With Four Nations fever about to hit New Zealand, the year’s premier international rugby league event offers an early chance for corporates to get a foot in the door for the 2017 World Cup.
In November, NZ Rugby League will host three games in a series that brings together probably the four best league nations in the world right now – Australia, New Zealand, England and Samoa.
Australia and New Zealand have been awarded co-hosting rights for the next RLWC, and this tournament looms as an important opportunity for everyone in the rugby league community to claim the best seats in the house.
While the next generation of players are vying for spots on the Kiwis roster and cities compete for the prestige of staging World Cup games, the country’s top businesses can also gain inside running for prime sponsor benefits.
“In our joint hosting bid, New Zealand and Australia have promised to deliver the most successful Rugby League World Cup ever,” says NZRL commercial general manager Sarah Lewis.
“Given the success of the last event in Great Britain and France, that represents a huge opportunity to reach a significant international and domestic audience.”
Last year’s tournament marked the first time every game was televised, a total of 834 hours of television coverage in the four key markets of Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland – a total audience of 18.8 million.
The event was broadcast into 114 territories, with a reach of more than 134 million viewers.
Print media coverage reached a readership of 660 million people, while online media generated 2.4 million RLWC website visits, 28,000 Twitter followers and 70,000 Facebook likes.
As well as exceeding this following, the World Cup legacy programme hopes to reach hundreds of thousands more through co-ordinated community events.
Recent surveys show that 41% of New Zealanders consider themselves rugby league fans.
“We are very excited that, in working together, Australia and New Zealand can create a tournament in 2017 that will inspire rugby league players around the world and strengthen the Rugby League International Federation’s ability to grow the ‘Greatest Game of All’ on the international stage,” said the World Cup bid document.
That momentum begins with the 2014 Four Nations.
While Auckland has proved itself capable of staging major rugby league events, New Zealand Rugby League has made a conscious decision to take its international fixtures to the provinces in an effort to test the ability of other cities to stage World Cup games.
Whangarei’s Toll Stadium will host the New Zealand v Samoa clash on November 1 and the Kiwis meet England at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium on November 8, with the Grand Final scheduled for November 15 at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium.
“We’re very keen to demonstrate the fact we’re a national game and broaden the reach of our elite team in terms of their profile,” says NZRL chief executive Phil Holden.
“It’s all part of building towards the 2017 World Cup, which we will co-host with Australia. We’re very conscious of testing the interest in the regions and the Kiwis have never been to Whangarei, so we thought that was worth a look.”