The Auckland-based boss of Emirates says the airline's long-standing support of Team New Zealand and association with the America's Cup is paying off as global interest in the event intensifies.
The airline has been naming rights sponsor of the Kiwi sailing team for the past 17 years and its NZ country manager Chris Lethbridge says the commitment remains.
Even though the number of teams competing in the event wasn't as high as hoped and border closures had meant few spectators could travel here, the airline was pleased with the response to what is the one of the only big global sports events running now.
"We've got three worthy contenders. And we've got a pretty formidable defender so it's a good event. We've been committed to it since 2004, we've been through some real lows and been through some real highs but, the commitment's still there," he said.
Emirates is thought to have poured millions of dollars into backing Team New Zealand during the past 17 years. Lethbridge said the image of this America's Cup fitted with the airline's brand.
''From a branding point of view, it fits perfectly. It's all about innovation, technology, leading-edge and pushing the boundaries.''
"And that's what our business is about, and that's what flying boats is too."
He said there had not been any figures on the spin-off from the event so far although had got much feedback from overseas about how good it looked.
''The rest of the world is pretty well closed right now and I'm sure when the numbers come out I think we'll be pleasantly surprised.''
The whole country would benefit.
''It's been really powerful for us and put that together with the fact that we can host it and we can we can display it to the world on a beautiful New Zealand summer's day I think it's people around the world and they're looking at us and saying: 'I want to go there'," said Lethbridge.
The challenge for the airline would be to remain top of mind when travel returns to normal.
''We haven't been able to capitalise on the opportunity right now but I think given the exposure we've had and the fact that we're ready to fully restart our operations when the time is right we believe that people will put the two together, and we will they will they won't forget our brand.''
The association with the Cup also gave Emirates an important opportunity to entertain clients and supporters out on the water, said Lethbridge, a keen sailor who is busy with hosting duties for much of summer.
Auckland Unlimited's manager of destination Steve Armitage said there were not confirmed ratings figures for the event but it was being beamed free to air into more than 100 countries with a potential audience of more than 500 million. Online viewership was in addition to this.
"From a northern hemisphere perspective it's still winter and most of Europe is experiencing lockdown. The fact that we've been able to showcase Auckland and New Zealand at this time and the fact we've had some drama on the water has increased awareness."
So far there had been about 150,000 people through the Cup village with up to 30,000 on a single day.
Armitage said there were signs of increasing interest in staying in Auckland during the America's Cup racing in March with room rates for some hotels increasing.
"The trick for us is how do we convert that demand given we're still a year or so from the borders opening up."
The event is being screened free to air on TV One which says last weekend more than 873,000 people watched the race on linear TV and another 20,000 watched live streams. This compares to an average daily audience for the station's 6pm news of 865,000 (in January last year).
Chris Galloway heads the study of public relations at Massey University and said for Emirates the longevity of name recognition was crucial.
''The wall to wall exposure of the Emirates name certainly helps with that. There can be a counter effect in that people can become so familiar with the branding that it becomes part of the background and they don't stop to think about it.''
He said the airline was building on a long history and expertise in sports sponsorship and during a global crisis, such as a pandemic or a war, it allowed companies to stay front of mind.
''You don't do sponsorship just to make people feel warm and fuzzy."
There was a rule that for every one dollar you spend on a sponsorship you spend two dollars promoting it.
''Leveraging sponsorship to get identifiable or measurable results is not an easy thing.''
Of the impression from TV images of Auckland around the world, Galloway said: ''I think it's very good for the country, I don't know how much value sponsors get out of it.''