Similar to its rapid growth in the lodging industry, Airbnb, Inc. is becoming a major player on the sponsorship scene.

The peer-to-peer lodging company has signed a handful of deals over the past six months to support its growth ambitions. Deals include the TCS New York City Marathon, Sundance Film Festival, FYF Fest in Los Angeles and the Australian Boomers, the Australian men’s national basketball team.

The partnerships come amid a time of change at Airbnb. The company this year launched its first global marketing campaign, rolled out a new corporate logo and hired former Coke marketer Jonathan Mildenhall as CMO.

Airbnb—which serves as an online marketplace where consumers can book rooms with homeowners—also is broadening its offerings. The company last week announced it is expanding into business travel.

The company is using sponsorship to support three primary objectives:

  • Engage travelers and current/potential hosts
  • Build visibility in the U.S., Australia, Asia and other key markets
  • Support “Belong Anywhere” brand positioning

The marketing push could prompt new deals by other companies as competition in the peer-to-peer lodging category heats up. Players include Couchsurfing, Roomorama,  9flats, Travelmob, Wimdu and VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner).

Using Sponsorship To Gain Global Dominance
Airbnb partnered with the Australian Boomers and the TCS New York City Marathon to build international reach. The company in 2011 expanded outside the U.S. following the acquisition of Germany-based Accoleo.

Airbnb has since opened offices in London, Barcelona, Paris, Milan, Moscow, São Paolo and other markets outside the U.S.

Australia represents a key market for Airbnb. The country is Airbnb’s second-largest market behind the U.S. with Australians representing one-tenth of the company’s user base, according to published reports.

The Boomers partnership affords branding on player jerseys at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain. For the first time in Australian basketball history, ABC—the BA’s official broadcast partner—will present live free coverage of the FIBA World Cup.

“Already a brand recognized and respected worldwide, Airbnb is growing its business rapidly in Australia—and the timing of this sponsorship aligns perfectly with Airbnb’s recent rebranding, giving Airbnb further exposure for the relaunched brand on a global platform as we move towards the World Cup,” said a Basketball Australia spokesperson.

Activation will focus on maximizing exposure and awareness for the two organizations—with a focus on Australia and China—as well as demonstrating the service that Airbnb can provide through individual relationships, player experiences and the need for lodging among players and fans, according to the spokeperson.

The FIBA Basketball World Cup takes place Aug. 30 through Sept. 14.

Similar to the Boomers, Airbnb’s partnership with the ING New York City Marathon provides exposure to an international audience.

“The marathon touches 109 countries, is broadcast internationally and draws 19,000 runners from outside the U.S.,” said John Gassner, New York Road Runner’s vice president of business development and strategic partnerships.

Airbnb will use the tie to provide an experience of belonging throughout New York City’s five boroughs by connecting runners and their guests with local hosts.

The partnership affords status as NYRR’s official community hospitality sponsor, said Gassner, who sees Airbnb and hotels playing complimentary roles.

“New York City has 100,000 hotel rooms and two million people come to marathon weekend. Airbnb is not a replacement for hotels, but an alternative for runners and guests to connect with neighborhoods in the five boroughs.”

While Sheraton New York and Hilton New York serve a logistical role at the TCS New York City Marathon, NYRR does not have any sponsors in the broader hotel category.

The partnership follows government scrutiny over Airbnb’s operations in New York. The New York attorney general’s office began examining Airbnb last fall over concerns that some landlords were breaking state laws by operating illegal hotels.

Airbnb is NYRR’s first partner in the foundation category. NYRR created the category last year as part of a repackaging strategy to provide sponsors year-round reach beyond the TCS New York City Marathon, the organization’s crown jewel.

NYRR is working with Airbnb on a year-round activation strategy, said Gassner. Civic Entertainment Group is assisting.


Activates Sundance With Instagram Promo And Airbnb Haus Popup
Airbnb activated the Sundance Film Festival with an Instagram promotion in which participants uploaded 15-second videos that inspired people to visit their cities. The videos—dubbed Airbnb Shorts—were judged on their creativity and depth of local knowledge by festival programmers.

Prizes included a trip to London and credits towards Airbnb properties.

Other activation included a crowd sourced video dubbed “Hollywood & Vines” that was made entirely out of six-second vines and the Airbnb Haus, an on-site build out where attendees could relax while attending the festival.

Airbnb also provided lodging for international filmmakers.