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Setting (and smashing) a stretch target

27 May 2019 Article by Mel Moss


Coming off the back of a successful Rugby World Cup (RWC) campaign in 2015, Chemistry clients All Blacks Tours were determined to become New Zealand’s Official Travel Agent (OTA) for RWC Japan 2019. But they were pitching against tough global competition with more scale and larger budgets. How could they win the bid?

The answer was to offer something the competition couldn’t – agreeing to a stretch sales target of 12,500 tickets. This is the story of how a highly effective marketing strategy co-created with ABT and Chemistry not only helped to meet this incredible target – but smashed it.

Turning a problem into an opportunity

Together, we identified that in order to meet their stretch target, ABT had to face four key challenges head on:

  1. To sell 12,500 tickets within 20 months.
  2. The average package price was $12,000, which is unaffordable to the majority of rugby fans.
  3. Kiwis see Japan as a difficult place to travel in.
  4. The marketing budget was limited to the same as RWC 2015, but the sales task would be twice as difficult.

We were further hamstrung by World Rugby’s decision around when tickets would be globally released for sale. But after interrogating previous sales data, we learnt that 80% of Kiwis purchased their tickets for Rugby World Cup 2015 within the first 12 months of going on sale. So we decided to turn our problem into an opportunity. How could we make our sales window as long as possible, even if we could not control when tickets were made available?

Introducing ‘Play Advantage’

The answer was ‘Play Advantage’, a campaign which invited Kiwis to pay a $200 refundable deposit  to reserve their tickets before they were actually available to buy. This created a pre-registration window to generate a database of qualified leads that we could harvest for sales once World Rugby released the tickets. Play Advantage had four key objectives:

  1. Double the number of pre-registrations compared to what we achieved for the Rugby World Cup 2015 campaign
  2. Sell at least 3,000 tickets in the first 3 months of being on sale
  3. Increase our revenue by at least 50% compared to the same time during the Rugby World Cup 2015 campaign
  4. Convert at least 50% of our ‘Play Advantage’ prospects within the first 6 months.

A bold strategy that paid off

Our strategic risk was to front-load all of our activity, which was the opposite of what we usually did. This caused tension with stakeholders because we were investing a large a chunk of budget up front, which could jeopardise our future success as marketing budgets would not be increased. Not to mention we were spending money to acquire “prospects”, not real “sales”. But ABT stuck to their guns and launched ‘Play Advantage’ in November 2017.

And the risk paid off. The campaign achieved a 161% increase in revenue compared to our previous RWC 2015 campaign. With less than a year to go, we have sold our allocated 12,500 tickets and All Blacks Tours has made New Zealand the only country to ask World Rugby for more tickets to sell.

So what did we learn?

  1. Acquire the right prospects in a cost-effective way

We needed to recruit people who were more likely to buy a package to Rugby World Cup Japan. That’s why we used a refundable $200 deposit tactic as a way to weed out the tyre kickers. To be mindful of costs we moved away from channels we traditionally use (such as print, TV and radio) and turned to a purely social and digital lead strategy.

  1. Offer a real value exchange

We wanted to create an experience that inspired people and emphasised the benefits of ‘Play Advantage’. Not only did we offer people a guaranteed spot at Rugby World Cup Japan 2019, we also imbued a feeling of exclusiveness and importance. This was implemented across our entire strategy, from a single social post, right through to having a unique mobile-first experience when signing up.

  1. Nurture, nurture, nurture

Our database of qualified leads would soon become our biggest asset. That’s why we implemented a marketing automation platform, ActiveCampaign. This gave us the power to employ persona-led email sequences to encourage people to purchase as soon as we went on sale and exploited key triggers/events.