How long were you in New Zealand?
I lived in New Zealand from the beginning of 2008 until the end of 2011 and was lucky enough to spend my last few months working on three fabulous projects for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Who was driving those projects?
The NZ Government embraced all the opportunities that securing a RWC can bring, from increased infrastructure spend to making the most of being in the spotlight. It was key to capitalize on the potentially huge numbers of visitors and their spending power.
They were keen to use the tournament as a vehicle to position New Zealand in the international psyche as an innovative and entrepreneurial culture with excellent international investment opportunities and it was this push that became the focus of my work.
Was there a theme already in place?
When anyone thinks of New Zealand, they think ‘Pure New Zealand’, probably one of the most successful marketing campaigns on the planet, so there was little value in doing anything other than reinforcing that message.
There was however huge value in promoting New Zealand as a culture that invents in new technology, innovates naturally and offers an excellent test-bed for new products. This was key as it enabled promotion to territories important to NZ, but not participating in the tournament, such as China and South East Asia.
What was the main focus of your projects over there?
My projects were entirely focused on one thing:
Connecting (and making visible) domestic entrepreneurs and international investors.
The day I was invited to Auckland to have a chat about leading on a number of RWC projects, I was packing up what few belongings my family and I had left after the Christchurch earthquakes had relieved us of our home and possessions. We had been in temporary accommodation on a lifestyle block (small holding) north of Christchurch and were about to move into something more permanently temporary.
I was effectively asked if I would like to:
- Organise Sir Richard Branson’s visit
- Project manage a CNBC production
- Create and deliver a social media strategy
Babysit Branson, hang out with a film crew and play out on Twitter and Facebook all day? I thought it was a joke. However I was soon on a plane to meet Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED).
The projects were fabulous, but incredibly hard work as deadlines couldn’t ever be moved. They were also fun and had great legacy outcomes for New Zealand.
What was working with Richard Branson like?
The rationale behind Branson’s visit was simple. Wherever he went, he got exceptional international coverage and an endorsement from him of culture being innovative and entrepreneurial was almost priceless (it wasn’t and I’m still not allowed to say how much he cost).
We arranged innovation expos, private meetings with entrepreneurs and entered into negotiations with Virgin Enterprises to secure them access to technology entrepreneurs by creating joint ventures that might identify them in the first place, all under the watchful eye of the international press.
Can you tell a little about the CNBC project?
It had been identified that important trading territories were not involved in the tournament and were not inclined to view the coverage. As such, CNBC Asia were commissioned to produce a short, three episode series of business documentaries, ‘The New Zealand Business Roadshow’, to be aired in China, South East Asia and a few other countries during the tournament, then repeated and aired everywhere else.
The documentaries detailed some of the inspirational and innovative NZ companies and their CEO’s, putting New Zealand firmly on the map with regard to the identification of new technology, new investment opportunities for international VC’s and “high net-worths”, and positioned the nation as a great venture partner.
The final project, which was a “connector project” for lots of other initiatives, essentially used online marketing platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook alongside the various portals that had been established specifically to distribute information to connect domestic entrepreneurs with investors and buyers. We aimed to:
- Make them/their opportunities visible globally
- Give them a platform on which to communicate
- Link them to physical events and ‘business lounges’ in which to meet
It’s this part of my activities that I think could and should have benefit for us in the UK for RWC 2015. Certainly The Rugby Business Network is already performing many of the core functions – organising events, promoting them and connecting people.
Did the NZ Government provide all funding?
The NZ Government did not have unlimited funds, as you can imagine, so it rallied businesses of all sizes to promote events they wanted to host on a purpose-built website. In addition, NZTE and partner organisations targeted foreign senior executives and assisted them in the identification of events that might be of interest.
For example, if an NZ health device manufacturer intended to host a corporate event the day before a game, they would provide a list of the kinds of companies they would like to see in attendance, such as NHS procurement officials, and NZTE would make approaches on their behalf.
What’s in the pipeline here in the UK for RWC 2015?
UKTI, Visit England and the City Regions (LEPs) are already looking at how they can assist in the creation of valuable commercial connections during RWC 2015 and I understand that sponsor, DHL, has an interest in leading some business activity.
There are undoubtedly opportunities to become involved in or even lead some activities as, given our much larger nation, but lower Government focus on the tournament, there will be areas that require leadership and co-ordination from other organisations.
Finally, can we get your thoughts on corporate hospitality at rugby events?
Rugby is a fabulously sociable sport that offers a great vehicle for corporate hospitality and the establishment of interesting commercial relationships. The spirit in which the game is played infects the spectators and that provides a perfect environment to make new, productive business connections or simply new rugby-loving friends. What’s not to like?
Amanda Lennon was talking to the RBN’s Honey Wood.