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All Black brand will win regardless of Cup outcome

Media Release
For Immediate Release
14/10/03

News release
All Black brand will win, regardless of World Cup outcome

More than just the players are competing at this year’s Rugby World Cup according to an Associate Professor at the University of Otago's School of Physical Education.

Dr Steve Jackson says while the team might be representing the hopes and dreams of all New Zealanders they are also representing the interests of several multinational companies, in particular adidas, who will be seeking to capitalise commercially on its enormous investment in New Zealand rugby.

“As one of the world’s largest sporting events – next to soccer’s World Cup and the Olympics – the Rugby World Cup attracts thousands of spectators at the games and enormous television audiences internationally. It is therefore a great opportunity for companies to promote their products.”

He says like it or not, our sporting teams are expressive of our national identity.

“In the case of New Zealand and the All Blacks, the linkage is extremely strong. Adidas has commented that only in Brazil do you get such a powerful link between a nation and a sporting team (in this case soccer) as you do in New Zealand.”

Dr Jackson says when adidas established a major sponsorship deal with the New Zealand Rugby Union, it was aware of the power of the traditions and myths associated with the All Blacks and for a multinational commercial enterprise, it risked a major backlash if it was seen to tamper with this ideal. However, he comments its marketing strategy was extremely clever and has focused on tradition and nostalgia, effectively creating a history in which it can participate and claim as its own.

“Many kiwis would prefer that the adidas logo did not stand alongside the silver fern on All Black jerseys or that the NZRU had to depend on Rupert Murdoch for television rights funding. It is also no surprise that there are increasing debates about contracts and intellectual property rights.”

The first sign of this emerged in 2000 when members of the Ngäti Toa tribe, whose ancestor Chief supposedly invented the Ka Mate haka, filed a lawsuit against the NZRU and adidas seeking financial compensation for its use.

More recently the NZRU has faced criticism from Don “the Boot” Clarke‘s widow who was justifiably upset about the use of his image in a recent Mastercard television advertisement without any prior consultation or consent.

“The All Blacks embody the complexity of contemporary corporate sport. They are a brand and a commodity and yet we retain a sense of collective ownership, however mythical. The All Blacks, like New Zealand itself, are a valuable commodity, one that is increasingly at play and at risk within a global economy that has no real loyalty to any team or nation,” concludes Dr Jackson.

ENDS

Note to Editors:
Dr Steve Jackson specialises in the socio-cultural analysis of sport. He won one of the nation’s top tertiary teaching awards, the Tertiary Education Teaching Award for excellence, this year.


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