How the boat got behind NZ

By Bill Bennett

We may not have gained the America's Cup but there have been benefits from San Francisco, writes Bill Bennett.

Each extra day sailing in the America's Cup meant more opportunities to put Auckland's business case in San Francisco. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Each extra day sailing in the America's Cup meant more opportunities to put Auckland's business case in San Francisco. Photo / Brett Phibbs

It was possibly the most spectacular match-sailing series the world has ever seen. Aucklanders were so gripped by the races that road traffic and mobile data patterns changed noticeably during the last 10 days or so of the America's Cup.

Emirates Team New Zealand may have failed to bring home the Cup, but there was more at stake during the race series than a sporting trophy: a valuable economic legacy. Ironically, the way the series finished, with Oracle Team USA catching up day-by-day, helped.

Grant Jenkins, head of strategic initiatives at the council-owned Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development Limited (Ateed) says because the contest dragged out his organisation got much more value from its San Francisco investment.

Each extra's day sailing meant more opportunities to put Auckland's business case in front of key people. During those last days Ateed hosted Google, Microsoft and other multinationals along with entrepreneurs and investors.

Though Jenkins says the New Zealanders in San Francisco shed a patriotic tear over the result, from Ateed's point of voice, the entire campaign was about the business opportunity, not the racing.

Ateed spent almost $850,000 during the cup campaign promoting local companies. By a happy coincidence the race took place in just the right place - San Francisco and nearby Silicon Valley are important targets for Auckland-based technology companies wanting to expand into global markets. That area is also home to many firms Ateed would like to set up shop in Auckland.

A venue on the San Francisco waterfront was used to showcase technology firms and Auckland marine industry. Other sectors featured were food and beverage, health tech, conference hosting and luxury tourism. Auckland Council showed off its purpose-built ICT and digital media hub: the Wynyard Quarter Innovation Precinct.

Jenkins says Ateed had specific objectives for its San Francisco campaign. It wants to get at least one new multinational to signal interest in locating or investing in Auckland. There was also a goal to get US-based entrepreneurs to visit and consider early-stage investment in local technology start-ups. On the tourism front the aim was to form a joint venture partnership with a premium US travel company as part of a bigger plan to increase the number of high-yield visitors coming to Auckland.

It's too early to put a value on the investment. Jenkins says: "The cash registers don't ring the next day."

But as it turned out, one of them did. When Ateed showcased the Auckland made Sealegs amphibious boats in San Francisco the company came away at the end of the day with an order worth $150,000.

Jenkins says the early indications are promising. "If we can get just one multinational to locate in Auckland, our $850,000 investment will quickly pay off in rates income alone and that doesn't include all the other benefits."

Jenkins says: "Our boat, AC72 Aotearoa, was a poster child for New Zealand innovation, but in truth so was Oracle, mainly the work of Warkworth-based Core Builders Composite."

New Zealand Marine Industry Association executive director Peter Busfield says it's too soon to put accurate numbers on the benefits of the recent campaign although i the marine industry did well from it. About 50 companies were involved over what was a six-year exercise.

Like Jenkins, Busfield says it doesn't take many orders to make the America's Cup exercise worthwhile. Southern Spars, which was behind some of the technology in AC72 Aotearoa, can earn millions from a single order for a super yacht mast.

Providing Team New Zealand with data centre services helped Vocus Communications polish its credentials. Vocus acquired Maxnet in 2012; at the time the company was mainly known as an ISP, but had been building a data centre business.

Matt Hollis, Vocus GM of marketing and sales says Team New Zealand needed many times more power than any other customer - up to 20kW loads at times. This pushed Vocus' capacity to the limit, but by showing it was possible, drove the company to pick up more intense business as a result. Hollis says the connection with the Team New Zealand has transformed the brand.

- NZ Herald

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