Triathlon New Zealand (Tri NZ) is the national body for the sports of triathlon, duathlon, aquathlon and multisport. With around 70,000 participants and a high general awareness of major events and successes, triathlons are a dynamic emerging sport.
Tri NZ’s vision is to “Fulfil triathlon’s participation potential”, through delivering on four outcomes:
- Pathways (people find it easy to get into the sport and are inspired to participate for life);
- Profile (more kiwis become triathlon fans and are given the inspiration to participate);
- Performance (production of world champions); and
- Organisational capability (becoming a world class national sporting organisation)
Contact Energy is one of New Zealand’s leading electricity generators and retailers and one of the country’s largest listed companies. It is the only energy company that sells both electricity and gas across the whole country. It has around 600,000 customers, generates about 26% of New Zealand’s electricity and has 1,000 staff.
In 2008, Contact’s two year sponsorship of Tri NZ’s National Triathlon Series was drawing to an end. Simultaneously, both organisations were reviewing their respective sponsorship and partnership strategies.
Tri NZ identified a number of properties it owned and had the opportunity to leverage. These were:
- the Tri NZ high performance programme
- Tri TV show
- the National Triathlon Series
- sport development activities
- Tri NZ’s membership database
- an overall principal partnership opportunity
Commercial Partnership Award winners were Triathlon New Zealand and Contact Energy. Pictured here are Contact Energy sponsorship manager Craig Griffiths and Triathlon New Zealand chief executive Dave Beeche. Photo by David Gall/SPARC.
It determined that the best way to maximise the market value of these properties whilst delivering on Tri NZ’s objectives was to wrap them all into one “Whole of Sport” partnership.
Tri NZ wanted an active and engaged commercial partner which was able to provide not just funding but also a strong commitment to leveraging their investment. Tri NZ was also looking for a partner with similar growth aspirations and one that shared the same philosophies of healthy active lifestyles. Whilst exploring other options, Contact, as an incumbent sponsor, was an obvious choice. Tri NZ set about getting a more in-depth understanding of Contact’s needs.
Meanwhile Contact’s review of its own strategies had concluded that the current sponsorship of the National Triathlon Series was no longer enough. It needed an “all-in” partnership, a partnership that would allow a range of opportunities to promote to existing and potential customers, and local communities, what it is that Contact stands for.
By gaining a good understanding of Contact’s needs and engaging with Contact’s senior management team Tri NZ was able to shape a strong proposition.
Tri NZ’s proposition to Contact was:
- Aligned to Contact’s brand;
- Product based. Tri NZ offered tangible properties that it demonstrated could deliver on Contact’s objectives;
- Shaped across the full range of marketing delivery channels and promised access to national, community, and individual audiences;
- Science based. Credible participation, media, and international property benchmarking data bolstered the proposition; and
- Inspiring. Tri NZ used real stories about participation, passion and success within the sport to personify the proposition, and to inspire and connect with Contact
Contact was convinced. A four year partnership was signed covering the years 2008-12. From the whole of sport partnership, Contact aimed to promote its brand, enhance staff engagement programmes and strengthen relationships with the local communities in which they operate.
The partnership has manifested itself in a range of ways and delivered real results over the course of 2008/09:
- Contact Tri Series participation targets were exceeded by 120%
- Tri NZ membership target of 4,000 is on target by year end
- With the size and assurance of Contact’s four year investment (Tri NZ’s budget has grown 120%) all aspects of Tri NZ’s sport from participation, club, to elite level has benefited
- Contact’s leveraging of the Contact Tri Series (including outdoor, print, web, and online media channels) amplified Tri NZ’s own promotion (two races in the series were sold out) and has had a significant and positive effect on Contact’s business
- TVNZ provided free-to-air coverage of the Takapuna leg of the Contact Tri Series (4-6pm with a peak of 170,000 viewers)
TV1 and TV3 news provided coverage of six of the seven legs in the Contact Tri Series all capturing Contact branding
- Contact Tri Series – Contact’s brand comprehensively integrated across all event promotion and on-site branding
- Principal partner branding (website, stationery, presentation covers, business cards, staff apparel, vehicles, internal and external communications etc...)
Understanding Contact’s needs, having a coherent and considered commercial partnership strategy, quantifying the value of its properties, and tailoring these into an attractive whole of sport relationship was central to Tri NZ’s successful courtship of Contact.
However, the partnership’s ongoing success comes down to both organisations sharing a commitment to regularly evaluate and enhance the partnership, evidenced by monthly face-to-face meetings.
Tri NZ and Contact’s partnership is light years from the cheque-book silent partner commercial sponsorship model of the past. It represents the new way sport must engage with business if it wants to continue attracting commercial investment.
For more information, please contact:
DDI: 04 472 8058 x3978
Mobile: 021 954 349
Senior Advisor Communications
DDI: 04 472 8058 x3090
Mobile: 021 490 797
SPARC is the government agency charged with promoting, encouraging and supporting sport and physical recreation in New Zealand. For more information, visit www.sparc.org.nz.