Queenstown’s Winter Festival sends out sponsorship SOS

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The scramble’s on for a major new sponsor after longstanding partner Air New Zealand pulled the pin on Queenstown’s Winter Festival. 

Destination Queenstown boss Graham Budd is very disappointed at the loss of Air NZ – one of the event’s big sponsors – and it has put some community events at risk. 

Budd, confirming Air NZ isn’t renewing its contract for this year’s festival, says he’s surprised: “As the dominant airline, we’ve supported them very strongly and they’ve supported Queenstown.” 

The 10-day festival, just four months away, is a major promotional tool used to let the country and world know our skifields are open. 

Air NZ has provided substantial cash as well as free flights for guests, performers and VIPs in the past. 

Budd won’t reveal the dollar figure but says Air NZ has been “one of our most important partners”. 

“We were very disappointed and worked hard to try to secure the sponsorship again for this year and beyond, looking forward to the 40th next year where we hope to have significant celebrations.”

“They indicated they feel they weren’t getting the direct value out of the sponsorship that they were requiring.” 

Air NZ corporate communications boss Brigitte Ransom says: “We’ve adapted our sponsorship portfolio over the past year to better align with our goals in the environmental, social and economic areas. 

“Air NZ’s existing partnerships mean we still provide significant support to the Queenstown region – including sponsoring the NZ PGA, promoting the Routeburn Track and biodiversity work in Routeburn Valley.” 

Winter Festival organisers rely on sponsors to fund free events like the opening party, street parade and Mardi Gras. 

Losing Air NZ is a significant concern, Budd says. 

“If we’re not able to replace that level of sponsorship, it leaves us with quite a big hole to fill and to review what we’re able to deliver.” 

Some festival events could be at risk, he concedes. 

“I sincerely and seriously hope not, because the events have been fine-tuned to meet the needs of both our visitors and community. 

“But I can’t say that that won’t happen at this stage, because clearly we can’t sustain significant losses.” 

A shortfall in revenue over cash would affect other DQ spending, Budd says. 

Budd confirms DQ is working hard to replace Air NZ. 

“We’re actively pursuing other airline partners.” 

Budd believes an airline partner is critical because of the festival’s role in promoting the whole winter ski season: “I think there’s an obvious link just in terms of getting our visitors here, domestically, out of Australia and some further afield.” 

However, he concedes NZ’s event sponsorship market has been very tough for several years. 

“Gaining new significant sponsorship for any big event – and this is a very big event by any standard – is not easy,” Budd says.