American insurance firm AIG and the New Zealand Rugby Union have agreed to a five-and-a-half-year deal for AIG to sponsor six NZRU rugby teams: the All Blacks, Maori All Blacks, All Blacks Sevens, New Zealand Black Ferns (women’s fifteens), New Zealand Women’s Sevens and New Zealand Under 20. Financial terms of the sponsorship agreement are not being disclosed. NZRU CEO Steve Tew said, "A new logo on the All Blacks jersey is not a step we have taken lightly -- we respect the rich and proud heritage of this extraordinary team and carefully weighed the change. In the end, the AIG sponsorship is an unprecedented opportunity, and the best option to sustain the future of New Zealand rugby and grow the global game.” The refreshed AIG logo will be prominently displayed in contrasting white on the historically black front of the jerseys and back of shorts for the four men’s teams, and front of the jerseys for the two women’s teams. The new jersey was worn by the All Blacks Sevens during the first tournament of the '12-13 HSBC Sevens World Series tournament on the Gold Coast in Australia last Saturday in a game against the U.S. Eagle 7s. On the All Blacks jersey, AIG’s logo is just less than one-third the size of the maximum allowed under Int'l Rugby Board guidelines, in consideration of the historical significance of that jersey (AIG).
TOUGH OFFER TO TURN DOWN: The APNZ noted that with the current economic climate affecting all sizes of businesses, the NZRU "would have been remiss to turn down the multimillion-dollar deal" offered by AIG. The deal, which will run until May '18, is "believed to be the second-most valuable sponsorship agreement in world rugby -- trailing only the NZRU's current partnership with adidas." Tew added, "We are in a challenging time in this world we live in. We have a business that has roughly $100M turnover a year -- it needs to be significantly more than that if we're going to survive, if we're going to grow the game at the community level and if we're going to retain players. It's a challenge for us, and we need some money" (APNZ, 10/13).
DEALING WITH THE BACKLASH: The AFP reported that All Blacks’ fans "reacted angrily to the NZRU’s controversial decision" to sell commercial space on the front of the club's jersey. The All Blacks’ official Facebook page has been flooded with comments from passionate New Zealanders who object to having the name splashed across the front of the side’s shirt. Purists called the decision a “disgrace” and "disrespectful" (AFP, 10/14).
SHOW ME THE MONEY: In Auckland, Richard Loe wrote that most rugby people realize that "the modern game needs revenue, and a lot of it." There has been "a lot of publicity in recent years about the difficulty of keeping professional rugby afloat in this part of the world, compared to the big money that sloshes around in the northern hemisphere where they have the population base and the big financial numbers that go with it." Loe concluded: "So that leaves one question -- what's the best use of the money by the NZRU? For me, the answer is simple -- the ITM Cup and Heartland rugby" (NEW ZEALAND HERALD, 10/14).
REHABBING THE BRAND: In N.Y., Baynes & Tracer wrote AIG CEO Robert Benmosche wants to "revive a brand that his predecessor Edward Liddy dismissed as 'wounded and disgraced' in '09 amid a U.S. bailout that swelled in value to $182.3B and was repaid last month." Benmosche is scheduled to ring the opening bell at the N.Y. Stock Exchange next week and unveil a redesigned logo (BLOOMBERG, 10/12).