took the efforts of a widely distributed team of marketing and advertising professionals. But believe me, it didn’t come without great expense – for both for the client, the extended team, and for me personally.

As GSR was my client, I temporarily functioned as their internal Director of Marketing until the sale of the property from the Reno Hilton closed in late June, 2006. The public relations rumors, budgetary and marketing strategy challenges were many – and eventually took it’s toll on the entire team – myself included. Only the core team that originally began the project remain today, with new blood being pumped into the efforts as needs and challenges change.

The extensive initial marketing campaign we implemented reached throughout northern California included heavy regional media buys to support an ongoing series of successful sales events. Tens of thousands of direct mail pieces were sent, eblasts to brokers and high-wealth individuals shipped twice a week, radio and heavy print promotion resulted in record results of hotel-condominium sales. An interactive Powerpoint-based marketing presentation for interactive and website applications were launched for both the Grand Sierra Resort, and the hotel-condominiums.

We established some much needed brand positioning, allowing the resort to launch into its next phase of operations: ownership. The groundwork we established will bear fruit for them for years to come.

Today, the resort continues to grow on it’s promise of expanding over the 145 acres in the middle of Reno nestled against the beautiful Sierra mountain range. Much has to be done…but I can tell you this…I’ve never worked with a more determined, singly focued group of clients in my 20 year career. I doubt anything will stop them from realizing their dream, which in the end, will be a good thing for my home town.

Unfortunately…we’ll all have to wait for a few years and see how it really unfolds. But while we wait, we’re seeing changes to the exterior of the existing building, and the addition of some great new restaurants like Dolce. What more could we ask for?

SmartBrand provides its clients innovative, related marketing services including strategic planning, brand development, creative services, project management and results tracking.

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