WinterFest in sponsor search

Winter party: But will the festival have a naming sponsor?

Three months out from Queenstown’s big winter celebration, WinterFest doesn’t have a naming sponsor.

American Express has pulled the pin after nine years – but will remain a “key” Queenstown Winter Festival sponsor.

Fest boss Lisa Buckingham says it won’t affect this year’s programme.

She also stresses it’s not the reason for chopping the festival from 10 days to four.

The Destination Queenstown-owned event is keen for another corporate to join the party.

Buckingham: “We would like to have another partner come in and take that title partnership.

“It is something we feel is very valuable property to be aligned to, with such a successful festival and all the benefits it brings.”

Buckingham won’t confirm if it’s in negotiations with other big players, saying those discussions are “highly confidential”.

DQ has earmarked $150,000 for the 2017 event, up $15,000 on last year, and City Hall will stump up $75,000 for “community-focused” events.

Air New Zealand was a previous headline sponsor – although it backed out prior to the festival’s 40th birthday in 2014.

Amex pulled out just before Christmas.

Buckingham puts it down to the company’s change of strategy.

“It wasn’t anything to do with the satisfaction of the event at all – in fact it was highly supportive of the new four-day format,” she says.

“It was hugely supportive and actually thought it would invigorate the event. The fact it has chosen to stay a key sponsor shows how it values the relationship.”

She wouldn’t confirm if remaining a “key” sponsor rather than “title” sponsor means it’ll cough up less dough, saying it’s a “commercially sensitive issue”.

American Express gives kudos to Buckingham’s team but says it wasn’t able to fully commit to the 2017 event.

Comms boss Robert Gunning says in an emailed statement: “American Express has been a major sponsor for 27 years and during this time we have developed a very strong and valuable partnership with the festival.”