NZ's giant rugby ball attracts London's attention

- Posted in New Zealand by Visa Bureauon 03 December 2008

The 25-metre rugby ball, which acclaimed its fame during the 2007 Rugby World Cup by parking next to the Eiffel Tower, hosted the Queen, Prince Phillip, Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism John Key, who were all greeted by the All Blacks.  The ball also hosted the drawing of the 2011 Rugby World Cup draw to be held in New Zealand.

The ball can accommodate 230 people, and provided multimedia to exhibit the best of New Zealand, including sports, breathtaking scenery, arts and culture.  Sound and light displays took visitors on a virtual tour to New Zealand environments, from rugby games, to the depths of the ocean, beaches, volcanoes and bush walks.  Visitors could experience New Zealand’s Maori culture, with Maori performing arts company Manaia’s daily performances continuing throughout the week.

Over 7,500 people visited the ball at London Tower Bridge, more than 200 media representatives showed up for the draw of the World Cup, and the BBC, Sky News, the Telegraph, the Observer and the Times have each given the ball media coverage. 

Tourism New Zealand is pleased with the outcome, as the ball's main purpose was to entice more people to move to New Zealand and lift tourism numbers from its traditionally strong market. 

The UK is traditionally New Zealand's largest source of tourism, after Australia; however, in response to the UK recession fears, the numbers of British travellers in New Zealand has dropped over the past three months by 3 per cent, and August numbers were almost 10 per cent lower than the same month last year, reports

Tourism New Zealand chief executive George Hickton said British are still holidaying but are choosing short-haul destinations, rather than their preferred long-haul destinations such as New Zealand and Australia.

"Putting an inflatable rugby ball up in one of the most visited areas of Central London just had to create attention.  Many curious people – particularly with some interest in New Zealand - are drawn to the ball and once they have seen the audio visual show inside they come out talking about booking their ticket," he added.

The rugby ball marketing plan was designed as part of Tourism New Zealand's "What do you say UK?" which uses real interviews of British travellers in New Zealand talking of their experiences while holidaying in the country.

"The inflatable rugby ball is edgy, it makes New Zealand stand out and it’s different from the ways other national tourism organisations promote their destinations.  Competition is getting more fierce and we have to stay ahead of the game when it comes to promoting our country," Mr Hickton said.

Tourism New Zealand and Mr Hickton are hoping the drawing of the Rugby World Cup in the ball would send a clear message to rugby fans and those looking to visit New Zealand that the country will be hosting the event in 2011.

The New Zealand Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with their New Zealand visa application.

Article by Jessica Bird, New Zealand Visa Bureau.