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.

New Zealand Marketing - - The Radio Bureau -

The Chal­lenge

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.

The Re­sponse

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.

The Re­sult

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.

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