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Behind the scenes: the DHL Lions Series 2017

By Lizzie 18 Jul 2017

Once every 12 years New Zealanders get to host the DHL NZ Lions Series.

With Wellington airport seeing 22,000 people pass through in a single day, 1,350 packed campervans conveying into the city, and over 24,000 fans visiting the pop-up Fan Zone, it's fair to say Wellington was buzzing during the 2017 series.

Lions supporters 894x500

Although economic data is still being calculated, there was no denying the flood of enthusiastic fans and the buzz they created. For a host city of a match - and if you’re lucky, a test match - it means infrastructure will be stretched, but if the experience is just right then thousands of fans become a microphone for your tourism story.

Behind the scenes here at WREDA, we led the activation of Wellington - from negotiations to marketing, and creative to the operational minefield that comes with an influx in population. Planning started way back in 2015 - but match week is when the fun really begins!

By the numbers:

  • 24,256 fans visited Wellington’s Fan Zone over its four days of operation
  • 221% increase of UK visitors entering New Zealand the week of the first test and Wellington’s first game
  • 2.9 times more visitors to the i-SITE compared to same week in 2016
  • 1,350 campervans in use in Wellington on Sat 1 July
  • 630 Hāngi’s consumed on Wellington Waterfront over two days

Here’s a snapshot of WREDA’s role for the week:

Investment and risk management

WREDA and government stakeholders invested a lot into this series, so when planning phased into delivery our focus became protecting that investment and ensuring key initiatives were delivered appropriately. This translates into WREDA staff, like me as Senior Events Advisor, moving around the different activation and operation spaces to ensure all is as it should be. As well as daily reporting and daily teleconferences with New Zealand Rugby, Government, MBIE, city services (police etc) and other host cities to share lesson’s learned and concerns for upcoming activities.

City operations

My colleague Simon Perry spearheaded operational planning. This includes working with the airport, stadium, transport, councils and city services to ensure everyone is functioning as planned. For these guys, crazy amounts of planning occur well before the event week to ensure the city isn’t gridlocked and risks are managed. When 22,000 people are coming in and out of Wellington Airport on one day alone, along with 1,350 campervans, you know it’s going to be busy! During the week Simon could be found all over the city monitoring movements ensuring public and player safety was being maintained right up until the very small hours of Sunday morning.

Fan Zone and Fan Trail

We knew the Lions fans were fun loving, with many making this their party pinnacle of the year. So, we brought in Chameleon Events to help us create a Fan Zone and Fan Trail to the stadium which would be engaging, interesting and a go-to point for locals and lions alike. Leading up to the series we worked in collaboration, but during event week they were the force on the ground ensuring the operations of the Fan Zone and Trail functioned efficiently and safely while staying aligned to our brief. 24,256 locals and lion’s fans visited the Fan Zone during the week with 16,068 coming on Saturday alone! This was also my base for the week, a large proportion of our investment was focused on this area and throughout the week I was keeping an eye on activations and how fans were responding to it.

Highlighting local experiences

It was all hands-on deck at Wellington’s i-SITE with 2.9 times more visitors to the i-SITE compared to the same week in 2016. With all regional day tours sold out by Wednesday, the team went the extra mile to work with local suppliers to make new packages available for eager fans. WREDA also worked with other operators to create new “fan friendly” tours for the week, such as Te Wharewaka o Pōneke’s Waka Rides and Hāngi offerings.

Business leverage opportunities

With the Lions in town, a spotlight was on Wellington and all it had to offer. WREDA lead two business leverage initiatives: Pint-sized Beervana and The Tech Ruck to showcase the local Craft Beer and Tech Sectors, with the aim of creating long term connections and opportunities.

Embracing media

WREDA played host to the visiting media by creating a media hub in our office with local treats and tourism advice on hand. The team also actively looked to celebrate and showcase the fan friendly atmosphere that was being created and drive awareness in the city.

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