There’s gold in them thar hosts: events hay set to be made while RWC shines

New Zealand is getting set to put on a bloody good show for our RWC visitors in the coming months. And there’s plenty on the menu to keep them all entertained, from the REAL NZ Festival to the Taste of New Zealand to trade and innovation shows and a whole heap inbetween. But some guests require a bit more impressing and the local events and activation scene is buzzing as official sponsors and plenty of other businesses hoping to use the tournament as a chance to butter up guests and potential clients look to roll out the branded red carpet. 

The event is certainly a boon for those looking for temporary work and Robert Bruce, managing director of experiential and brand activation agency Sublime NZ, says the demand for promotional staff and brand ambassadors has been massive so far. Some say the 1:3 rule, where every dollar of sponsorship is thought to require three dollars to activate it properly, is now the 1:5 rule and, as part of Heineken’s official sponsorship, Sublime is supplying over 100 premium, uniform-wearing, well-trained hosts to interact with and help its guests (as well as members of the Heineken family and management team who are planning to visit) during their stay.

He says it’s the largest one-off project the agency has ever worked on. And it’s likely most other official sponsors will be going to similar lengths to impress the high-rollers lucky enough to get an invite.

Sublime is also supplying premium hosts/hostesses/room managers for all games in the corporate boxes at Eden Park and offsite pavilions for Rugby Travel and Hospitality, which once again requires more than 100 trained staff, and it’s also supplying brand ambassadors who will wander the streets on the route from the CBD to Eden Park promoting new RWC sponsor Blackberry’s Playbook tablet.

Bruce says experiential is all about creating more memorable experiences for consumers and the personal touch is a big part of that. He points to sampling efforts in DFS Galleria that capitalised on traffic flows through the airport and led to increased sales and the American Express campaign it ran recently in Air New Zealand Koru Lounges, where brand ambassadors dished out Moet and, more recently, started offering massages. Of course, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, so there was also a subtle mention or two of the new credit card during the massages. But he says it’s about doing it in a non intrusive way and adding some value to the consumer, rather than a gratuitous sales pitch.

When the business was born five years ago, he says the industry was all about “hot chicks”. Hot chicks—and hot guys—still play a big role in the promotional sphere, of course, but the maturing of the experiential industry means it’s now much more complex than that. For example, the raft of pop ups and temporary structures around Auckland; the ANZ ‘Welcome the World’ campaign; Mini brand ambassadors who drove a convoy of cars filled with competition winners to a music festival; or Sublime’s recent Localist campaign, which is taking a leaf out of Yellow’s book and showcasing the functionality of the site by finding and restoring a VW Kombi van using businesses listed in Localist.co.nz and then touring around different parts of the city).

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While he says clients are slowly being educated with regards to the possibilities experiential can offer—and the ways its effectiveness can be measured—it’s still a work in progress. But there’s little doubt the events and onslaught of experiential marketing that will be on display during the Rugby World Cup can’t help but grease the wheels of this industry.




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