12 Oct 2012

Logo to appear on front of All Blacks jersey

10:41 pm on 12 October 2012

American International Group is to sponsor the All Blacks rugby team on a five-and-a-half-year deal that will see its logo on the front of the players' jerseys.

The United States-based insurance company said it had struck a deal to sponsor the 2011 World Cup-winning All Blacks, the Sevens, the Maori All Blacks, the New Zealand Black Ferns, the New Zealand Women's Sevens and New Zealand under 20 teams.

No financial details of the sponsorship deal were disclosed on Friday, though the New Zealand Rugby Union said it believed it to be the second most valuable rugby sponsorship in the world.

The organisation's apparel agreement with Adidas, which runs until 2019, is reportedly the highest sponsorship deal in rugby, Reuters reports.

NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said the partnership will help ensure that the game continues to flourish at the community level upwards, but the union did not take the decision lightly.

"Like all New Zealanders, we greatly respect the rich and proud heritage of the black jersey, which is why the board and management of the NZRU carefully weighed up this change and we talked to a lot of people about it.

"On balance, though, we believe this is a very positive opportunity to provide additional funds that we need."

Mr Tew said the white logo will be just under one third the size of the maximum allowed under international guidelines.

Sir John Kirwan, a former All Black and now coach of the Blues, was at the launch on Friday and says this type of sponsorship had to happen. He believes the agreement will open new opportunities.

"I think that in the global game, you wear a global brand - and we need to start competing. If this helps us keep our great players like Richie McCaw and Dan Carter in the country, I think if you take a good long look at it, it's pretty hard to refute."

Sport Research Group chief executive Simon Arkwright estimates the deal is probably worth about $5 million to $7 million.

"The Springboks have had a logo on their jerseys for a long time, so have Australia. New Zealand have been able to hold out for much longer than most of the other international rugby teams. One of the benefits of that is probably they've been able to drive a pretty hard bargain."

The All Blacks jersey carried a small sponsorship logo of a beer brand during the 1990s but has been 'clean' since the Adidas deal began in 1999.

The New Zealand Sevens side will be the first to wear the new jersey and shorts at this week's IRB World Sevens series on the Gold Coast. The All Blacks will showcase them in the Bledisloe Cup clash against Australia in Brisbane on 20 October.

NZRU accused of selling out

Jed Thian, of the Alternative Rugby Commentary, broke the story of the pending sponsorship deal on Radio New Zealand in July this year.

He is highly critical of the development, saying the NZRU is selling out the people who made the black jersey great for short-term gain.

"There's a genuine asset in that All Black jersey. It's been invested in by everybody that bought a ticket in that 100-year period that watched this team play.

"I think people just don't get it - and comments like John Kirwan's 'This is just the way of things' - well, it's got nothing to do the money. It's got everything to do with the people that play the game, that nurture the game, and the clubs, the schools, the parents."