A NZ Herald editorial on Saturday 6 June discussed a possible deal between the NZ All Blacks and the American company, and opposed the deal. It had this to say:
To prevent the undermining of the All Black brand, the New Zealand Rugby Union has jealously guarded its trademarks and copyrights.
It is all the more surprising, therefore, that it could be contemplating an advertising logo across the front of the All Black jersey. The suitor is reported to be insurance company AIG.
The rugby union has not denied the suggestion, and says it is talking to several potential sponsors in the lead-up to the Rugby Championship.
Advertising on the All Black jersey would not be new. There was a discreet Steinlager logo in the mid-1990s. That was not well received by many fans. The name of an American insurer with a problematic profile emblazoned across the front of the playing strip would be many times more intrusive and would, therefore, create a far greater furore.
The level of opposition should lead the rugby union to reconsider. So, too, should the prospect of damage to the All Black brand.
A black jersey adorned only with a silver fern and the manufacturer’s moniker makes a powerful statement. Not for nothing does it have a worldwide status akin to that of Italy’s soccer shirt, a strip also noted for its commercial-free purity.
If the All Blacks went the way of the Wallabies, the Springboks and British rugby sides, it would only devalue that status.
The All Blacks would become just another team, and any immediate financial gain would have to be balanced against the long-term implications of a serious diminishing of the brand.
I agree that we should oppose the deal, but for a fundamentally different reason. The Herald editorial surrenders before it even begins the fight, because it concedes that “All Black” is merely a brand.
“Coca Cola” is a brand. “L’Oreal”, “Colgate”, “Ford”, “Apple”, “Microsoft”, “Mobil”, Betty Crocker”, etc are brands. You get the idea…
“All Black” properly should be grouped with words or phrases like “Anzac”, “New Zealand”, “New Zealander”, or “Maori”. While they all have powerful brand value (the successes of our tourist, film and dairy industries illustrate that very clearly) none of them are brands, none should ever be brands. They are much more than that – they are definitive identifiers. They are who and what we are, and are not for sale, not to be qualified by tags of commercial ownership or patronage. Can you imagine it – the Mobil Anzacs, the Hyundai New Zealanders? Changing the iconic TVNZ programme “Country Calendar” to “Hyundai Country Calendar” is bad enough, thanks. But in TVNZ’s defence, they did create the programme and own it and the name outright. It is entirely their business if they choose to diminish their own brand for commercial reasons, and all I can do is express sadness that they found it necessary to do so.
The NZRU did not create the All Blacks name. In this case, “Diminishing the brand” doesn’t even begin to describe the issue. If we describe the proud name of our national side as a brand, the damage is already done, because we have already diminished it.
It’s OK to allow that the All Blacks are “proudly sponsored by AIG”, and we could acknowledge it with an AIG logo discreetly placed on the Jersey in the same way as the Adidas logo is now. But to emblazon the AIG or any other logo across the front of the jersey is too close to calling our team “The AIG All Blacks”.
No. The name is not for sale. Neither is the All Black jersey. Let’s leave that kind of sell-out to the Wallabies and Springboks.