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Rugby World Cup 2011




Ready for kick-off The International Rugby Board’s decision to stage Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand has come under much scrutiny but, as the governing body seeks to balance commercial considerations with the development of the game, the host nation is ready to go. By David Cushnan and Tom Love

“We can’t wait to get it started,” Kit McConnell says matter-of-factly and if that sentiment is the view of the International Rugby Board’s (IRB) tournament director, it also might well sum up the mood of a nation as New Zealand prepares for the biggest sporting event in its history. Rugby World Cup 2011 is due to kick off on Friday 9th September when New Zealand’s All Blacks take on Tonga at Auckland’s Eden Park. Six weeks later the new world champions will be crowned

at the same venue. “I think it’ll be another outstanding event,” McConnell says. As well as being the largest sports event in New Zealand’s history, with all the economic implications that brings, the tournament is of course rugby union’s biggest platform – and a platform that is increasing in size. The last Rugby World Cup, in France four years ago, was considered a huge success on and off the pitch. New Zealand, a much smaller market in different financial times, has much to live up to, but the evidence of the years

of preparation is that the IRB believes it ready to stage a world-class, commercially successful event. The organisational structure of the Rugby World Cup, however, is not without its complexities. The tournament is owned by the International Rugby Board and managed by its wholly owned entity Rugby World Cup Ltd. (RWCL). RWCL retains all the commercial revenues generated by the tournament, with the exception of ticketing. IMG is RWCL’s commercial broker, a deal

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Kit McConnell (left), Rugby World Cup Ltd’s tournament director for the 2011 event, works closely with Shane Harman (right), head of marketing for RNZ 2011.

which has been in place since Rugby World Cup 1995 in South Africa and which runs until the end of the 2015 competition in England – the company handles the sale and management of broadcast contracts, sponsorship and licensing agreements. On the ground in New Zealand, meanwhile, the local organising committee for the World Cup, Rugby New Zealand 2011 (RNZ 2011), was established in June 2006 and is responsible for the planning and delivery of the event. Its sole source of revenue is ticketing. “We’re a joint shareholding between the New Zealand government and the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU),” explains Shane Harmon, RNZ 2011’s general manager of marketing and communications. “The NZRU won the rights to host the tournament in 2005 and then entered into a partnership with the New Zealand government to set up our company. One of the reasons is that the cost of running

this tournament are higher than our budgeted revenue so we as a local organising committee are running at a debt of NZ$39 million (US$34 million) and government are a partner in this because of the economic impact that it will deliver to New Zealand. The latest forecast by The Reserve Bank of New Zealand is that it will deliver a NZ$700 million (US$610 million) net economic impact but also government are clearly involved too from a legacy and showcase perspective as well and the opportunities that this provides New Zealand.” RNZ 2011 is responsible for the operational delivery of the tournament, including everything from media operations and accreditations to transport, logistics and volunteering. Whilst it incurs all the costs of the tournament, the majority of income is taken by the IRB to be plunged back into the development of the sport around the world. “As the local organising committee,” Harmon

explains, “the only source of revenue is ticketing and so ticketing is obviously critical for us. Our budget, our target revenue, for the tournament is NZ$268 million. The biggest grossing event in New Zealand history to date was the British and Irish Lions tour in 2005 that grossed about NZ$25 million, so we’re looking at over ten times that revenue. They’re big numbers by world standards but by New Zealand standards they’re off the radar completely.” Indeed, the finances around the 2011 tournament have been brought into even sharper focus for the rugby world as well as New Zealand by what happened four years ago. Rugby World Cup 2007 in France was, by some distance, the most successful in the history of a tournament first staged in 1987. It ultimately generated a surplus of UK£122.4 million for the IRB, which has since been redistributed back into the SportsPro Magazine | 57 56

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New Zealand’s sustainable physical legacy

Forsyth Barr Stadium, which will stage games in Dunedin, is a local city council project that has been completed outside the local organising committee’s Rugby World Cup budget

“In terms of the image that we’re trying to project internationally,” Shane Harmon says, “while the tournaments in 2007 and 2003 were played in large venues, they were essentially venues built for other events.” Harmon is referring to the Stade de France in Paris, host of the 2007 final but built for the 1998 Fifa World Cup, and Sydney’s Stadium Australia, currently known as ANZ stadium, which played host to England’s victory in 2003 but was the Olympic stadium three years earlier. In 2011, it will be different. “Our venues are rugby venues in rugby communities in rugby heartlands,” Harmon says. “I think this tournament, compared to other tournaments, is going to

be, dare I say it, actually about the rugby.” At its centre will be Auckland’s famous Eden Park, which has undergone the most significant redevelopment in a century for the tournament. A temporary capacity of 60,000 – 10,000 more than usual – ensured it was suitable to host the final. The other host cities on the North Island will be Wellington, Palmerston North, Napier, Rotorua, New Plymouth, Hamilton and Whangerei, while following the loss of Christchurch, Nelson, Invercargill and Dunedin will represent the South Island. Most venues have undergone refurbishment and, in some cases, expansion ahead of the event, as Harmon explains: “There’s been

quite a bit of temporary overlay. Given the nature of some of our venues – they are regional rugby venues – we are bringing to them a number of temporary seats to boost capacity that will be removed afterwards. One important factor in the tournament is there is nothing being constructed that is not going to be utilised afterwards; there are no brand new facilities being built specifically for Rugby World Cup. All will have a legacy and all will be utilised by local sporting organisations. From that perspective, for a local organising committee it’s a relatively cheap event to run compared to a Fifa World Cup or an Olympics in terms of additional infrastructure that we have to develop.” Even a new arena in Dunedin, the Forsyth Barr Stadium, is a local city council project that has been completed outside the Rugby World Cup budget. The initial plan was to host Dunedin’s four games at the city’s existing Carisbrook Stadium, but a final decision to stage games in the new venue was made earlier this year. “It had always been our intention to move matches there and we made that decision formal,” Harmon says. “It has a permanent roof, which allows natural sunlight through and allows a natural grass surface. It’s going to be a tremendous asset to that community and has a capacity of 30,000.” Kit McConnell insists the tournament’s physical legacy will still be “tangible” despite no venues being specifically built for the Rugby World Cup. “The redevelopment of stadia around the country, right from Whangerei in the north to the redevelopment of Eden Park, leaves a huge legacy for rugby and other major events that come to New Zealand including the Cricket World Cup in 2015 and the Fifa Under 20 World Cup the same year. That physical legacy will be used for other events. I think New Zealand will promote itself as a major event destination moving forward and in addition to the events in 2015 I’ve got no doubt that it will, off the back of this, be bidding for other events in the future.”

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game at various levels. That compared with UK£64.3 million of surplus left over from the 2003 tournament in Australia. “Obviously in France in 2007 we had commercial returns and financial surpluses for the IRB which far surpassed any previous tournament,” says McConnell, stationed by the IRB in New Zealand to oversee the tournament. “Those surpluses will be down for Rugby World Cup 2011 on 2007 and that’s natural when we move away from a European timezone and hosting events in Europe – and tied into that has been the global financial crisis over recent years. That’s natural and we always understood that was going to be the case and we went in with our eyes open in terms of selecting New Zealand as the host of Rugby World Cup for rugby reasons instead of commercial ones.” Nonetheless, maintaining the growth of the Rugby World Cup whilst playing the tournament in a small, albeit rugby-loving, market such as New Zealand presents a significant challenge for the IRB. Although New Zealand was awarded the 2011 tournament fully two years before France 2007, marrying together the IRB’s aim of developing the sport with the need to fund that development by placing its most lucrative tournament in mature rugby markets prompted the governing body to simultaneously select the hosts of the two World Cups that will follow. England will host the 2015 tournament, while Japan will represent something of a step into unknown rugby territory four years later. “Every tournament is different,” McConnell says, “and married with that is the fact that the Rugby World Cup has continued to grow with each tournament we’ve had. I joined one year out from Rugby World Cup 2003 and in many ways I think that 2003 elevated the Rugby World Cup as a major event onto the senior stage of the biggest events in the world. France 2007 certainly took that even further and set a new bar that needed to be matched by following Rugby World Cups. We’re trying to take that to a new level in New Zealand. Every tournament is different; we’re already working with England around RWC 2015 and Japan around RWC 2019 so each tournament is part of a progression and has its own place in terms of promoting the

host nation and the Rugby World Cup.” He continues: “There’s no doubt a Rugby World Cup in England in 2015 is a hugely attractive tournament for our commercial partners but the tournament itself now has reached a level of maturity where the commercial partners that we have and others hoping to join the programme find it an attractive tournament to be associated with no matter where it is in the world. The other thing with New Zealand that balances out its geographic location is the fact it’s a country that loves rugby and I think that’s something that our sponsors are embracing in terms of their activations around the tournament.” The roster of sponsors assembled by IMG is split into three categories: worldwide partners, official sponsors and tournament suppliers. The six worldwide partners are

“They’re big numbers by world standards but by New Zealand standards they’re off the radar completely.” Emirates, Heineken, ANZ, DHL, Société Générale and Mastercard. Official sponsors are Brancott Estate wines, Microsoft, Blackberry, Land Rover and Toshiba while the tournament suppliers are law firm Russell McVeagh, Canterbury, ball supplier Gilbert, KPMG, Coca-Cola and the most recent addition, fruit and vegetable supplier Dole. “We’ve continued to develop the commercial programme,” McConnell says. “We’ve got a full suite of worldwide partners on board, we’ve got an extensive sponsorship programme, which I think includes commercial partners from right around the world now – Emirates from the Middle East, Mastercard from the US, DHL, Société Générale and Heineken from Europe and ANZ from this part of the world. We’ve also got broadcast partners that are locked in to a number of multi-tournament deals; TF1 in France, carried through from 2007 to 2011; ITV as our broadcast partner in the UK for 2011 and 2015. We’ve got a very strong commercial base now that we’ve carried forward from previous tournaments and will

carry forward into future tournaments. “I think Rugby World Cup has matured commercially to the extent that no matter where we are in the world we have strong commercial partners that want an ongoing relationship with the tournament and the sport of rugby.” Nonetheless, format tweaks have been made to take into account the huge time difference between New Zealand and Europe. Evening games will start at 20.30 and 21.00 local time to ensure that they take place in the European morning rather than the middle of the night. “Obviously there’s a balance to be struck between maximising the experience of spectators in the home country and also reaching global markets and maximising the showcasing of Rugby World Cup because it does provide us with a pinnacle every four years to showcase our sport and our major event,” McConnell explains. “We need to take into account the global broadcast audience as well as the attending spectators that come to New Zealand. It has been a balance and showcasing teams into the key markets like France and England and other key markets like South Africa is a very important part of the match scheduling. I don’t think in any way that has deterred ticket sales.” There is an acceptance, though, that however popular the sport is in New Zealand, Europe remains, as McConnell terms it, “rugby’s commercial heartland”. He adds: “Hopefully that will continue to evolve in the future as we grow in other markets like North America, Asia, eastern Europe and so on. That’s reflected by the selection of England for Rugby World Cup 2015 to maximise the commercial and financial returns from that tournament.” That the kick-off times have not affected ticket sales will come as great relief to Shane Harmon and the local organising team who, understandably given the tournament’s commercial model, devoted much time and effort into the ticketing structure, pricing and marketing strategy. “The first step is to do as much research as possible around other major events,” Harmon says. “Every single campaign that we looked at – Olympics, Fifa World Cup, previous Rugby World Cups – had its ups and downs, had things

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Shane Harmon on digital marketing “We’re marketing the tournament ourselves – the most important thing for us is the ticket marketing programme – and that’s probably the largest sports marketing campaign that New Zealand has seen. It’s covered all platforms including TV, radio, press but probably the most important international marketing platform for us has been digital and social media. Social media has just played an incredible part in building the profile of the tournament and in helping us sell tickets. On Facebook, we’ve built up a community of 1.1 million fans over the last two years. Facebook has been the number one driver of traffic to our ticketing website outside of searches. It’s been critical for us in terms of getting the ticketing message out there internationally – and in a very comprehensive and transparent manner. We’ve also been able to engage with fans. We’ve got a tremendous engagement – there’s no one that worked and things that didn’t work so well. What I found through that research is there’s not a lot of analysis done on predicted ticketing revenues. There was also a lot of research done in New Zealand on the ticketing product and pricing. We spent two years researching ticket prices. We knew the ticket prices in this market for the pointy end of the tournament were going to be way above what New Zealanders were used to paying for an All Black test match. However at the same time the whole thing was a balance – a balance making sure that tickets were acceptable to the majority of New Zealanders whilst also making sure they were set at a price where we could achieve our financial targets; a balance between making sure there were tickets made available for the IRB’s commercial programme but making sure that we didn’t have situations, even for the final, where the majority of tickets were available to corporate customers.” Essentially, RNZ 2011 concluded that a three-phase system was the best option. The first was ticketing packs, in which fans

could buy either a venue pack or a team pack, guaranteeing them seats at games in a specific city or all the games their team of choice plays. Phase two was to sell what remained after stage one for individual matches. Phase three was tickets for the semi-finals and final, in which ticket applicants from the previous stages were entered into a ballot. “The first three phases have run over the last 12 months and finished up in April,” Harmon says. The remaining tickets are now on sale and will remain so until kick-off. Of the target NZ$268 million, the local organising committee had by early August sold over a million tickets and made NZ$240 million. Aside from the inevitable home interest, Harmon says that some 85,000 foreign visitors are expected over the course of the tournament. “Our original expectations around the tournament were between 60,000 and 70,000 and we’ve already exceeded that,” he says. 55,000 of the 85,000 will be independent travellers, with the remaining 30,000 taking advantage of travel packages. Harmon expects 20,000 visitors from the

UK and Ireland, 9,000 from France, 7,000 from North America, around 5,000 from South Africa as well as some 29,000 from Australia, with an increase expected in the latter. “Our expectation, with the final phase of ticketing kicking off, is that we would see that rise because it’s a short-haul market, a three-hour flight from Auckland or Wellington to Sydney or Brisbane or Melbourne. Wellington and Auckland are closer to Sydney than Perth so there’ll be a lot of late interest from Australia.” Tourism already provides New Zealand’s largest income from abroad – seven per cent annual growth in international visitors has been a trend of recent years – but Harmon concedes that visitor numbers and spend are unlikely to match the 400,000 that reportedly arrived in France during the 2007 tournament, delivering a total economic impact of €4 billion. “France was a very different model because obviously they’re in the centre of Europe and had 500 million people on their doorstep, so probably 2003 is the closest comparison,

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country on our Facebook page that has more than 20 per cent of the total so it’s a great international rivalry, great banter. We answer every single enquiry that comes our way; we’ve developed a number of engaging apps so it’s been a real success story for us. We’re working on a number of social media initiatives during the tournament as well, via Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. We want this to become the most social media event to date and given what we’ve done with social media around the world it should lend itself to that happening. “We’ve never released our marketing budget but our percentage spend on digital is probably less than ten per cent of our total spend. It’s been a significant driver of revenue for us and I see a point in time where major events rely less and less on traditional above-the-line spend and concentrate more on digital, social media and direct engagement with fans. where Australia had 60,000 international visitors. We’re certainly going to be a long way ahead of what Australia experienced in 2003. Our international visitor numbers have already been exceeded and because it’s a long-haul market the average length of stay will be 23 nights for these visitors and around half of them will arrive before the opening match. We know that for nearly half of them it will be their first visit to New Zealand so we’re working very closely with Tourism New Zealand to make sure they have the right experience.” One major advantage for the local organising committee over Australia 2003 – Harmon was head of marketing for the tournament – is a change that allows RNZ 2011 to sell tickets outside the host nation. “Those rules have been relaxed,” Harmon explains, “and we’re able to sell tickets internationally, so international fans have the choice of being able to buy a travel package, with accommodation and flights, or a ticket directly from us and make their own arrangements.”

“One of the challenges with major events is there doesn’t tend to be a lot of legacy from organising committee to organising committee; there’s no transfer of data in terms of the fan relationship. Quite often with major events the area of fan engagement largely sits with the organising committee but at the end that data, those relationships, tend to disappear. We made a decision early on – rather than brand these initiatives Rugby World Cup 2011, we branded them Rugby World Cup so that relationship is not going to end once this tournament finishes. It will grow into 2015 and 2019. We’ve worked with the IRB on this and England 2015 will take over management of these initiatives from 2012 onwards and then Japan, so this will continue to grow and grow and I think this is the first major event where this has actually occurred, where there’s been a lasting legacy from a fan engagement perspective from host Harmon also stresses the importance of what RWC 2011 has called ‘a stadium of four million’ in making the tournament a success. “It is essential for us that there’s a part for every New Zealander in this tournament whether they go to a game or don’t go to a game and believe it or not, not every New

“We’re certainly going to be a long way ahead of what Australia experienced in 2003.“ Zealander loves rugby. It has to transcend the tournament.” A range of festival and cultural activities are planned for the tournament, all of which are being orchestrated by New Zealand 2011, a sister company set up to handle the festival and legacy aspects of an event both during the tournament and once RWC 2011 is disbanded afterwards. “We’d like to see this as the warmest World Cup and the warmest welcome people are going to get

to host. This is a model that major events should look at because people are fans of the Rugby World Cup, it doesn’t end in 2011 when it finishes, it goes from tournament to tournament. I think this is going to be a real legacy model that other events can look at. Vancouver did a great job around social media but that Vancouver 2010 page is still sitting there – there’s no legacy for Sochi or future winter Olympics. I think the model we have in place is a really good one for the future, maintaining that level of interest for fans when the tournament is finished and keeping that interest leading into the next tournament. One of the problems with major events is you’ve got this massive fan engagement for a very short period of time but then for the intervening three years and ten months there’s not so much engagement. Social media is the perfect platform to be able to keep that fan interest in the intervening three years.” when they come to a Rugby World Cup in any country,” Harmon says. McConnell, asked about his hopes for the tournament, adds: “I think we’d be looking at a tournament which has continued to grow the Rugby World Cup brand and showcased rugby in the best possible light around the world. We’d be looking at it to continue the broadcast reach we’ve had in previous tournaments – over 200 territories around the world, to a cumulative audience of over four billion. We’d certainly be looking for our sponsors to be looking back on a very successful tournament and a very successful showcase of their partnerships around it; a tournament which has a fantastic festival and has really built a connection between Rugby World Cup and rugby and New Zealand as the host nation and New Zealanders’ love of rugby and the experience of the 85,000 people that will be coming; a Rugby World Cup which has showcased rugby to its best, New Zealand to its best and continued to raise the level of Rugby World Cup as we look forward to future tournaments.” SportsPro Magazine | 63

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Crisis management February’s earthquake in Christchurch forced Rugby World Cup officials to take the heartwrenching decision to move seven games to other venues. However, the city and its people will remain an important element of the tournament. By Tom Love

On 22nd February 2011 a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck ten kilometres south-east of the centre of Christchurch in New Zealand’s South Island. Despite being used to the destructive power of localised seismic activity, understandably the resolve of the people of New Zealand’s second most populous city was badly shaken. The country’s prime minister, John Key, was quick to act in declaring a state of emergency. The earthquake was the second-deadliest natural disaster in the country’s history: 182 people lost their lives; the 130-yearold Christchurch Cathedral, literally and figuratively at the heart of the city, was badly damaged; and immediately the city’s capacity to stage Rugby World Cup games later in the year, from a logistical and operational perspective, was called into question. “Everybody’s concern from the beginning was Christchurch,” says Shane Harmon, RNZ 2011’s general manager of marketing and communications, reflecting on the disaster that shook the tiny island nation. A hotbed of rugby in the region and home of the Canterbury Crusaders, the most successful team in Super Rugby history, Christchurch’s 38,628 capacity AMI Stadium had been scheduled to stage seven matches in total during the tournament – five group games and two quarter-finals – in addition to serving as a base of operations for a number of touring Rugby World Cup teams. However, while a two-week assessment of the stadium by engineers and tournament officials concluded that structural damage to the stadium was both superficial and repairable, venue operators Vbase reported that the stadium, located just outside the badly affected central business district, was limited operationally owing to “substantial damage to the surrounding streets.”

The upshot of that was that the New Zealand government, the New Zealand Rugby Union and Rugby World Cup Limited were forced to make the difficult decision of withdrawing Christchurch’s host venue status. “It’s probably unprecedented from a major events perspective,” says Harmon. “We looked back to see what other major events have had such an impact and the closest comparison we could find was the Fifa World Cup in 1986 where they had a major earthquake about a year in advance, in Mexico City.”

“It was an incredibly difficult decision to take but it was the right decision to take. In retrospect it’s become even clearer.” Faced with the prospect of moving games, tournament organisers were keen that as many of Christchurch’s matches as possible remained on the South Island. The three existing venues there, Dunedin, Nelson and Invercargill, each gained another match, while on the North Island Wellington and North Harbour did the same. Auckland’s Eden Park will be the host for Christchurch’s two quarter-finals. “It was quite a difficult process because this was all happening less than six months before the tournament takes place,” Harmon says. “We essentially went through a similar process to what we went through two and a half years ago when we were originally allocating the venues and developing the match schedule.” Rugby World Cup tournament director Kit McConnell adds of the decision to relocate matches away from Christchurch: “It was

an incredibly difficult decision to take but it was the right decision to take. In retrospect it’s become even clearer that it was the right decision to take at the time. It tested and proved the partnerships that had developed between ourselves, the government, the NZRU and the organising committee in terms of working through the process of getting clear information from the right people on the right subject to allow us to make a decision. There are contingency plans in place to deal with any number of issues that may arise around the tournament but when something that big happens, even with all the planning in the world, there are still elements that you can’t foresee and ones you have to work through. To do that, you have to rely on relationships and communication.” As well as being presented with the huge logistical challenge of relocating seven matches, thousands of visiting tourists, and several teams - all of which in turn had to rearrange both accommodation and transport – the local organising committee (LOC) also faced the daunting prospect of having to refund NZ$20 million in tickets, a particularly unenviable task considering that ticketing represents the sole source of revenue for the Rugby World Cup LOC. “That set us back by about eight or nine months in terms of our marketing,” Harmon explains. “PreChristchurch we were at NZ$189 million in revenue, so about 70 per cent of the way towards our target. We’ve still got a bit of a way to making up that shortfall of those Christchurch matches, which essentially was our second largest venue and, in Canterbury, the second largest market, but we’re being very philosophical about it,” Harmon says calmly, before adding, “Our issues pale in insignificance compared to the challenges the people of Christchurch endured and it’s

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Christchurch Cathedral, at the heart of the city, was badly damaged in an earthquake that took 182 lives. The decision to move Christchurch’s Rugby World Cup games to other cities in the aftermath of the disaster was perhaps the most difficult the tournament organisers have had to face

critical for us that we maintain a connection with Christchurch during the tournament and that they have a role too.” To that end, Harmon explains that the New Zealand government has recently allocated NZ$650,000 to ensure that the 390,000 people living within Christchurch and the surrounding urban area are fully engaged with every aspect of the tournament. “In the middle of Christchurch is Hagley Park,” explains the director of NZ 2011, Leon Grice. “It was built as sort of the answer to [London’s] Hyde Park. Nobody is allowed to build on it but what we’ve done in north Hagley Park is cleared out the festival fund to ensure that there is a place where people can celebrate. There will be rock music, places to watch the games live and a whole bunch of temporary facilities. There will also be a major festival/ fanzone and we’ve also put together a

travelling fanzone and festival to go through some of the worst-hit suburbs to on the weekends so that we can put big screen rugby up, as well as some decent bands, to make sure Rugby World Cup goes to them. Given what has happened to them it’s nothing more than a token gesture but we wanted to make sure there was a reason for them to continue to celebrate being part of the Rugby World Cup. I think the people of Christchurch will feel plenty of ownership once the tournament gets going.” All of the stakeholders in rugby union’s showcase tournament are in agreement that the disaster has brought them all – and indeed the entire nation and the global rugby community – closer together, just as all are agreed that the human tragedy of the earthquake must never be forgotten. The LOC is urging tourists and media to visit the coastal city, while the New Zealand

Rugby Union will base the All Blacks in Christchurch for part of the tournament, a brave move considering what is at stake for the team at a home World Cup. As McConnell puts it: “All of the stakeholders, teams and unions of the countries that were impacted by the disaster have been 100 per cent supportive and fantastic to work with throughout that process. They were incredibly understanding of the decisions we had to take. It was a difficult and challenging time but it was one that we dealt with. It has had an impact in terms of, for example, the movement of matches to Auckland, but it’s not one that will directly affect the delivery of the tournament. We came through it as an event and we continue to feel strongly that the people of Christchurch and Canterbury will be involved in the Rugby World Cup, without a doubt.” SportsPro Magazine | 65 64

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Play hard, work hard

The central hub of Rugby World Cup 2011 will undoubtedly be Auckland. New Zealand’s largest city will host 15 matches across two venues, including the final at Eden Park

When Rugby World Cup 2011 ends and the local organising committee disbands, the tournament’s legacy will be managed by New Zealand 2011, an organisation set up to handle the festivities and business opportunities around the biggest event in the country’s history. By Tom Love

In September this year tens of thousands of international visitors will descend upon the tiny pacific islands of New Zealand, host country of the seventh edition of the Rugby World Cup. Despite the influx of visitors and the opportunities that any global migration provides, the staging of major sporting events is inherently a loss-making business in the short term. The projections are that by the end of the tournament Rugby World Cup 2011 will have made a NZ$39 million (US$34 million) loss – a relatively

“The reason countries host major events is to have a far richer dialogue with the rest of the world.” insubstantial figure in the grand scheme of things thanks largely to the minimal work required to upgrade and temporarily expand the capacity of pre-existing stadia. Though the figure is yet to be updated following the difficult decision to remove the city of Christchurch as a match venue, the various stakeholders involved in the organisation of Rugby World Cup 2011 are fully aware that, with 85,000 visiting tourists expect and an estimated cumulative global television audience of four billion, any loss will pale in comparison to the huge economic and cultural opportunities presented by hosting what is arguably the world’s third largest sporting event. To that end, as far back as 2009 the

New Zealand government and the local organising committee, Rugby New Zealand 2011, took the decision to establish an office in charge of ensuring that New Zealand makes the most of its time in the spotlight and responsible for all aspects of legacy associated with staging the Rugby World Cup, be they sporting, cultural, business-related or otherwise. “We regard ourselves as a sister agency to the tournament organiser,” says Leon Grice, director of New Zealand 2011. “We’re collocated and they have teams on our floor as well. Even though we’re a departmental offshoot from the New Zealand government’s ministry of economic development and they’re a public liability company we’ve made sure that there is a lot of joint discussion to keep our teams aligned. “I think the government wanted a really clear strategy and delivery to achieve its leverage and legacy goals around hosting the Rugby World Cup. Typically the reason countries host major events is to have a far richer dialogue with the rest of the world – it’s a far more in-depth dialogue than you would get in an advertising campaign or just the normal media coverage that a country usually gets.” Highlighting the 2010 Fifa World Cup as a recent example of this increased exposure in effect, Grice adds: “For South Africa, hosting the Fifa World Cup was an opportunity to communicate to the world that South Africa was a safe place to go and do business, visit as a tourist and invest in, and also a good place to start sub-Saharan business and economic development.

“Now, New Zealand is a long way from its market and it’s historically a country which struggles to get a share of the voice in the world. To most people it’s pretty irrelevant. That’s really what our office is trying to change. The government identified the Rugby World Cup was a very important opportunity to showcase New Zealand to the world but also to use the connections that come with the Rugby World Cup to support New Zealand business, New Zealand tourism and to deepen its connections with the world.” Amongst those broad goals, and in addition to putting on a superbly run

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tournament – something that, while not necessarily his department, still remains important in order to “send a message to the world that you’re a professional country and can get the job done” - from a personal point of view the amiable Grice explains how he would like the world’s visiting media to present a rounded view of New Zealand. “One that isn’t just empty landscapes and grass skirts. Maori culture has a lot more depth to it than the cartoon images that you see continually,” Grice explains. “If you look at our actual indigenous culture, it’s a heck of a lot more modern than it gets perceived to be around the world but

people tend to latch on to the 19th century examples of it. “The government would also probably add a couple of objectives to that. It wants to elevate the silver fern as our national emblem,” says Grice of the motif associated with many of New Zealand’s sports teams, including the All Blacks. “It doesn’t want to do away with the national flag, it’s just to give the silver fern a more formal status than its typical use by Kiwis and so we’ll use the Rugby World Cup as a marketing device to get that more entrenched as part of the New Zealand brand.” Grice explains that NZ 2011 has three

main engagement and legacy programmes in operation: a community engagement programme; a festival programme; and a business programme. Though each has been designed with specific objectives in mind, all have been implemented with the primary goal of making sure that the country squeezes every available benefit out of the month and a half long tournament firmly in mind. Grice says the goal of the country-wide community engagement programme is, “to make sure New Zealanders feel like they are a part of and own the tournament whether they’ve purchased a ticket or not.” Though SportsPro Magazine | 67 66

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Leon Grice on the relationship between Rugby World Cup stakeholders “The International Rugby Board (IRB) has to protect their commercial programme – this is the one chance every four years to make 98 per cent of their revenue so you can imagine that they’re very concerned about that. So we’ve had to work very carefully around IP issues and commercial protection. Initially we spent a lot of time on that. The Real New Zealand Festival happens concurrently with the tournament and is integrated into the Rugby World Cup website, but it’s not something which is a commercial association, so we’ve had to very carefully work through those issues. I think what has happened is that, over time, we’ve built trust with each other. They’ve seen that the fact we’ve put on a festival, the fact that we’ve engaged with the business community in such an empowering way in terms of numbers, the fact that we’ve got the whole country involved in the tournament, whether it’s primary school kids or communities or schools. I think that they see that one of the benefits of New Zealand being the host of the tournament is that we’re raising the bar of how to host the Rugby World Cup and he adds that, as the country’s national sport, selling rugby to the general public is like “pushing on an open door”, the numbers involved in making sure that four million people are further engaged than normal are testament to the hard work that has already been done by New Zealand 2011 ahead of the tournament’s kick off on 9th September. Speaking in early July, Grice says: “We’ve sold 100 kilometres of the national flag as bunting – that’s 10,000 units – and we’ll probably end up selling 500 kilometres of it. We’re also training 20,000 ‘first impressions’ front-line staff with an online module that we’ve developed and we’ve sent out 480,000 activity booklets to every primary and intermediary school child in the country. The community engagement programme is huge and it’s really being picked up fantastically. In the last week or so New Zealand has really switched on in terms of realising that this event is coming. There is a growing

also increasing the value of it as commercial property for the IRB. “There was a concern by some, before we were awarded the hosting rights, that it’s not the best commercial proposition to stage it in New Zealand. We are a small domestic market as opposed to say, staging it in a large market where there are easier opportunities for commercial sponsorship. But as it’s played out I think that commercial sponsors do want to be associated with Rugby World Cup 2011 and partly because of the fact that New Zealand is a rugby nation and the power of tournament will be such an overpowering rugby tournament. If you look at, say, France, which was a fantastic Rugby World Cup, there were plenty of parts of France where they wouldn’t have even known that the Rugby World Cup was on – that’s just simply not going to happen here. So the power of that experience will leave the Rugby World Cup as a brand for the IRB in a much stronger position. I think that the way that we’ve worked together is to make sure that excitement around the country.” Aiming to further capitalise on the rising fervour in the host country and further afield is the festival programme, the main element of which is the Real New Zealand Festival. Designed to highlight the best that the country has to offer, Grice says, “it is the largest ever festival built in New Zealand and it’s the first nationwide one too. It’s really a marketing framework for an event programme right around New Zealand which has 1,000 events in it.” Two years in the making and set up at a cost of NZ$35 million (US$30.5 million) – NZ$25 million (US$21.8 million) of which came about in the form of government spending with the remaining NZ$10 million (US$8.7 million) pooled from public funds and granted to event promoters – the Real New Zealand Festival will consist of 200 ‘sector showcasing’ events, all of which have been scheduled around the flow of Rugby

they see that the way we want to activate will achieve that for them. There is an alignment now between our interests and they’ve been very supportive. We work very closely with them. Kit McConnell and Ross Young’s [IRB] offices are 150 metres away from mine, so there is that sort of free exchange of ideas, which I think has built trust. When it comes to New Zealand Tourism, which is a crown entity, and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, right from the get-go I realised the issues that we would have in terms of competing in their space. What we did is to second as many people as we could from those agencies into our team so that they could see exactly what we were trying to build and achieve. They helped us get the integration and helped us reduce the suspicion levels from government departments that typically don’t like to cooperate. So by and large that was successful strategy. When you’re working in government there are always a few things that you have to address around turf wars but I think that was a good move that got us away and got us onto a good start.” World Cup tourists, as well as celebrating all things rugby. “We’re looking to highlight New Zealand’s marine, aviation, equine agribusiness, wine, food and beverage industries,” Grice explains. “For example, in order to showcase New Zealand’s capability, the marine industry have staged the Auckland International Boat Show, which is one of the biggest boat shows in the southern hemisphere that usually happens in March, around the Australia versus Ireland game in September.” While the Real New Zealand Festival represents something of halfway house between fan engagement and sector showcasing of New Zealand’s foremost industries, the last category that falls under NZ 2011’s responsibility, the business programme, has been set up with the intention of laying the foundations for potentially thousands of new business relationships. Though a commercial

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Leon Grice (left), director of New Zealand 2011, is tasked with both adding to and taking long-term advantage of the festival spirit during the Rugby World Cup

affiliation remains the end product, having analysed comparable business programmes set up around similarly-sized sporting events close to home - namely the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia – Grice and his NZ 2011 team quickly realised that, almost a decade on, technological advancements mean that there exists the scope to do things a little differently and a little less formally to what had been done in the past. “Before social media, governments tended to organise 50 events and then they’d invite people and match them and try to create business club events and just generally be quite exclusive. In New Zealand, making global connections is very important for our country’s economic future. As such, we wanted to build a programme, based on social media principles, where New Zealand business people could come forward and say they would like to host people that are coming to the Rugby World Cup, but importantly, not to do business.” Instead of forcing business upon people in a constricted and confined environment, Grice, who has a background in the private sector, is insistent that the programme has instead been designed with organic growth

firmly in mind. “What we’ve done online is recruit thousands of people who are coming to New Zealand and got them to join our business club. We asked them their age, the industry that they’re in, their interests and which country they’re following. Then

“Internet and modern supply chains are reducing the tyranny of distance and improving the ability of people to do business here.” we’ve matched them with a database of 3,000 hosted opportunities put forward by New Zealand businesses – it’s everything from pig hunting in one of the wild blocks of New Zealand to seeing Kiri Te Kanawa at the Vector Arena. That matched hosting opportunity is then turned into an email that is sent out to the visiting business person but crucially, when they RSVP, we as a government agency are no longer involved and it becomes the host responsibility of the New Zealand

business person. Rather than us create events and match people, what we’ve tried to do is create something that is far more democratic and involves thousands of people coming and enjoying the rugby and the hosting experience together, and hopefully at the same time sparking up thousands of business interactions.” Given the emphasis that the New Zealand government has placed on business legacy around the Rugby World Cup, Grice and his team are understandably under a lot of pressure from all sides to deliver. Despite admitting to “putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to achieve certain targets,” he adds that those targets are, to a certain extent, largely immeasurable. “The government is obviously focused on tangible outcomes which are measureable, but I know from having run my own business that it takes 13 contacts with a potential customer to turn it into an active sale,” he says. “So if we stimulate an interaction or connection and a deal happens because of that, it’s very hard to unpack what is attributed to the government and what isn’t.” Away from long-term intangible business targets, the difficulty in measuring the organisation’s efforts, specifically in SportsPro Magazine | 69 68

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Auckland: at the heart of the tournament Although the tournament will be scattered across New Zealand, the central hub of Rugby World Cup 2011 will undoubtedly be Auckland. The largest city in the country will host 15 matches across two venues, Eden Park and North Harbour Stadium, including the opening game, both semi-finals and, on Sunday 23rd October, the final. In addition, seven teams will be based there during the tournament. Estimates have suggested that the tournament will benefit the city to the tune of NZ$267 million and Leon Grice, director of New Zealand 2011, says the government “would like Auckland to shine as our international city.” Auckland’s Rugby World Cup 2011 Coordination Group is at the heart of the city’s bold plans. Chaired by Rachael Dacy, the events manager of Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development, the group works closely with Grice’s New Zealand 2011 government offshoot and

the local organising committee, Rugby New Zealand 2011. In addition to the staging of matches and hosting of teams, Auckland has identified five legacy goals: to make the most of Auckland’s waterfront; tell the world Auckland’s story; take pride in Auckland’s ability as a host; make public transport a habit for Aucklanders; and position Auckland as a major events destination. The waterfront plans revolve around the transformation of Queens Wharf, an area of the city closed off to the public for 120 years. “It’s about people owning the waterfront,” says Leon Grice. “It is the most beautiful harbour in New Zealand. Bringing what they call the Red Gates down and turning it into a place where you can eat, have a beer, walk – sort of like what they’ve done in Barcelona – and getting people down and using that wharf, linking into the business off the wharf is really what we’re looking for.”

Grice and his team will roll out the welcome mat as the country prepares to receive the world’s rugby fans

changing the world’s perceptions of an entire country, remains. “A good example of that is in South Africa. How the hell do you measure the fact that the world now perceives it as a safe place to visit?” Grice says of last year’s Fifa World Cup where, prior to the tournament’s kick-off, safety concerns were one of the major factors South Africa had to overcome. “For us, one of our key messages is that internet and modern supply chains are reducing the tyranny of distance and improving the ability of people to do business here. How do you measure that as an outcome of the Rugby World Cup? How do you measure whether [people think] our country is a vital part of the Asia-Pacific economy and that for North Americans and South Americans and Europeans, New Zealand offers an opportunity to invest in Asia? “I guess when we boil those messages down it’s that the tyranny of distance is no longer the dreadful reality that it once was and that we’re the vital part of the AsiaPacific economy are the messages we’re trying to get across. To the more general audiences across the world, we want to be seen as a vital and relevant place that has really creative and innovative people as opposed to just empty landscapes and an ultra-traditional form of indigenous culture. Shifting perceptions of New Zealand from an empty landscape to one which is a vital place where you can do business is probably the thing that we’re aiming for and those are largely intangible measurements – as opposed to numbers of deals.” Despite the obvious pressures that exist, Grice is understandably thrilled with the position he finds himself in. His enthusiasm for the job at hand is infectious. “It’s an amazing job,” he says. “Every day I get out of bed just totally motivated and everyone on this team does as well. There is a sense of national calling amongst everyone. There is an energy and excitement of being involved in a massive project which can be as big as you want it to be in terms of your own effort. There is a sense of pride in making sure our country does the best job possible and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of something so big. It’s just a huge opportunity for our country.”

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Special Report - 2011 Rugby World Cup