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Air New Zealand pins hopes on Hobbit payoff

Published: 9:43AM Saturday November 24, 2012 Source: ONE News

As Air New Zealand revealed the Hobbit-inspired decoration on the largest plane in its fleet, the airline also said it was putting millions of dollars into a global marketing campaign to lure visitors here.

Airline bosses said a significant portion of its $100 million marketing budget over the next two years would be Hobbit themed.

"We have a very big global marketing budget... and marketing the airline and this (The Hobbit) for us will be a big component, it'll be the biggest international component of our marketing budget for the next two years," said Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Rob Fyfe.

ONE News and will have live coverage of the Hobbit premiere on Wednesday, November 28.

"New Zealand is the home of Middle-earth and The Hobbit movies will be hugely important to New Zealand's tourism industry in the next couple of years as international tourists are inspired to come and see and experience for themselves the landscapes which have shaped the movies."

Tourism New Zealand is putting another $10 million into a Hobbit campaign to draw visitors on the strength of the films.

Fyfe said the publicity would be worth the cost.

"We are a small airline on the edge of the world," he said.

"You have to work hard to attract attention to the airline and to New Zealand because we predominately carry tourists."

The airline's first Hobbit-themed effort - a special flight safety video that features characters from Middle Earth - is already a hit, with global media attention and more than nine million views on YouTube since it was released on November 1.

"The safety video and this aircraft, we're confidant will create tens of millions of dollars of marketing value for the airline," Fyfe said.

There is already a high international awareness rate of New Zealand's connection to The Hobbit, with nearly 90% of foreigners considering visiting the country knowing the trilogy was filmed here.

"Air New Zealand obviously gets to trade and draft off the incredible event that Warner Bros have been creating around the movie," said Gene Garlock, head of world-wide promotions for Warner Brothers Pictures, the studio behind the films.

"And then we obviously get the communication and touch points that a partner like Air New Zealand with their customers," he said.

The newly-decorated plane, a 73-metre Boeing 777-300ER, was towed into a hangar at Auckland Airport earlier this week, and has been kept under tight security as a team worked to get the plane ready for this morning's reveal.

Air NZ's General Marketing Manager Mike Tod said that the hobbit-themed decal took six days and nearly 400 man-hours to install.

"At 830 square metres it's the largest ever graphic to be applied to an aircraft," he said.

It is now destined for London to collect the movie's stars before returning to New Zealand in time to play a starring role in the global premiere of the first installment of The Hobbit trilogy in Wellingtonon November 28.

Hobbit-themed market

As part of the Hobbit fever sweeping the capital, Waitangi Park is being transformed into a Hobbit Artisan Market just days before the premiere.

The stalls will run from noon on Saturday until the end of the premiere on Wednesday.

Each of the three films in The Lord of the Rings trilogy will also play on a big screen in the market from 6-9pm.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says The Hobbit Artisan Market is a brilliant part of the lead-up to the worldwide premiere.

"With the city full of international media and visitors, in the days leading up to the premiere, The Hobbit Artisan Market will showcase extraordinary craft-skills and products to take home," she said.

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