Why this Indianapolis hotel is basketball legend Grant Hill’s favorite

NEW YORK CITY — Marriott International hosted a gathering at the Moxy NYC Downtown to celebrate the upcoming NCAA "March Madness" college basketball tournament. For the sixth year, Marriott is the tournament’s official hotel partner, and has released a new promotion with former college and NBA basketball star and current Atlanta Hawks co-owner Grant Hill. 

“Our relationship with the NCAA covers all 90 championships across all sports,” Brian Povinelli, SVP of brand, loyalty & portfolio marketing at Marriott International, said during the event. The company’s portfolio comprises 30 brands, and Povinelli said each one could suit a different kind of sports fan. For example, “the whole theme of Moxy is play,” he said, and the Moxy NYC Downtown has a half-size basketball court. “So to have a little mini basketball court at a hotel is pretty unique.” The company mocked up a Courtyard room at the Super Bowl where a Marriott Bonvoy member was able to stay by bidding points on the Marriott Bonvoy Moments platform. The Moments program offers between 6,000 and 6,500 options.

Basketball Court at Moxy NYC Downtown
The event was held on a half-size basketball court at the Moxy NYC Downtown. (Marriott International)

“It's how we try to create loyalty and interest and uniqueness in the program,” Povinelli said. “Where I focus my time is on marketing. How do we connect with consumers? What are their passion points?” Sports, he said, has “a broad appeal” to many different audiences.  

The NCAA partnership has helped Marriott build awareness and connect with new demographics. “Marketing, I believe, is most powerful when you can leverage passions beyond travel,” Povinelli said. People traveling to follow sports teams or catch specific games can be a win for Marriott, and the company can measure the effectiveness of its marketing on sports-centric channels. “That association with the NCAA, which also has great equity, helps people look at our brand in a more positive light,” he added. “We've definitely seen year-over-year growth in the roomnight generation that's come from the partnership.” Marriott can keep track of what experiences Bonvoy members bid points on, and sports events consistently top the list, even over dining, arts and entertainment, he said. 

Grant Hill’s Hotels

Hill, the son of former NFL football player Calvin Hill, grew up attending tailgate parties at the Key Bridge Marriott in Arlington, Va. “It's pretty sad that I remember the tailgate more than the games,” he quipped. “That was when I was first introduced to the brand and to Marriott.” 


The NBA season runs for 82 games, Hill said, and 41 of these games are on the road, meaning professional basketball players spend a good amount of time in hotel rooms. (Hill spent 19 years in the NBA, so it’s safe to estimate he spent at least 779 nights in guestrooms just in a professional capacity.) Roomservice is a top hotel perk for Hill, and he appreciates the ability to sit at the edge of his bed, eat from a wheeled-in cart and then push it away and go to sleep. “It's ingenious, and the 12-year-old in me is still excited about eating roomservice.”  

Hill agreed with Povinelli's assessment on the love of sports across the country, and noted its ability to build bridges among different communities. “Whatever pocket of the country you're in, getting out, experiencing, interacting with folks—[which] is what I've tried to do and how I've tried to live—you find that we have more in common than we think,” he said. “Sports brings people together. It galvanizes communities, and I've seen that firsthand.” 

Westin Indianapolis
Grant Hill has a particular affinity for the Westin Indianapolis. (Marriott International)

While Hill enjoys staying at Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis properties, he has a special appreciation for Marriott’s Westin brand. When asked about any favorite hotels, he cited the Westin Indianapolis, where he stayed as a high school student during the McDonald's All American Games. “Then fast forward—actually, a year later—the Final Four [during] my freshman year at Duke [University] was in Indianapolis, and we stayed in the Westin. And then fast forward three more years, and the 1994 NBA draft was in Indianapolis. We stayed at the Westin.” The hotel was also his home base during the 2015 NCAA tournament, the first year in which Hill provided commentary for the games. “So many of these pivotal moments, important moments in my career—basketball and broadcasting—happened at a Westin and happened at that one in Indianapolis.”  

During the event, Hill said he favors Baylor University to win this year's women’s NCAA basketball tournament. Of course, he predicted Duke will win the men's title.