The All Blacks now have AIG on their jersey. REUTERS/Jason
The New Zealand Rugby Union sponsorship deal with AIG is
understood to be worth around $80 million.
The 5-year deal, worth approximately $15m a season, was
divulged at a meeting with the All Blacks senior leadership
group before being made public without the dollar amounts
In New Zealand sports, it is second in value only to the All
Blacks' contract with adidas.
The NZRU earned $80m last year from commercial deals, 80 per
cent of its income, as businesses clamour to align themselves
with the world champions of a sport some believe is
developing into a truly global one.
Both AIG and the NZRU are bound by strict confidentiality
clauses and refused to discuss what the deal was worth.
University of Canterbury branding expert Ekant Veer said the
NZRU could have held out for more money.
"I'm surprised the NZRU would be altering 140 years of
heritage for $15 million a year. We have this incredible
history of the All Blacks and we don't like it when people
come in and try to buy our shirt."
AIG New Zealand chief executive Cris Knell said age-group and
woman's rugby could be the top beneficiaries of the extra
cash flowing through the NZRU's coffers.
Knell, an Irishman who played club rugby into his adult
years, said that AIG's global reach would ensure the sport's
profile gets a boost.
The company had a big presence in countries such as Russia,
Romania and throughout Asia, where rugby's popularity was
He indicated that AIG wanted to see the national teams play
in new territories.
"We would never put the All Blacks up against a tier two
nation. But I would love to see the Maori All Blacks play
against someone like Japan, and that's something within our
Knell said the deal with the All Blacks was about redemption
- as the company successfully battled back after a $180
billion bailout from the US Government.
NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said he had been pleasantly
surprised by public reaction to the deal.
This was partly due to an effective PR campaign by the NZRU,
which included Tew personally calling former All Black
legends to give them warning.
"I think most of the ex-All Blacks said they would rather
there just be a Silver Fern on the jersey and leave it at
that. I personally rang and told a few of them. I said we
live in a world where that isn't a realistic goal anymore.
They said if you are going to do it well, you will have my
After the deal was announced, media calls to the same legends
- men such as Colin Meads and Brian Lochore - found muted
support for the move.
The AIG $80m deal is dwarfed by the big sponsorship deals in
football. Manchester United will reap $96m from its new deal
AIG has ordered 62,000 jerseys for staff - and others will be
in stores next May.