Brands in sports: sponsorship movers and shakers

In 1935, Anchor attached its products to the formidable appearance of a towering All Black, thereby showcasing its brand as powerful and thoroughly Kiwi. And today, although cream and butter are no longer related to the black jersey, the tradition of sports sponsorship has continued unabated.

(The above image was taken from Promoting Prosperity by Peter Alsop and Gary Stewart.)

Last year, the All Blacks landed a major sponsorship deal with the insurance company AIG, which controversially led to the three letters of the company’s name being emblazoned across the front of the jersey.

But this was not the first time that the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) has allowed a sponsor to feature its name on the famous sports strip. For many years, the Adidas logo has been a visible reminder of who makes the kit. And this trend will continue until 2019, because the German clothing manufacturer has just renewed its sponsorship deal with the NZRU.

Beyond the jersey, the NZRU has also struck various other sponsorship arrangements to bring in additional remuneration. 

Recently, Steinlager, which has sponsored the All Blacks for 27 years, extended its deal for an additional three years, pushing its association with the team beyond the 30-year mark.        

In addition to the Steinlager and Adidas extensions, Duracell joined the sponsorship fray in October and Unilever and Ford also renewed their sponsorship deals. But this was not the case for Telecom, who felt that that the brand exposure was not sufficient to justify the investment.

“For Telecom, the All Blacks sponsorship didn’t work. We didn’t feature strongly enough in our tracking as an All Blacks sponsor to get the attribution we needed to justify the investment. There are so many others involved who have done a lot of work to build up a presence. So rather than be one of many, we said let’s own something and develop it from the grassroots up,” said Kellie Nathan, the former general manager of Telecom, who is thought to have recently moved to Pumpkin Patch.

Brands aren’t only interested in the All Blacks as unit; they have also been willing to strike up sponsorship deals with some of the bigger players in the team.   

Shortly after winning the IRB World Player of the Year award, Kieran Read has been unveiled as the brand ambassador for Plumbing World.   

Although not the most conventional sponsorship deal, Read has expressed enthusiasm about becoming involved with the company. 

“Plumbing World is a business that’s been around for ages – it’s a real Kiwi brand that’s owned by lots of real Kiwi plumbers. That kind of thing’s really important to me,” he said.

By signing on as a brand ambassador, Read follows in the footsteps of Benji Marshall who has served as the NIB mascot since August.

New Zealand’s second largest health insurer has, however, not restricted its sponsorship deals to rugby. On 28 November, NIB signed a deal with the Black Caps, which has enabled the company to display its green and white logo on the players’ sleeves throughout the West Indian series.

While the major sponsors are always more attracted to bigger sports, this does not mean that growing sports go without sponsorship entirely. Many smaller companies, which don’t have the spending clout to invest in major sports, often strike up deals with the smaller sports.  

On 2 December, Triathlon New Zealand struck a deal with Dot Kiwi, an Internet startup that offers the .kiwi Internet domain as an alternative to the generic .co.nz option. 

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