50 Cent Helps The World Meet Hostelworld In New Video
The endorsement is part of online travel agent’s rebranding, aimed to correct the stereotype of hostels as barracks featuring rows of bunk beds.
A few months ago, rapper 50 Cent made headlines by declaring he was broke. While his statement supplied ready-made jokes for headline writers, it also laid the groundwork for a spot-on yet unlikely endorsement for Hostelworld, a site designed to help young travelers find cheap lodging.
In a 2:30 online video ad called “In Da Hostel,” launched last last month, 50 Cent (nee Curtis Jackson) cavorts around a hostel in Barcelona. The video, shot in the style of the “MTV Cribs” show, features the rapper highlighting features of the hostel (“Smell those clean sheets!”) as if it were his personal mansion. The joke is that the once high-flying rapper is now traveling on the cheap, like many broke twentysomethings.
For Hostelworld, the endorsement is part of a rebranding that began in 2015, when it moved away from a purely transactional business model to one that “started putting customers at the heart of everything it did, with millennial travel at its core,” according to the company’s website. The new campaign is designed to underscore that positioning and its new “Meet the world” tagline.
Created in 1999, Hostelworld grew through acquisitions. In 2003, it bought Hostels.com. After diversifying into the hotel business with the WorldRes online travel agency in 2005, Hostelworld decided to focus on hostels and sold WorldRes three years later. In November 2015, parent company Hostelworld Group went public on the London and Dublin stock exchanges.
Hostelworld, which takes a cut of every booking, now has more than 8 million reviews on its network for 33,000 properties in more than 170 countries. As an online travel agent, it competes with the likes of Expedia and Priceline but also Airbnb, the sharing economy juggernaut that has been providing alternate accommodations for young travelers since 2008.
In such an environment, Hostelworld felt it needed to make its case. Most pressingly, the company wanted to correct the stereotype of hostels as barracks featuring rows of bunk beds. “Hostels have undergone a revolution as a type of accommodation,” said Otto Rosenberger, CMO for Hostelworld Group, in an interview with CMO.com. “The outdated image of cramped dorm rooms is long gone.”
That’s not just Rosenberger’s assertion. In 2013, The New York Times put a spotlight on “haute hostels” in Europe and noted that “from London to Lisbon, from Iceland to Istanbul, hostels are undergoing a classy rebirth.” As travel industry news site Skift also noted this year, some business travelers “value the hostel experience” as well. Hostels are also seen as central meeting points for young travelers and often include on-site pools and bars.
Rosenberger said that the social element of travel is a big draw for Hostelworld’s customers. Some 90% of the company’s clientele are below the age of 30, he said.
Enter 50 Cent
To address the perception gap, Hostelworld worked with London ad agency Lucky Generals, known for its cheeky campaigns for Paddy Power, to find a breakthrough idea. The agency suggested the rapper. “The first time [the agency] brought the idea to me, I thought it was pretty crazy,” Rosenberger said. “But a couple of things came together: He’s been in the news, and he’s not just known for being bankrupt, he’s known for his lavish lifestyle. This combination was perfect, in a funny way.”
Once worth an estimated $155 million, 50 Cent declared bankruptcy in 2015 after a New York jury ordered him to pay $5 million to a woman because he procured her sex tape and then posted it online. A March story in The Daily Mail, however, claims that he still has more than $64 million in assets, $10 million in checking and earns $184,000 a month. The rapper didn’t help his cause by Instagramming a pic of stacks of hundred-dollar bills in his fridge. He later claimed they were fake.
Whatever the case, it turns out 50 Cent has a good sense of humor. The Hostelworld shoot in Barcelona was fun, and the rapper gamely parodied himself. “I don’t think he would have done it if he didn’t think it would be a fun thing to do,” said Rosenberger, who declined to say how much the rapper received to appear in the ad. The video didn’t miss an opportunity to parody 50 Cent’s tour of his mansion on MTV Cribs many years ago.
Rosenberger said he is happy with the way the campaign has been received and is open to other types of future endorsements. Actor David Hasselhoff might be a natural fit. The former Baywatch star recently said he was down to his last $4,000.