New Zealand Rugby sidesteps sponsors with its own campaign, calls on Kiwis to join #teamallblacks

The All Blacks brand has become a huge commercial force in recent years and the players are regularly wheeled out to participate in campaigns for New Zealand Rugby’s sponsors. While there a whole host of fairly strict rules around those appearances, those campaigns still have an agenda attached. And while we’ve seen work like Telecom/Spark’s Backing Black or, further back in time, Steinlager’s Stand by Me aiming to galvanise fan support around the team, New Zealand Rugby hasn’t done a campaign for themselves (aside from a few Super Rugby efforts). But as the All Blacks prepare to defend the Rugby World Cup, that’s changed with ‘Belong’, an initiative aimed at getting fans to show their love for the team and join the “online clubroom” Team All Blacks.

Early this week, Adidas released its big ad for the All Blacks, and, as we noted, it was part Dragon Ball Z power-up scene, part natural disaster documentary intro. In a way, this screaming, angry gladiator who looks like he’s going to rip your face off angle runs counter to the brand of ‘quiet intensity’ the All Blacks—and, more recently, the Black Caps—often prefer to abide by. But the new manifesto ad shows a much calmer bunch of players and a range of passionate All Black supporters—young, old, famous and not-so-famous. 

The concept, which was devised by Augusto, which is continuing its dominance of the New Zealand rugby niche, is to recognise the role fans play in supporting the national teams. That’s not unusual in sport, of course. The Black Caps did it very well with the #backtheblackcaps campaign. But Todd Barberel, head of marketing, brand and commercial development, says it’s a connection with the fans that goes beyond the traditional ‘us and them’ relationship, to the fans actually being part of the team. 

“As we start getting closer to RWC2015 it’s a way of fans saying ‘we’re with you in this’. It’s also about the huge significance the black jersey has, not only for players but for all New Zealanders.” 

And Barberal says the concept really resonated with the players, past and present, who understood that this was a powerful idea. 

Unlike many of its big sponsors, the union doesn’t have a huge marketing budget for the campaign (although its recent financials showed it was in the black for the third successive year). But along with the manifesto video, it will also be doing some street posters featuring intimate portraits of players and fans, at-ground activity in Christchurch and Auckland for this year’s tests and some activity in the UK. The All Blacks have a combined social audience of over four million (which is big, but still not Jamie Curry big), so, unsurprisingly, the campaign will also tap into that huge following here and overseas. And, as Augusto’s John Foley says, it’s already had a great response.  

While the social audience is huge, there are middle men—or, more accurately, middle platforms—involved, so, in a similar style to MyBlackcaps, this is also an attempt to communicate with the fans more directly. To tempt them to join the membership scheme, the site offers fans “exclusive content, unique All Blacks experiences and first dibs on cool stuff you can’t get anywhere else”. There are also the obligatory competitions and the main activation for the campaign asks fans to take a photo of themselves using the All Blacks app (which is available on Android and iOS and was made by Wellington developers Paper Kite), share it on social media with the #belong hashtag and then go into the draw to win an All Blacks jersey. And there are already a big number of entries. 

It’s also offering fans the chance to receive a visit from the All Blacks before they head overseas by asking them to provide photos or video demonstrating how passionate they are about belonging to Team All Blacks, something Seven Sharp and Air New Zealand did recently for its people’s press conference

Speaking of Air New Zealand, it also confirmed its support for the All Blacks for another five years, re-signing as a global sponsor of New Zealand Rugby through until 2020.

The airline has been a partner of rugby in New Zealand for more than two decades and an official partner of the All Blacks since 1998. Under the new agreement Air New Zealand will be known as the official airline of the All Blacks and for the first time, the All Blacks Sevens.

“Air New Zealand has been a strong supporter of the All Blacks and New Zealand rugby for such a long time so we’re delighted to have such great team mates on board again,” says New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew. “The airline has been instrumental in not only getting the All Blacks to tests, but through its clever marketing campaigns it’s helped connect the team to more fans around the world. It’s also great to have them backing our teams over an exciting five years ahead for rugby which includes another Rugby World Cup and a British and Irish Lions tour.” 

Nothing’s better than a little surprise. Thanks for celebrating the new All Blacks lolly with us! #CrazyAboutRugby

Posted by Air New Zealand on Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Recently, Air New Zealand roped in a few All Blacks to hand out its new lolly, following on from the stunt involving Ben Smith, Aaron Smith and Keven Mealamu

It even got Hika Elliot and Andy Ellis to get romantic for a promo for its new Buenos Aires route.  

Air New Zealand also teamed up with school students to support the All Blacks as they prepared for the game against Manu Samoa by creating New Zealand’s longest All Blacks’ fan banner. The airline enlisted the help of eight rugby playing schools from throughout Auckland to create a banner the length of Air New Zealand’s largest aircraft, the Boeing 777-300 – roughly 74 metres.

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