PAINT THE TOWN BLACK
Never one to miss a trick, Air New Zealand dove into the action of the country’s first British and Irish Lions tour in 12 years with Project Blackout in 2017.
Despite traditionally being the market leader in domestic air travel, Air New Zealand has faced unprecedented competition since Jetstar announced its regional service in 2015. The low-cost airline now has more than 200 return domestic flights weekly between nine locations, accounting for a 20 percent share of the market. In recent years, some competitors have undercut Air New Zealand’s fares by as much as 50 percent. Unable to consistently match the prices of low-cost carriers, Air New Zealand has had to work harder than ever to keep the customers engaged and satisfied. A plan was made to drive sales by utilising Air New Zealand’s sponsorship portfolio. Leveraging the nation’s love of rugby and the airline’s own sponsorship deal with the All Blacks seemed the natural thing to do ahead of the British and Irish Lions tour in 2017, despite Air New Zealand not being an official sponsor of the tour. Typically, sponsorship leverage starts and ends within brand communications, so Air New Zealand’s solution had to show support and turn engagement into revenue. With the Lions and their sponsor, Qantas (which owns Jetstar), both being represented by vivid red, what better way for Air New Zealand to encourage Kiwis to get behind the All Blacks than painting the town black? In Project Blackout, Air New Zealand and the All Blacks joined forces to rally the nation to ‘black out’ the red of their competition.
In a bold move, Air New Zealand officially launched Project Blackout one year out from the tour, sharing content starting with crew and the All Blacks blacking out everyday items. Project Blackout provided a platform for Kiwis to show their support, and encouraged people to share content for prizes, building anticipation early to cement the relationship between the two brands. During the tour, the dedicated website evolved to launch an exclusive Project Blackout ‘book and win’ campaign – marking the first time Air New Zealand included the promotion of full price fares. The showstopping finale of Project Blackout came in the form of a unique light projection at Eden Park during the final test of the tour. Believed to be a first in New Zealand, fans were issued what looked to be a normal paint tin in either red or black. They were then invited to ‘throw their support’ at a 28m by 15m wall at Eden Park. A gyroscope and accelerometer device inside the base of the paint tins revealed the direction and force of the throw, with the data fed through a server that translated the movement into a visual graphic projection on the wall in real time.
Although Air New Zealand wasn’t an official sponsor, the early launch cemented partnership awareness. By leveraging every owned channel, from inflight PA and ground crew to on-board lollies and trade engagement, Air New Zealand made sure it stood out from the crowd. Not only did the Project Blackout campaign reignite the conversation about Air New Zealand’s long-term partnership with the All Blacks, the airline also exceeded brand measures generating warm leads for retargeting. The campaign evolved from Air New Zealand content to user-generated content to competitions to the final live activation, proving that long term engagement is a viable marketing strategy. Through building anticipation over a year, the new platform enabled fans to show their support for the team, and the efforts were not unrewarded. Air New Zealand’s Project Blackout also became the number one performing partnership post on the All Blacks Facebook page. Project Blackout proved that gamification is a strong engagement driver and with a targeted response Air New Zealand was able to provide highly relevant, measurable marketing that has delivered results for the business.