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Rather than focus on the hard-sell, exporters should build networks and long-term relationships with Rugby World Cup visitors, who may be compelled to do business although their main focus is watching their team play.

BY MARY MACKINVEN

Well-heeled business people could be swarming the streets during the Rugby World Cup in September and October, but it’s up to Kiwis to cross paths with them. Smoothing the way for everyone is Alex Matheson, NZ 2011 Office business engagement programme manager.

Matheson is recruiting businesses for the online Business Club – the focal point for connecting, with about 2000 members so far – through economic development agencies, local companies, business organisations, rugby clubs and individuals who say they want to host overseas people.

He’s also talking to overseas companies with New Zealand assets, and foreign embassies with teams playing here, to find out who’s coming down under.

“We’re working to find out who businesses are bringing to New Zealand – which VIPS – so New Zealand towns and business groups know who’s turning up when.”

The Business Club’s online home, nz2011.govt.nz, outlines dozens of industry events, such as the boat show in Auckland, the hi-tech forum in Christchurch and the aviation expose in Hamilton, all timed to fall during the tournament. Mini field days are being held at locations around the country.

These REAL New Zealand Showcase events run as part of the REAL New Zealand Festival, to highlight what New Zealand business and science have to offer and provide a networking platform.

Matheson describes the hypothetical opportunity: a group from the Argentine finance industry is here, potentially with money to invest in New Zealand agriculture, so they’re taken to see a model farm.

He says: “Take the opportunity to make some interesting connections. If you see an activity at a town near you, go to it. Don’t wait for things to come to you.”

Many visitors will be spending on food, wine and experiencing New Zealand and may do a business deal on the side, although leisure is the main objective.

Some follow big sporting events and, for others, rugby is a game of the business elite, as in Russia and the US.

“Our focus is long-term opportunities. People will be here to watch the rugby, experience New Zealand and, thirdly, maybe do business.

“I don’t necessarily think it should be around the board room table but maybe a barbeque or golf. It’s about making connections.”

He advises: “Don’t over-invest or throw all your eggs at this; but don’t miss it.”

A visitor from France, for instance, may be persuaded to send some wine home.

The Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development council controlled organisation has launched Match Ready for Business, a programme of online tools at Auckland2011.com aimed at small-to medium-size enterprises, and based on successful programmes for overseas major events.

Businesses doing it themselves

Flagz is producing flags and banners as the licensed supplier of street banners that councils will erect to mark access to stadiums. It will supply hand wavers, car flags and related products to retailers, games venues, corporates, clubs, pubs and anyone who wants flags and banners with official RWC insignia.

Company owner Shane Brown has taken on three extra staff for the job and expects to employ casuals to meet the workload.

Smaller items are being made in China because of the large volumes and crucial price point and margins, but the rest are made in Auckland.

“We have to document our manufacturing processes to deal with councils and government departments.  This required systems and certifications as part of the proposal for the licence.

The impact on the environment is important and a lot of overseas companies take that into account.”

He wasn’t initially sure of the value of the job and has no funding or financial guarantee from tournament owners.

“All the risk is mine, so I will be very careful who I give credit to!”

Multi-disciplinary consultancy Synergine Group is featured in a video at youtube.com/nz2011office, in which chairman and owner Phil Warbrick talks about Synergine’s redevelopment of the New Lynn railway station and town centre. Chief executive Dr Jim Bentley is also the inaugural director of the University of Auckland Faculty of Engineering’s Centre for Infrastructure Research.

As a Business Club member the company is hoping to meet people involved in infrastructure.

Warbrick says the Business Club is a wonderful opportunity for businesses to connect with visitors, host them at home and offer some genuine Kiwi hospitality.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) has contacted all businesses on its database about the opportunities for international marketing onshore during the tournament, says Bruce Gadd, NZTE Rugby World Cup project director.

“We are working closely with the NZ2011 office to organise events to get international business people together with local businesses. For example, in Nelson, where Italians, Russians and

Americans are playing, businesses will be supported to promote their products and services in that town at that time if those countries are target markets.”

NZTE also has a bank of business stories to supply to overseas media to showcase New Zealand. [END]
 

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