Whether it’s paying stars to show off diamonds in public, paying stars to mention a brand in their latest song, paying stars to talk up your new product to their fans, or paying for the host of a podcast to read out your ad, brands have been using the power of endorsement to influence perceptions since ages ago. In the world of hospitality, having the right people at your establishments is important if you hope to lure the crowds. And it’s no secret that Skycity ‘incentivises’ a range of famous Kiwis to do just that. But now it’s taken that one step further by getting them to write—or at least put their name to—long copy ads that wax lyrical about the company’s assets and its impact on Auckland.
According to an article in the Herald from a few years ago, Paul Henry has “a long-standing association” with SkyCity. It also “sponsors several big-name sports stars and provides a ‘chairman’s card’ for a small number of celebrities allowing them free five-star hotel rooms, meals and drinks”. Mike Hosking also has a relationship with Sky City and has done MC work. And while some believe these types of deals call editorial integrity into question, MediaWorks said it’s all good as long as the potential conflicts of interest are declared and TVNZ banned Hosking from reporting on the company. Radio NZ’s Carol Hirschfeld and John Campbell recently MCed an event for Air New Zealand and when asked if that was a threat to its independence, chief executive Paul Thompson told the Herald that he was relaxed about staff taking on other commercial roles if it lifted the broadcaster’s profile.
In recent years, Skycity has been on a mission to show that it’s an entertainment company that actually enhances the city, rather than a casino with a few hotels that sucks money out of it. Its brand campaign ‘It All Starts Here’ promoted its range of world-class hospitality options, including restaurants run by Al Brown, Nick Watt, Nick Gordon and Sean Connolly, and pushed the fact that it provides jobs and supports to the community (as there was plenty of discussion about its controversial deal with the government to design, build, own and operate the New Zealand International Convention Centre in exchange for an extension of its license to 2048 and an increase in gaming product and other gaming concessions, the timing of the campaign wasn’t ideal and it was criticised by some for “good-washing“).