The “Hobbiton” take-over of an ANZ Premiership match has seen Netball Waikato-Bay of Plenty named the winner of the 2019 Innovation Award at the Westpac Waikato Business Awards.

Their 2018 Hobbiton Movie Set Cup proved a significant business achievement by the netball franchise which received the award at the annual Gala dinner at Claudelands Event Centre in Hamilton on November 15.

Netball Waikato-BOP Chief Executive Rohan West said the recognition was a tribute to the success of the Hobbiton Cup and the hard work put in to set up the unique event.

“We are very proud of what has been achieved with this event and how popular it proved with both our fans, commercial partners and netball supporters around the country.”

He said while most netball accolades are focused on the on-court performance of the Waikato-BOP Magic team, the Zone had plenty to be proud of with its hard work behind the scenes.

An increase in commercial partners, including securing a naming-rights partner after an absence of two years, along with the success of the Hobbiton Movie Set Cup were key talking points, West said.

“The stability of our Executive Management has attributed to the significant growth in commercial partners, while the Hobbiton Cup showed we pride ourselves on innovative ways to engage with our fans and partners.”

He said the themed take-over of the ANZ Premiership match between the Waikato-BOP Magic and Mystics in June, 2018, was the most comprehensive theming seen in New Zealand sport.

The idea was developed following a debrief from a small promotion run between Netball Waikato-BOP and Hobbiton in 2017.

The result, a year later – which included extensive theming from the public entrance at Claudelands Event Centre through to customer giveaways, corporate hospitality, the Magic team uniform (the first time ever in New Zealand franchise netball history that a team had worn a sponsor themed dress), the game trophy and even Sky Sports commentators being made up to resemble The Lord of the Rings Elves – proved a success with figures showing that ticket sales were up 84 per cent on the corresponding game in 2017 along with corporate hospitality attendance (up 45 per cent) and television ratings (up 15 per cent).

West said the success of the Hobbiton Movie Set Cup set them apart from other ANZ Premiership teams and Waikato-BOP sports organisations in relation to innovation.

“That innovation we demonstrated was cited as a key consideration by our new naming-rights partner and a new major sponsor in their decisions to join our sponsorship family,” he said.