NZFW embraces new sponsors – and social sartorial media

With a pesky global financial crisis, the Rugby World Cup sucking up the corporate cash and the six year relationship with Air New Zealand as naming rights sponsor coming to an end, necessity has dictated a few new, cost-effective marketing tactics in the tenth year of New Zealand Fashion Week (NZFW).

Sponsorship normally fulfills one of two functions: building brand awareness or leveraging a brand through the ‘cool by association’ factor. And when Air New Zealand picked up NZFW, soon after the Ansett collapse, it wanted to be associated with a cool, innovative brand. But now, through a combination of cheeky marketing, solid customer service and good product developments, the airline is seen in a positive light and has become something of an innovator itself.

NZFW brand manager Myken Stewart says “losing Air New Zealand hasn’t affected us at all”.

“If anything it makes you more resourceful and think about other ways to make it work,” she says.

But like all sectors, the New Zealand fashion industry was hit hard by the economic downturn, making NZFW a challenge for its sponsorship team, she says.

“In our tenth year the NZFW sponsorship team was faced with early challenges that have made the huge job of staging the week long fashion event even harder,” she says. And the 2011 Rugby World Cup has made finding sponsorship even more challenging.

The days of the brightly coloured Air New Zealand Fashion Week billboards may be over, but the event has adapted, finding new sponsors and new marketing approaches. Many organisations seeking sponsorship money have had to lower their expectations and take what they can get of late, but NZFW now has a new list of premium sponsorship partners, with haircare company Affinage grabbing naming rights to the show and Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC), IBM and Toshiba also joining the fairly large list of 2010 sponsors.

What do an accounting firm, two computing giants and a fashion show have in common? It may sound like an odd mix, but, as Stewart says, “if there is a fit, then we make it happen”.

“Toshiba is sponsoring the bloggers area and giving us computers. PWC is mentoring the New Generation designers and held its boot-camp in the PWC tower. And IBM is sponsoring the hugely successful Designer Selection, which is a public show. Another side to these relationships is hosting – some of our partners do some serious hosting and it’s great for all of us.”

The end result of the New Talent competition

The PWC New Generation Show will show off the work from the winners of the New Talent Competition, an Facebook campaign where NZFW Facebook fans got to choise who they wanted to see get a leg up into the industry.

More than 150 New Zealanders submitted four shots of their work and one hundred words explaining why they wanted to enter into the fashion industry and why they should win. The five winners were chosen entirely by using NZFW’s Facebook Fanpage and they were then partnered with industry mentors.

“The concept worked really well. We got over $7 million dollars in AVE just from the competition as well as over 8000 new Facebook members and over 17,000 votes.”

Facebook is the “best way to get ourselves out there and connected,” she says. “I don’t think running a competition like ours would have been easy a few years ago, but it’s been a breeeze.”

The key question behind this year’s marketing approach for the show was working out how to celebrate its 10th birthday and reach the market well in advance of the show, but, given the economic conditions, “without a massive price tag.” And after a few meetings with some of the partners – Colenso, TRN, APN and APN Outdoor – the concept was born.

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