New Zealand Festival
Could you describe your company and the work you perform?
The New Zealand Festival is Aotearoa’s largest celebration of cutting-edge culture, taking place in the capital every two years for around three weeks in February/March.
The Festival Trust also runs the annual Wellington Jazz Festival, Lexus Song Quest, and other one-off special events such as the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
My role as Festival Executive Director is to ensure the Festival is successful and sustainable. Fundraising, sponsorship and philanthropy is a big part of my job; the Festival costs around $12 million every two years, and for every $1 we make at the box office, we need to generate another $2 in sponsorship and grants.
What are the core values of the festival?
One of the unique strengths of the Festival’s partnership (sponsorship) model is that it reflects our values and (most importantly) the values of our Partners.
Each of our Partner groups are split into valued-based ‘families’. For example, Weta Digital is the Leader Partner of our Innovation family – this reflects both the Festival’s drive to commission and present cutting-edge live art, and Weta Digital’s own brand which is rooted in their culture of creativity and innovation.
Our other Partner families are Creative (championing creativity and invention), Engagement (connecting with communities), Experience (creating extraordinary service) and Destination (passion for Wellington and New Zealand). This helps us when cultivating sponsorship because we can clearly signal to prospective partners why we’ll align well.
How would you describe the profile of your (prospective) audience?
Our prospective audience is anyone who loves art, culture and creativity; getting together; experiencing something new and unexpected. As well as understanding our audience by demographics (the average age of attendees is 25-59 and 68% are women.
Our key target markets are Wellington Region, Auckland, Christchurch and those within a five -hour driving range; 37% of Festival attendees came from outside Wellington city in 2016), we also focus on the psychographic profile of our audience: how they think and what they value.
We use the Culture Segments profile tool which tells us that our top four audience segments are ‘Essence’ (discerning, spontaneous, independent, sophisticated); ‘Expression’ (receptive, confident, community, expressive), ‘Stimulation’ (active, experimental, discovery, contemporary) and ‘Affirmation’ (self-identity, aspirational, quality time, improvement) – this is also useful when talking to businesses because they have a clear idea of their customers and what motivates them – so we can easily find matches where they exist.
How do you engage your audience?
We run a $2.2M nationwide marketing campaign each Festival. As well as more traditional marketing such as advertising, media and direct marketing, like everyone we are putting more of a focus on digital.
We are a content rich organization thanks to the great works and stories of our artists (which is another great perk for Partners – they get to share that engaging content to their followers).
An area of growth is creating our own compelling content (particularly video and images) to engage potential audiences via digital and social media. For those who want to get closer to us there is The Culture Club – for lovers of arts, culture and creativity. For a monthly donation of $5, Clubbers support us and our artists, but also are part of a group that gets access to the best seats, behind-the-scenes event invites, and opportunities to hang out with like-minded people. To keep arts lovers in-the-know all year round, we produce a free fortnightly digital arts magazine, ARTicle.
What were the key challenges you had to overcome to locate & select sponsors?
It’s often said nowadays that Wellington can be a challenging place to secure sponsorship because so many companies’ head offices are located in Auckland or off-shore. Partly because the Festival has a nationwide reach, we are able to partner with businesses both in and outside of Wellington – and we work hard to keep growing those relationships.
Personally, I am very positive about the future of sponsorship in Wellington. Wellington businesses are passionate about their city, their people, and are very collaborative. There is a creative streak that runs through the capital, no matter whether you are in tech or the arts. If you are looking for old-school sponsorships with big firms only, it’s hard. But if you are prepared to consider new ways of working, I think there is great potential for business and arts to create ground-breaking partnerships together.
Could you describe the value shared and received beyond the dollars?
I like Sponsorship Expert Kim Skildum-Reid’s maxim that sponsorships work best when they are win-win-win. The Sponsor benefits, the Sponsee benefits, and the fan (the potential audience) benefits. Our Partners provide a much greater value than just their investment – through the benefit of brand alignment (two great companies working together), connecting with new audiences, or event enhancement: by helping us make a great event an AMAZING event. In turn, there are lots of ways Partners can gain more than the traditional sponsorship benefits.
A good example of both is from 2016. Kiwibank was a first time Leader Partner of the New Zealand Festival, headlining the Experience family, which focuses on people – their experience and participation. Kiwibank was aligned with Le Grand Continental, a high-fun participatory dance piece choreographed by acclaimed Canadian choreographer Sylvain Émard and featuring dancers selected from the community.
· Leverage the Kiwibank Independence campaign by getting 150 Kiwis to join a great big mass indepen-dance – New Zealand Festival’s opening night event
· Showcase our joint belief that incredible things can happen when ordinary Kiwis get together
· Provide an experiential marketing piece that demonstrates Kiwibank’s attributes to respect and enrich its community and all the independent individuals within it
· Create deep social engagement with customers and staff by inviting them to be part of the show
· Provide hosting opportunities for key stakeholders and customers
· Generate great online content for Kiwibank channels
Strategies and Outcomes
· Created a fantastic indepen-dance video piece to attract dancers to sign up for Le Grand Continental auditions through Kiwibank, Festival and media channels – over 300 applied and attended live auditions in Wellington, 142 dancers participated in the final show
· Invited Kiwibank customers and staff to audition – nearly 100 applied, 62 participated in the final show
· Kiwibank enhanced the live event through a variety of fun leverage pieces, including:
– a group of Kiwibank dancers with spot prizes who got the 5000-strong crowd warmed up and dancing!
– a roving Dance Cam that captured members of the crowd dancing in the post-show dance party live onto the big screen
– social media aggregator on the big screen that captured the social buzz around the event
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown hosted Kiwibank VIPs in the Mayoral Chamber above Civic Square (where the show was staged)
· Achieved 20% unprompted brand awareness for Kiwibank from 1000 Kiwis polled as part of Festival post-event research by Nielsen
· Audiences loved this event – 63% felt it exceeded or greatly exceeded their expectations
Main Photo: New Zealand Festival Le Grand Continental dancers. Credit Matt Grace.
Inset Photo: New Zealand Festival Executive Director, Megan Williams.