Before the 2015 Rugby World Cup – the world’s third largest sports event – the nzherald.co.nz’s daily digital sports audience sat behind that of Stuff.co.nz, rarely managing to exceed it.
The cup was NZME’s chance to dominate Fairfax, strengthen its connection with its current audience, and attract new sports fans to grow its audience overall.
The ultimate goal: positioning nzherald.co.nz as the home of RWC 2015.
NZME knew it would be competing not only with Stuff, but with other key New Zealand media including TVNZ, MediaWorks, and Sky.
It would also be competing with original content created and shared by RWC sponsors, brands, bloggers and fans – all vying for attention.
The publisher had to work out a strategy to appeal to not only a core rugby and sports audience, but that also attracted a new and wider audience to nzherald.co.nz during the tournament.
It also had to find a way around Rugby World Cup intellectual property restrictions – editorially the publisher was allowed to use official RWC trademarks, but any creative use
of media considered ‘advertising or promotion’ was prohibited.
NZME also had to think strategically to make sure it was prepared to be at the centre of the conversation, even though the nature of the games was unpredictable.
NZME’s marketing, content, product, insights and social media teams began to work together early in 2015 to plan its content and innovation strategy.
The team took insights from its Cricket World Cup campaign to shape its strategy and spend.
They knew there would be a huge amount of conversation on social media, so created a strong visual identity with branded graphics to help shareability. NZME also came up with the brand campaign ‘Nothing Else Matters,’ which positioned the publisher as just as obsessed about the World Cup as its audience, appealing to the hardcore fans.
To drive more frequent visits to nzherald.co.nz, the ‘Nothing Else Matters’ campaign was rolled out across NZME house print, digital and radio assets, including Radio Sport, Newstalk ZB, Hauraki, ZM, Dream Team and the Alternative Commentary Collective.
The blasts over these networks were supported with external media including Facebook, Twitter, Outbrain, SEM, Google Display network and OOH. On social, the hashtag #blacktoblack was developed, a play on the All Blacks attempt to win back to back RWC titles, which would be a world first.
The #blacktoblack social campaign urged NZME’s audience to tag all their images and videos throughout the RWC with the hashtag, and it was used across marketing and content to stimulate awareness of the campaign.
— Dan Bowden (@danbowden) October 31, 2015
The NZME marketing team also pioneered ‘Push Back for Black’, a rallying cry across social media for employers to change work hours to accommodate early morning cup matches.
NZME’s Rugby World Cup results exceeded all its expectations. Its ultimate goal, to take on Stuff.co.nz, was a slam dunk.
According to Nielsen figures, the Herald achieved higher daily sport audience figures than stuff.co.nz on 25 days out of 50. This was a feat NZME had been unable to achieve even once in the nine months leading up to Rugby World Cup.
On the day of the final, nzherald.co.nz Sport had almost 700,000 unique browsers, beating its nearest competitor by over 170,000.
The Herald Sport had a 171 percent increase in browsers over the same nine-week period the year before, and a giant 1.5 million unique views over the last week of the cup. This was 12 percent more than its rival Stuff.co.nz.
On social, NZME saw the #blacktoblack take off, becoming the number one trending topic on Twitter in New Zealand for four hours on the morning of the Rugby World Cup final.
The Herald also saw its social audience grow by 20 percent, hitting the milestone of 300,000 fans and giving it the largest Facebook presence of all New Zealand news media organisations.