I am a rugby fan. I just want to say that up front. I religiously follow the All Blacks, I tune in to as many Super 15 games as I can and I’ve even managed to watch some ITM Cup games despite them being sprayed, seemingly randomly, across the week. Readers of the blog may also remember the lengths we went to last year when we were living in Siena to find a place to watch the All Black games in the Rugby World Cup – live at eight in the morning. I am a rugby fan.
So last week I was fascinated by the announcement of a new All Black sponsor – AIG Insurance – and more importantly the placing of their logo on the sacred black jersey. On the front of the jersey, in the middle, where no logo has ever gone before.
As a marketing guy by trade I had one of those heart versus head moments. The marketer in me understands the value of this sponsorship, the rationale behind it both financially and strategically and admires the ability of the NZRFU to negotiate what seems to be a great deal (rumoured to be worth up to $20m a year for the period of the sponsorship). But the rugby fan in me sees the black jersey with the new sponsors logo on the front, standing out like a target, and decries the end of a tradition of independence, and the notion that the jersey was worth more in it’s own right than emblazoned with a sponsors logo.
Yes, I know that the jersey already has another All Black sponsor’s logo on the front – Adidas – but it’s discrete and, let’s face it, they have a real stake in the jersey because they make it.
It was interesting listening to the current All Blacks talk about the sponsorship and logo. My impression was that they were also torn between the value of the sponsorship and the price in terms of the jersey changes.
But I’ll leave the last word to Dan Carter who summed things up nicely when he said in an interview – no matter what’s on the front of the jersey, it’s not going to make any difference to the way the team plays. And for this rugby fan, that’s what it’s all about.