Qantas has been the official naming rights partner and the Official Airline for the Australian Wallabies since 2004.

When Emirates became the Official Airline for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, we had a problem: it was unthinkable that Qantas would give perceived ownership of the trans-Tasman route to a competitor!

So our challenge was to out-think the official sponsors within the rules. Gaining maximum exposure for Qantas’ ongoing Wallabies sponsorship was also vital.

We had to create a parallel and complimentary event to leverage the Rugby World Cup (RWC) and engage Wallaby supporters.

We needed an idea that built its own momentum, generated goodwill via enthusiastic participants, and earned media for its entertainment and news value.


A convoy of 25 branded campervans filled with 128 fanatical supporters (our Crusaders), celebrities and bands followed the Qantas Wallabies around New Zealand – and a 21-part comedy series was born.

Tour host, actor Phil Lloyd, became “Toby Withers” a hapless reporter for the fictitious “Highly Strung” racquet sport magazine.

Tour Highlights included:

  • “Toby” lodged 21 episodes online and two 30-minute specials.
  • Crusaders travelled 53,850km in 39 days around NZ to see 10 RWC matches, including all Wallabies matches and Finals.

Media highlights included:

  • had nearly 13 Million online views. The Great Crusade launch generated 37 articles plus audience exposure over 42 Million.
  • The Series reached 1.9 Million passengers on Qantas In-flight TV and was also featured on free-to-air TV.
  • Over 3,500 tweets, blogs, Facebook “likes” and comments to 15+ Million people.


1. Leveraged the Qantas Wallabies sponsorship to build Qantas’ association with the Rugby World Cup. Research
by Ipsos (w/c October 24, 2011) shows Qantas recorded the highest brand awareness, despite not being a World Cup sponsor.

2. Promoted the Qantas trans-Tasman service within Australia and increased propensity to visit NZ as a desirable destination.

3. We achieved a sales spike in forward bookings to NZ during the Rugby World Cup.

These results are attributable to The Great Crusade campaign alone because:

  • While there was marketing activity by  Tourism New Zealand during the RWC, all research here isolates the role played by The Great Crusade.
  • This event happened during industrial unrest at Qantas – hurting goodwill to the brand.
  • Qantas had no extra support during the World Cup period. Organisers maximised impact of the official sponsors – including Emirates.
  • There was no Qantas promotional activity at the time.

Summary: The Great Crusade succeeded in promoting Qantas as the best-known sponsor of the Rugby World Cup - despite not being a sponsor.

It was the most talked about campaign of 2011/2012 with more than 20 Million views of the branded entertainment. It promoted New Zealand; with 70% of those exposed agreeing it increased their interest in visiting.

Our fictitious reporter even picked up an Emmy nomination for Digital Fiction!


The Great Crusade