Adidas has manufactured the All Blacks rugby jersey since 1999, when they took over from Canterbury of New Zealand. The sponsorship deal is believed to be the biggest in rugby union, and according to the NZRU underpins rugby in New Zealand. Since 1999 adidas have been the only sponsor on the jersey, appearing on the right side of the chest opposite the silver fern. However, in 2012 the All Blacks welcomed on board sponsor AIG. In a controversial move their logo would now appear on the chest of the jersey, angering many New Zealand rugby fans. In anticipation of the controversy, AIG removed the box around their logo and sized it to be only a third of the size allowed by the IRB, to make it integrate into the jersey better.
When adidas took over the manufacturing of the All Blacks kit, the removed the iconic white collar and moved away from traditional cotton, as did many teams at the time. Prior to the 2011 Rugby World Cup they reinstated a small white collar.
In 2011 the Adidas All Blacks rugby jersey came under scrutiny this week where revelations emerged that people could buy the Adidas rugby jersey overseas for nearly half the price as local New Zealand customers. While New Zealanders have flocked to the international sites, taking the opportunity to buy the jersey for $110 delivered, there has was a huge backlash against the sporting giant in New Zealand, with widespread anger at the slight against their most valuable customers.
|Adidas’ argument is that the replica All Blacks rugby jersey represents the most premium piece of sporting merchandise in the New Zealand market. Super Rugby jerseys and Warriors rugby league jerseys sell for $170 in New Zealand. Therefore, the All Blacks equivalent needs to cost more. The standard All Blacks jersey has been priced at $190, with the World Cup equivalent marked at $220. The $220 price tag pushed the envelope in the already price-gorged sporting merchandise market. The revelation that other countries get New Zealand’s own sporting jersey for far cheaper has dominated the New Zealand media all week.|
Rebel Sport, the leading sport merchandise supplier in New Zealand, was appalled to find out the discrepancy in the price they were buying the jersey at compared to that of overseas retailers. They unsuccessfully demanded that Adidas reduce the price. Adidas have refused, stating that the price was “absolutely fair and reasonable”. To try and placate the fans, Rebel Sport reduced the price from their own margin, down to $150 for the standard and $170 for the World Cup edition.
Even New Zealand Prime Minister has been pulled into the row, advising Adidas that “when you’re in the hole, you should stop digging”.
New Zealanders are no stranger to paying much more for imported products. In fact, they are used to paying more for even locally produced products than people overseas pay. However, the sheer difference in price and the fact that New Zealanders are the All Blacks biggest supporters has made the locals feel taken for granted.
The New Zealand All Blacks need Adidas’ sponsorship. Since they started sponsoring the All Blacks in 1999, Adidas have been invaluable in helping the All Blacks transition into professionalism, but also giving them the opportunity to keep the jersey sacrosanct. The All Blacks jersey stays largely free of the corporate sponsorship that has invaded most sporting merchandise. Adidas has also avoided adding the trade mark white stripes on the All Blacks jersey.
However, Adidas has also done very well from their sponsorship. Locally, the sponsorship has legitimised them as a sporting merchandise leader, whereas before the key players would have been Reebok and Nike. Until now, Adidas has found New Zealanders particularly loyal customers. Anecdotally, many New Zealand customers make it a point to show their support for the All Blacks sponsorship by buying predominantly Adidas gear. In the All Blacks, Adidas has found themselves very chivalrous endorsers, particularly under the current management.
Internationally, Adidas has been able to align themselves with surely one of the most successful sporting brands of all time, with the All Blacks boasting over an 80% win record over the last eight years. The All Blacks Rugby jersey itself is an international product. They can be seen being worn all over Europe and the United States.
The All Blacks jersey debate has taken some of the gloss off the All Blacks win as well as the relatively positive reception towards the new jersey with the white collar. It was hoped the debate dies down before New Zealand hosts the Rugby World Cup next month.
Fortunately, the drama subsided as New Zealand was swept up in hosting the World Cup. It was long forgotten as the All Blacks finally lifted the cup following the final, with adidas All Blacks jerseys selling out all over the country.