Tourism NZ's globe-trotting 100 per cent Pure New Zealand Rugby Ball has so far cost taxpayers $11 million, but has had fewer than 50,000 visitors from a potential pool of at least 45 million.

Tourism NZ figures released to the Weekend Herald show 48,343 have attended displays and functions at the 100 per cent ball, since its first appearance at the foot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris during the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

It made subsequent appearances in London in November last year, and in Tokyo last month.

That equates to total visitor numbers of 0.01 per cent of the minimum possible population across the three cities - the equivalent of 1400 Aucklanders visiting the ball over a 27-day period.

According to Tourism NZ, the giant ball "was created and is deployed around key international rugby fixtures to promote NZ for tourism, trade and immigration purposes as well as the next host of the RWC in 2011".

The ball is open to the public for 10-minute audio-visual presentations between 9am and 10pm while on tour. It also plays host to functions that attract "high-profile visitors" and is used, generally, as a "publicity stunt".

When it is not visiting world capitals, the 100 per cent ball is kept in storage at Whenuapai, West Auckland, at a cost of $640 a month.

Up to 40 people are required to erect the ball, with seven Kiwis - including an electrician and interior build person - accompanying the orb.

Anywhere between five and 30 "locals" must be hired, depending on building time and weather.

Once inflated, the ball requires up to 14 people to run it over a 13-hour day.

Their duties include queue management, door management, audio-visual, stage management and security, Tourism NZ said.

So far, the ball - which cost $2 million to fabricate - has cost taxpayers $8.9 million to transport, for a total cost of $10.9 million.

But that is money well spent, says Tourism NZ chief executive George Hickton.

Although only a relatively small number visit the ball, the media attention it draws more than makes up for the cost.

"We think we can get more exposure for New Zealand by putting this ball up than spending our money in a different way."

Tourism NZ estimates its Paris campaign would have had a potential audience of 138 million, across print, radio, television and the internet.

The print campaign to accompany the ball's London visit generated publicity that would have cost about $675,000 in advertising, while its Tokyo assignment caught a potential estimated television audience of 56 million, Mr Hickton said.

The ball is due to visit Australia next year in the lead-up to the 2011 Rugby World Cup, before returning to New Zealand for the tournament.


Our jet-setting footie:

October 2007: Eiffel Tower, Paris.

November 2008: Potter's Park, London.

October 2009: Tokyo Tower, Japan.

During 2010: Australia for Rugby World Cup 2011 promotion.

2011: In New Zealand for the tournament.

Ball visitors

* Tokyo (pop 28,025,000): 14,215 (6 days).

* London (pop 7,640,000): 7500 (7 days).

* Paris (pop 9,638,000): 26,628 (14 days).

Source: Tourism NZ