The Boroughs: should people be annoyed about the delays?

There are so many ads that just slip right by us, in fact, most of them do. But when a giant campaign is launched featuring NBA star Steven Adams and promising the build of five basketball courts in your city, it’s hard not to notice. And to notice is to anticipate and when there are hold ups, people get annoyed. 

We first heard about The Boroughs in 2014 when the telco teamed up with Kiwi NBA player Steven Adams and launched a slick ad (by Dynamo, Touchcast and Sherson Willis) shot in Auckland and the US to get youngsters amped up about its plan to build five high-tech, state-of-the-art basketball courts in Auckland city, matching up with five sister courts in the US.

The courts were to be built in Otamariki Park in South Auckland, Victoria Park in Central Auckland, Avondale Central Reserve in West Auckland, England Reserve in East Auckland and Hooton Reserve on the North Shore.

While the first park was geared for completion in February 2015, ground wasn’t broken on the park until March and the court, dubbed ‘The Jungle’ at Otara’s Otamariki Park (the South court) wasn’t finished until September the same year. 

According to a Stuff article, several young people have taken to Facebook to voice their disappointment at the slow roll-out. 

So, what was the hold up, and is all the criticism much ado about nothing?

“It was normal construction type delays, weather and changes to scope and no doubt we’ll have the same challenges to deal with in the north and west which are the next,” says Spark GM of marketing Clive Ormerod.

“This is just one of many activations we have. So in terms of the size and scale it’s within our normal remit of what we focus on. We have so many activations going on across our portfolios at any given time.”

He says there are always going to be delays, “whether it’s weather or other people getting involved”.

As anyone who has dealt with any council before knows, stuff takes time, and sometimes a lot of it and Ormerod says there is no set date yet for the next court as Spark is working through the “consent, planning and build” and is meeting with the council this week to discuss the remaining courts.

He says the launch of the first court has taught the telco how it would go about it differently next time.

“We’ll be making sure the community owns it and as a brand we want to bring it to life and take that learning into how we build the other four … We’ve got a very clear strategy. To be honest in how you bring it to life [and]there will be more of a shift in making sure [the courts]are community led. As that’s the most successful part,” he says.

It’s this younger community that Spark has been trying to tap into for a while now, and Ormerod says the best way to reach them is to offer great experiences, something he and I discussed for an earlier story.

“It’s far beyond the price of a mobile plan … For me the key thing is making sure it’s experience led. If the community feels like they own it, then through data and tech we can play a more meaningful role in the lives of customers and we can be more relevant to them.”

And speaking of tech, what about the sweet, sweet tech that was promised?

In the announcement for The Boroughs it was said the courts would be decked out with free wifi and big screens which would live-stream action from each sister court and cameras to record dunk shots that could be replayed on the screens and shared online.

Ormerod says the South court is wifi-enabled, and all the other courts will be too. However, the screens and their playback feature haven’t been as successful as he’d hoped.

“The biggest piece of feedback we got was on our playback feature which hasn’t been as successful as we would have thought. Most people capture content on their own phones. So really the currency there is data, so if people are getting data they are getting content on their own phones.”

While some might see the lesson here as being, ‘don’t create such a hype when the nitty gritties haven’t been worked out yet’ or ‘don’t make promises you can’t keep’, I can’t help but think, ‘hey, at least they’re doing it’. While yes, it was seven months late, Spark has delivered the first court and is moving onto the next two. Projects of this scale always take time and as mentioned earlier, particularly when the council is involved.

As Basketball New Zealand chief executive Iain Potter said around when the first court was opened:

“It’s a pretty fantastic vision that they had and if it falls a bit short, it wouldn’t surprise me, but having said that whatever they do is better than nothing. What they imagined was very cool. In an ideal world, the promise of the gift and the arrival of the gift would be as close to each other as possible, but at the end of the day it’s still a gift.”

There’s something to be said for trial and error. Sometimes you just have to go ahead and do something, it might not go exactly to plan, but do it better next time.

And, despite speculation that Spark won’t be finishing the remaining four courts, with Ormerod meeting with the council this week it appears the ball is still well and truly rolling (or bouncing?) on the project and ground is still set to be broken on the rest of the boroughs. 

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