Marketing Game Changers 2021: Badr Bourji, Yas Island

Marketing director, Yas Island

years in position: 1.5

years with company: 1.5

previous jobs: Business lead, Momentum MENA; account management at Ogilvy.

Recent campaigns

Stayin’ on Yas was our blockbuster campaign of the year. Not only was it the most engaging campaign in the destination’s history, it’s also cemented itself as one of the most popular and successful campaigns in the UAE and beyond. It’s not very often that you see the people across different age categories and from different parts the world raving about a campaign and vibing with it like they did with this one.

We also launched the first Toy Talks series, where we used toys as spokespeople in a quirky and light-hearted way as part of our Kids Go Free summer promotion. For the last 18 months during the pandemic, it has been an everyday struggle to keep kids busy and parents had to improvise entertainment alternatives. But among all these struggles, a group of unsung heroes carried a chunk of that burden. It wasn’t just parents or teachers, it’s the toys that were overused and much abused.

What is your objective in your current role?

Translating our leadership’s ambition and courageous vision to make Yas Island Abu Dhabi one of the world’s top destinations for entertainment, leisure and business. It is my responsibility alongside our wider teams to share the same bold attitude and to make sure that it reflects in marketing the same way it is reflected in destination planning and development.

Do you have a guiding principle?

The only limits that exist are the limits you outline to yourself. Find them, know them, push them and define what limits to respect and when.

How do you make agency relationships work? 

We invest in relationships, empower proactivity and foster the creativity of the collective. Agency output is an extension of our ambitions, objectives, decisions and work ethic, after all. We go upwards or downhill together. There is not just one party that is individually responsible for success or failure and the entire ecosystem needs to work cohesively together, otherwise, we will be held hostage by the weakest denominator. Make relationships less transactional and more personal, more fluid. We listen to each other, challenge each other and mutually agree on what’s best for the business. Don’t try to micromanage agencies, boss them around, outsmart them or build more complex processes around a naturally process-resistant mindset. We all work towards common goals, and agencies deserve the same amount of credit in the work as we do. Make sure you have the right set of talent and give them their space to do their magic.

What work do you wish you had done?

I have come across a lot of inspiring work over the years, but to be honest there isn’t a single piece that comes to mind for me to say, ‘I wish I had done it’. Good work inspires me as a marketer to think bigger and do better.

Who inspires you professionally? 

Elon Musk.

What is the biggest challenge in marketing at the moment?

The fast-paced digital and social transformation requires organisations to be more agile and as selective as ever. The marketing landscape has changed drastically from where it was years ago with new trends, disciplines, platforms, touchpoints, formats and consumer behaviours among many other developments. These changes need to be considered and accommodated in real-time, otherwise, marketers will be in a position where they’re constantly trying to catch the train.

What is the next big opportunity in marketing?

Gaming. There are more than 3.2 billion gamers globally from all races, genders and ages, but it is still not a space that is fully exploited by brands. Automation and data-driven marketing are the present topics that will also no longer be optional; they will become means for survival, and early adopters have already been reaping great rewards.

What can we expect to see from you and your brand in the next year?

We expect to build further on our foundations that have made us successful in 2021. 2022 is shaping up to be a landmark year for Yas Island, saturated with incredible new attractions including the first ever WB-themed hotel that will be opening its doors as early as next month, and the famous Ibiza Beach Club Café del Mar, which will debut at Hilton Abu Dhabi Yas Island, in addition to SeaWorld Abu Dhabi. While we cannot give too much away, we are also looking forward to hosting global personalities such as Kevin Hart on Yas Island.

Recent achievements

Despite the travel restrictions and border closures during the pandemic that affected the entire leisure landscape, Yas Island’s brand buzz and ad awareness scores have witnessed significant increases, making us among the top performers in the industry. Over the last four months alone, our domestic online revenue and conversion rates have also witnessed double- and triple-digit increases, surpassing pre-pandemic levels during the same periods in 2019.

Rapid fire

What are you working on?
Growing Yas Island brand love in 2022 and beyond.

Who are you following?
Elon Musk and
Jeff Bezos.

What are you craving?

What are you hiding from?

What are you playing?
If I was asked 15+ years ago, it would’ve been football.

What are you listening to?
90s R&B; never
gets old.

What are you reading?
The Wall Street Journal.

What are you watching?
Stock market charts.

What is your good habit?

What is your bad habit?
Lifestyle. From gorging on burgers, pizzas and desserts to not giving myself enough personal time to rejuvenate or exercise in
the process.

Agency reference

Raphael Nassoura, executive creative director Dubai, Momentum

Badr is a great example of a client working as an agency partner. He always works closely with us to push the work forward from both a creative and a strategic perspective. He’s constantly looking for bold ways to innovate and take creative risks to push the brand to new spaces.

We’ve worked with Badr on both the agency and client side for well over seven years.

We have a lot to be proud of when it comes to our collaborations with Badr and the team at Yas Island as a whole, but Stayin’ on Yas is the one we feel most proud about.

Badr is a rare breed of marketer. He knows how to manage projects flawlessly, adapt to difficult scenarios on the fly, and connect the dots on the bigger picture while still looking after the details. His appetite for big, bold, creative ideas and his drive to constantly push the envelope are always an inspiration. He’s a blast to work with. He can show you how to find the right balance between the business and creative challenges while constantly challenging convention.