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The mountain, in the form of the Rugby World Cup, is coming to New Zealand. Without stepping on official toes, exporters who have not yet done so should be hunting down business partners for a share in the opportunities swirling around the Cup.

By Louise Blockley

The Rugby World Cup (RWC) is now the world’s third largest single sporting event and, unless you have been stranded on a desert island, you will know it’s coming to New Zealand from September 9 to October 23 next year.

Expensive tickets, unofficial merchandise and accommodation issues aside, New Zealand exporters need to focus on the facts – and fast. Here are a few to kick-start the business brain:

Potentially 85,000 global endorsers/ consumers of Kiwi products and services are coming directly to our doorstep.

The cumulative viewing audience is predicted to be 4 billion (even the US has inaugural broadcast rights).

Major sponsor Heineken is said to be bringing 5000 guests to New Zealand, 75% of whom are the brewing giant’s top worldwide customers.

MANY AVENUES

If those business cogs aren’t whirring by now, a little more oil, perhaps? Becoming an official sponsor of or supplier to the RWC 2011 is one obvious way exporters can get a piece of the action, albeit an expensive one. But Dallas Fisher, director of Montana Catering and global steel fabricators NDA Group, among other roles, sees many RWC opportunities that won’t tread on official toes. Most revolve around intelligence on who’s coming and where they are going to be.

The first is hosting opportunities for current or potential business contacts in any export industry. Corporate hospitality packages remain available and the Government’s NZ2011 agency is matching like-minded Kiwi business people with international peers for informal hosting.

The second opportunity is food and hospitality exporters showcasing specialty products to elite buyers. Of the Heineken guests, Fishers says:

“These people are buyers, they are running large chains or restaurants and bars, the whole gastro pub thing. So there is an opportunity to try to work with them and, particularly DB in New Zealand, to – outside of these games – be talking to these people.”

But don’t expect them to seek you out, he says. “You have to hunt these people down and you have to put in the investment.” That means approaching people like the corporate affairs manager at DB or Rugby Travel and Hospitality (RTH), official hospitality and travel agents of RWC 2011.

Fisher says that while agencies like NZTE will be useful for invitations to functions and putting you on websites, etc, they “are not the ones actually writing the cheques to bring these people over”.

His third suggestion is to target high-end accommodation providers, such as Waiheke Unlimited, hosting 250 RWC VIPs, for supply deals. For example, you might offer to supply a venue with the best lamb back strap available, free of charge, in exchange for the venue telling guests exactly what they’re eating and where it comes from.

Lastly, he suggests advertising in tourist-orientated media. “People are going to be moving around the country at tourist spots and in accommodation.”

BUSINESS HOSTING

Alex Matheson, NZ2011’s business engagement manager, says the Government agency is focusing on two RWC initiatives, the New Zealand 2011 festival and a business engagement programme. Its online 2011 Business Club aims to attract international visitors to register before coming to New Zealand so they can be matched with peers for authentic Kiwi hosting experiences. Kiwi business people also need to register online.

Aware that visitors will be coming firstly for rugby, secondly tourism and perhaps thirdly to meet New Zealand business people and do business, Matheson believes the business club will foster long-term international business relationships. “It’s the idea of giving these people not just the scenery but giving them our business people and our stories. Let them have that backstage pass – forming those relationships will eventually be where our business comes from.”

INTELLIGENCE

Matheson reinforces the importance of knowing who will be here and where they will be. For example, the Italian team is staying and playing in Nelson so, possibly through the business club, he could target Italians in the seafood sector and engage Nelson’s seafood industry to host those visitors at fishing or golf or wine.

The club works alongside NZTE, EDAs, local business chambers and official travel agents for opportunities and intelligence. Matheson says there is already interest from official sponsors who are bringing guests to New Zealand. Alongside this the New Zealand festival features a programme of sector showcase events around the country from farmers markets to the Winter Festival in Queenstown.

There are several international conferences or events in New Zealand during the rugby, such as the Auckland International Boat Show and the Rutherford High-Tech Conference in Christchurch. The timing of these events will allow them to cash in on the rugby.

Brett O’Riley, head of New Zealand Information and Communication Technologies Group (NZITC), says his sector’s Rutherford High-Tech Forum and Canterbury Software Summit will be able to tap into the England-Argentina and Australia-Italy games in Christchurch on the same weekend.

“I think most people, in my experience, who travel this far would never turn their business brain off. But this event is more about targeting people who are not coming to the rugby currently but will take advantage of the fact the rugby is on,” says O’Riley.

He has travelled to the Hong Kong Sevens many times over the past 20 years and says that event attracts a major gathering of high-tech companies from around the Asia-Pacific region.

“If we are organised and present people with the opportunity, then with the double-header that weekend we will clearly get lots of Australians with the Wallabies in action against Italy, but we will get others as well.”

NUTS AND BOLTS

While openly declaring his interest, Mike Taillie, director of the New Zealand Trade Centre and publisher of Arrival magazine, suggests both those businesses can offer results for exporters around the RWC. Exporters can show product at the Trade Centre on Albert St in Auckland or hit visitors as they arrive at Auckland Airport with a “we are looking for agents, distributors, buyers” ad in Arrival.

Taillie believes exporters need to take a look at their websites through the eyes of a dream visitor. “If the dream website visitor was the international owner, say, of 100 supermarkets, does the site target that person? My experience is 99 out of 100 don’t.”

To catch those fleeting visitors who see your product in New Zealand and want to get hold of it back home, Taillie reckons QR (quick response) codes that visitors can easily snap with their cellphones are the way. Sunday papers after the big final will also be the place to catch a major international audience, in thinks.

Rob Bree, director of The Marketing Guy, says exporters need to think creatively in relation to the RWC. Calling in an expert to spend a few hours work-shopping possibilities can be valuable. “If nothing else you will generate 20 or 30 solutions, two or three of which might actually be quite good,” says Bree.

TAKE ACTION

Matheson sums up the call to action echoed by many: “Fundamentally, exporters are the ones who have to act on the platforms and the networks that we are providing. What I fi nd is that people don’t recognise that this is potentially 85,000 people as close to their target market as you are ever going to get and it is happening right here in New Zealand.”

KIWI PRIDE

On a not-very-journalistic personal note, this writer’s spine tingles and tears threaten at her teenage memories of belting out the national anthem in Eden Park’s terraces before captain David Kirk’s All Blacks took the World Cup in 1987. Beyond all the sponsorship, licensing issues and big business, that pride mixed with humility is the Kiwi essence – smart, well prepared exporters can always leverage off little old New Zealand’s greatness! [END]

 
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