It was a big year of rugby for adidas and TBWA\ was behind much of the work done to leverage its sponsorship of the All Blacks. ‘All In’ and Stand in Black were solid campaigns, but for many they were overshadowed by the PR shitstorm that ensued after the jersey price debacle. And as the global sports giant shifts its focus away from rugby and towards other sports, so the focus also shifts away from the New Zealand branch and towards the two agencies it uses in Australia.
As always, TBWA\’s Dave Walden was keen to help us out: “It’s a non-story”, “it must be a slow news day” and “people are just making mischief”. He says TBWA\ is still the agency of record and he confirmed the big All Blacks projects will still be done in the homeland. But the fact is a decision has been made to shift some of the responsibility to Australia, where it uses a dual agency strategy with TBWA\ Melbourne and retail-focused Iris.
Walden says this is partly due to the fact that the rugby work is cyclical and, because it’s not a huge money-spinner for adidas, it ramps up the activity every few years. He wouldn’t comment on whether the handling of the jersey issue had anything to do with the decision, aside from saying research showed the brand had quickly recovered from the negativity associated with it and was back to being seen as a prime supporter after the All Blacks’ win, but it’s fair to assume the poor PR crisis management in this part of the world and the damage it did to the brand probably didn’t go down too well with the powers that be.
UPDATE: Adidas’ David Huggett returned our call and says it certainly isn’t unusual for the “Pan-Pacific company” to spread the love around and this focus on Australia is part of a move to drive more efficiency. He says there are no fundamental changes to the existing set-up and there is still an active relationship with TBWA\ Auckland because the work adidas does with the NZRU needs to be driven out of New Zealand.
“We do a lot of work bringing globally-driven campaigns to life in local markets. That’s not a new trend.”
Huggett said the “fairly intense period” of media scrutiny before the Rugby World Cup was not a reason for the shift. And he echoed Walden’s sentiment about how quickly the brand had recovered, as evidenced, he says, by the Nielsen research that showed adidas was second behind Heineken as the brand New Zealanders most associated with the tournament.