Lessons we can learn from the Kiwis

Sometimes it seems the smaller the country, the more its citizens are locked into identifying with the brand. Take New Zealand, for instance. They are a feisty lot!

They seem to have a leader who is not afraid to lead. Maybe that ‘can–do’ attitude rubs off on the rest of the populace. Apart from possibly getting a new flag, those across “the ditch” seem to make things happen rather than waiting for gradual change.

This is particularly so with the high profile of the Silver Ferns, New Zealand’s Netball team. Their popularity matches that of the All Blacks. Why so?

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Well, according to the former Head of Netball New Zealand, Raelene Castle, mass television coverage was the key. Castle, who is now the chief executive of the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs, identifies free-to-air coverage as “the single biggest game-changer for any sport” and the reason NRL and AFL “continue to dominate” Australia’s sporting landscape.

“About 15 or 18 years ago, Television New Zealand, which is the major free-to-air broadcaster, took a leap of faith with the Silver Ferns and put all their matches on live,” she says.

We had similar coverage on the ABC for Australian netball but once the commercial channels got involved, the profile that had been built gradually faded with the games sidelined to relatively unappealingly timeslots: the reason? Ratings! TV channels need to take a leaf out of the New Zealand experience and commit to supporting women’s sport and growing the audience. Our Aussie Diamonds are the world champions yet again but, aside from Laura Geitz, they are not instantly recognisable, as Castle suggests is the case in New Zealand.

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