NZRU keeps five of its sponsors on-side, but big global partners still proving elusive

The NZRU will no doubt be hoping the All Blacks’ Rugby World Cup win might put a bit more lead in its commercial pencil to help get through a fairly difficult time for the national sport. And it’s managed to retain five of the team’s major sponsors, with Coca-Cola, Unilever, Sanitarium, Barkers and Bvlgari re-signing as All Blacks sponsors for undisclosed sums.

“These partnerships underline the continuing value of the All Blacks brand which has undoubtedly been enhanced by the team’s status as Rugby World Cup Champions,” says NZRU chief executive Steve Tew. “Our partners play a vital role in helping us promote and sustain the game at all levels. Without them, our job of fostering the game would be that much more difficult so we really appreciate them stepping up to back the All Blacks again. The renewals are across a diverse range of iconic Kiwi products and some of the world’s most recognised brands and show just how powerful the All Blacks brand is and how it reaches a wide cross-section of people around the world.”

Tew says the sponsors (check them out here) “all share similar values around excellence, performance and aspiring to better our lives in some way”, which makes them a perfect fit for the All Blacks.

Tew says the renewals are important in terms of rugby’s overall financial health (principal sponsor adidas has signed on until 2019) but even with this renewed support, he says it faces significant challenges to keep financing the game at current levels.

“The cold, hard reality is that our national game costs the NZRU $100 million a year to run,” he says. “That is why we are working hard to contain costs and why we are exploring fresh opportunities to grow revenue. If we are to keep making the game attractive to the kids and the mums and dads on the side-line each weekend, if are we to keep producing, and retaining the best players and coaches in the world, and if we are to keep making our national competitions as exciting as possible, then we need to ensure we have a growing pool of funds to do that.”

According to an article in The Dom Post, the NZRU is performing fairly well commercially and recently announced a bottom-line profit of $9.6 million, but it hasn’t added any new sponsors, the NZ market is already well-tapped, Italian vehicle maker Iveco’s five year deal came to an end and wasn’t renewed and it is struggling to find a global sponsor

“You have to find someone interested in rugby; you have to find someone prepared to sponsor a country. We are competing with the Ferraris and the Man Uniteds of this world, and they are not national teams, they are clubs, franchises or Formula 1 teams. They transcend the borders a hell of a lot more easily than the All Blacks do.”

NZRU general manager commercial Mark Adam said the companies recommitting to the All Blacks were doing so because of the value they clearly derive from the partnership.

“Any commercial relationship has to be a win-win and our partners can point to significant benefits from associating their brands with our winning All Blacks team. Importantly, in challenging economic times, successful businesses know the value of sponsorships in terms of helping to maintain a competitive advantage.”

A word from our returning sponsors

Coca-Cola New Zealand: Official soft drink of the All Blacks (Coke and Coke Zero) and official sports drink of the All Blacks (Powerade). Long standing partner dating back 18 years. HAs signed for a further four years.

“We are absolutely thrilled to continue our long standing support and partnership of the mighty All Blacks,” Paul Fitzgerald, general manager Coca-Cola Oceania. “For us, it’s a great fit between three of the world’s most recognisable brands – Coca-Cola, Coke Zero and Powerade – and New Zealand’s most powerful international brand, full of passionate heritage.”

Unilever: Rexona – Official Deodorant of the All Blacks and Persil – Official Laundry Detergent of the All Blacks. Rexona All Blacks deodorants are the top selling Rexona deodorants in their category. First signed in 2009 and have re-signed until 2013

“Unilever’s partnership with the All Blacks has delivered strong results for Rexona to date, providing us with a unique platform to engage our consumers,” Ken Basha, Unilever Country Director NZ. “In 2012 Unilever will be extending its sponsorship to also incorporate Persil. We’re excited to be continuing our partnership with the All Blacks throughout the year ahead.”

Sanitarium: Official Breakfast Cereal of the All Blacks. Long standing partner, backing the All Blacks since 1998. Has re-signed until 2016

“Sanitarium is very excited to continue our 14 year sponsorship of the World Champion All Blacks,” says Pierre van Heerden, Sanitarium chief executive. “As a long running sponsor, it is great to see two of New Zealand’s most iconic brands Weet-Bix and the All Blacks partnered together for another five years. Our two brands have a fantastic fit and complement each other well. Both brands are aspirational and encourage our youth and the community to aspire to healthier lives.”

Barkers: Official Formalwear Supplier to the All Blacks. First signed in 2009 and has re-signed until 2015. “The partnership we have had with the All Blacks has been excellent in terms of positioning our premium brands with our target audience,” says Jamie Whiting, Barkers managing director. “The decision to re-sign was motivated in large part by the huge success we’ve seen from our re-vamped suit and business shirt ranges – we’ve seen sales growth of 50% in the last year, and the exposure particularly around Rugby World Cup 2011 and the amount of media coverage the All Blacks got wearing their Barkers suits was fantastic. Strategically this is an area of our business we see as having more room for expansion, so aligning our premium suit range with the world’s best rugby team is a perfect fit.”

Bvlgari: Official Luxury Watchmaker Partner of the All Blacks. Italian luxury watchmaker. First signed in 2010, has re-signed until 2014. Produces under licence an All Blacks branded watch, Enduro Chronosprint All Blacks Special Edition.

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