With the newly built stadium as their home, the Southern Kings rugby team needed to raise awareness of their entrance into the Super Rugby tournament, and ensure mass attendance at their home games. The difficulty came in how to sway the Eastern Cape public, who had a fickle relationship with the team, often becoming pessimistic with their inconsistent performances.
Another obstacle was the many iterations of the team that had appeared around that time, which created confusion amongst supporters, and somewhat watered down their support base. We essentially had to endear the team to the public and build the Southern Kings brand as a means to ensure attendance at their home games.
The public sentiment was mixed on the team’s inclusion into the Super Rugby tournament, and this informed our approach. We took focus off the team and placed it firmly on the sport, the tournament, and Nelson Mandela Bay’s inclusion in the fray.
It became about driving home the high level of performance and skill on display in the tournament, which would ensure that ‘Rugby is About to Go Big in the Bay.’ Once we had created excitement for the tournament, we could start to profile the team and build the Southern Kings brand.
Between the campaign and the beginning of the tournament, there was a moment of limbo and uncertainty, which was quickly allayed when the Southern Kings first home game shattered their attendance target of 20000 supporters.
Attendance targets were exceeded by 75%, and a whopping 35000 spectators showed up in support of their newly anointed team.
After all was said and done, this proved to be quite the feat, and ranked as the second highest attendance of any hosting stadium during the tournament.
Arguably more important though, was the seemingly impossible task of having forged an emotional connection between the public and the team, meaning they would have loyal support for years to come.