From bungee jumping to jet boating, New Zealand is known for its adventure tourism and the original Kiwi-born thrill experience of ZORB ball-rolling is no exception. The iconic Rotorua-based tourist attraction has been drawing in tourists from across the globe since 1997 – but COVID’s hit on inbound tourism has urged the company behind the operation to recalibrate.
In March, FernMark licensee Outdoor Gravity NZ lost 70 per cent of its customers when the borders closed. To make up for its loss of overseas visitors, the business is rolling with the punches by doubling down on its existing export operation.
David Akers, Founder and Director of Outdoor Gravity NZ, says there is a growing number of overseas ZORB imitators that use inferior and dangerous copy products, so the FernMark is a major differentiator to cheap and unsafe knock-offs.
“Tourists get excited after experiencing our product and want to bring that fun back to their home countries by buying cheap, fake versions and start rolling down their uncle’s hill – but that obviously lacks the safety orientated mindset that’s a huge part of our original brand born in New Zealand,” says Akers.
To differentiate against the counterfeits, Outdoor Gravity NZ is leveraging the FernMark Country of Origin credentials to reinforce the brand’s emphasis on safety, quality and credibility.
“We’re the original ZORB experience with 25 years of intellectual property to our name, so the FernMark is the official symbol of our New Zealand-made point of difference from the illegitimate copycats – you can’t get that from a Chinese website trying to imitate our offering,” Akers adds.
The FernMark logo and its associated assets have been critical to the company’s export strategy, serving as a stamp of approval when entering international markets of interest, including Japan, North America and South East Asia.
The recent increased focus on exports has been a game changer for ZORB on the ground in New Zealand. In Rotorua, Outdoor Gravity NZ staff are now being upskilled to manufacture exported balls at the world’s only onsite ZORB manufacturing factory.
“This export contract has been a great revenue source to help fill the domestic tourism gap, enabling our team to consult on their ZORB site design and construction, safety procedure training and produce 24 ZORB balls, with five or six balls expected each year when we replace old ones, so it’s offering great long-term business.”
Outdoor Gravity NZ sees the FernMark as an opportunity to legitimise and diversify its ZORB products while supporting its international expansion.
“As an original adventure tourism operator in New Zealand, we believe our brand has a responsibility to support our national tourism values by emphasising the innovation and legitimacy of our country’s offering.”