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FEATURE Have the All Blacks reconfirmed their status as rugby's most prized asset?

Have the All Blacks reconfirmed their status as rugby's most prized asset?
7 months ago

For the players, an All Blacks’ World Cup triumph would have been worth $150,000 – the pre-agreed bonus each member of the squad would have received if they had defeated South Africa.

But for New Zealand Rugby, the potential lost value of a fourth All Blacks World Cup title, is much harder to assess.

There would have been a direct and immediate financial impact in the form of bonus payments from their sponsors.

Adidas, which has been the All Blacks apparel partner since 1999, has long had a World Cup bonus clause in the contract – one that is estimated to be worth about $5 million.

It’s probable, too, that other sponsors – particular front-of-jersey naming rights holder Altrad and performance partner, Ineos – will also have signed contracts with similar World Cup bonus payments attached.

The players of New Zealand perform the Haka prior to kick-off ahead of the Rugby World Cup France 2023 semi-final match between Argentina and New Zealand at Stade de France on October 20, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by World Rugby – Handout/World Rugby via Getty Images)

But the real value would have come from the victory deepening the mystique of the All Blacks brand.

This, after all, is what the All Blacks trade on – their story. It’s why they have sponsors lining up to back them and millions of fans, in New Zealand and further afield, who genuinely love the team and what they have achieved since the early 1900s.

The All Blacks have a uniquely compelling record, having won 78 per cent of their tests, a number which jumps to 85 per cent in the professional era.

No other international team can claim anything remotely comparable and it’s this dominance, combined with the team projecting itself as one whose values are built on humility, unity, perseverance, innovation and dedication to excellence which has attracted such volumes of commercial attention.

As former New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said in 2011: “The more you win, the more people want to be associated with your organisation, team and brand.

“The strength of the All Blacks brand is it wins at a rate of around 80 per cent of games and in the professional era that has risen to the mid-80s. That is unparalleled by any other sporting entity at our kind of level.

The All Blacks attract plenty of commercial attention just by being the All Blacks.

“When we’re trying to get into particular sponsors’ doors, that is what gets us through the door.”

When Silver Lake valued the All Blacks at $3.5bn in 2021, the US fund manager did so based on the team’s history and winning legacy since 1905.

To value a team that highly, it has to be because there is certainty about who they are and what they represent, and that certainty only comes through longevity of excellence.

The All Blacks attract plenty of commercial attention just by being the All Blacks.

Last year they turned over a record $270m despite it being one of their worst seasons – performance-wise – of the professional era.

That’s the beauty of being so good for so long, it enables the tough years to be seen as blips, tiny aberrations that make the inevitably long-runs of success that more piquant.

A fan of New Zealand shows their support amongst the crowd prior to the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Quarter Final match between Ireland and New Zealand at Stade de France on October 14, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

But the question now is whether there amazing revival from the depths of where they were in July 2022 to the World Cup final will be enough to attract yet more commercial interest, or will defeat in the final have spoiled the redemption story?

It’s an interesting question to ponder because New Zealand Rugby has taken a huge risk in partnering with private equity partner Silver Lake, as the deal requires the national body to pay an annual distribution of almost 6 per cent of its revenue to the American fund manager.

The whole deal is predicated on this idea that the new investors can magically grow income, but this growth plan requires the All Blacks to continue to engage and mesmerise the public.

While it was an incredible journey by the All Blacks to make the final, they didn’t win and now the Springboks, as back-to-back champions and the only country to have secured four titles, have the sort of story (in the short-term at least) to compete with the All Blacks.

Interestingly, Tew made those comments the day before the 2011 World Cup final between the All Blacks and France.

AIG liked the legacy of the All Blacks, but what first caught their attention was the World Cup victory.

He was trying to explain that victory for the All Blacks would add to their story but wouldn’t radically – not in the long-run at least -improve the commercial prospects of the team.

But winning the World Cup in 2011 and then creating history by becoming the first team to retain the title in 2015, had considerably greater commercial impact for the All Blacks than anyone anticipated.

A few months after winning the 2011 tournament, Tew was invited to Dubrovnik where he effectively negotiated a front-of-jersey sponsorship with AIG worth about US$80m over five years.

AIG liked the legacy of the All Blacks, but what first caught their attention was the World Cup victory, and if Richie McCaw hadn’t lifted the Webb Ellis trophy at Eden Park, it is unlikely the Americans would ever have been inclined to initiate the deal.

(Photo by Richard Heathcote – World Rugby via Getty Images/World Rugby via Getty Images)

This was a deal that changed everything for the All Blacks. AIG were a big, big fish and it highlighted that the All Blacks were now attracting the interest of international corporations.

And having an international partner such as AIG seemed to attract other international partners and now the All Blacks have sponsorships with German technology group SAP, Japanese pharmaceutical giant Taisho and Swiss watchmaker Tudor.

In the 12 years since the All Blacks won the 2011 World Cup, NZR’s income has almost trebled.

After winning in 2015, the All Blacks secured a deal with Amazon Prime to make All or Nothing, a behind the scenes journey with the team through the British and Irish Lions tour and Rugby Championship of 2017.

If the All Blacks had won in 2023, they would have been able to produce their own in-house documentary to show on the recently set-up NZR+ streaming platform.

What isn’t clear yet is whether, despite not winning in France, the All Blacks did enough to add to their legacy given the nature of the whole last World Cup cycle.

A victory also would have been beneficial in helping NZR win clients for its recently launched All Blacks Performance Labs programme.

This is an executive coaching programme built on selling corporate leaders the values and ideas which have made the All Blacks so successful.

But what isn’t clear yet is whether, despite not winning in France, the All Blacks did enough to add to their legacy given the nature of the whole last World Cup cycle.

The All Blacks were in turmoil in 2022 – just 16 months out from the tournament.

They had to fire two assistant coaches and came within a whisker of also axing head coach Ian Foster.

They lost the last two Tests of 2021 and then four of their first six in 2022, which included three consecutive home defeats for the first time in history.

A decade of building led to a historic Series win over the All Blacks in New Zealand (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

It was chaos and as Foster said two days before the final when he was ked to talk about the adversity he and the team had faced: “I’ve just started to get my back nice and straight from last year and now you’re trying to make me hunch over again.

“It’s the life in this business. It’s a tough game when you’re trying to get your performance right. And it’s a tough game when people around you see things differently. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves.”

In August last year, no one was backing the All Blacks to win the World Cup. They looked cooked and ready to come to France and flop out in the quarter-final.

And so to be leaving a missed goal-kick away from being world champions having endured such a prolonged period of turbulence may heighten this sense that the All Blacks have a depth of resilience that no other team can match.

It could accentuate all the qualities that epitomise the last 120 years or so and serves as proof almost, that the All Blacks are rugby’s most prized asset in the way they have such institutional power to regenerate and rejuvenate.


Bob Marler 219 days ago

No they haven’t.

David 223 days ago

Is the haka still a thing? Think Sam got so amped doing the haka he mistook Kriel an enemy combatant and tried to take his head off?


Jon 223 days ago

It is repeated that this was 12 years ago, without realising this was 12 years. It is nothing like the same market and just because you lost the Cup this year doesn’t mean you can’t make a documentary. That idea is absurd.

It is quite simply, a brilliant story.

atawhai 223 days ago

Of course winning is important, and you want to win as many tournaments and cups as possible, because sponsors like winners. And history is a good thing, because not many teams have legacy and a history of being winners. But, you also need to be current. And you need to be a threat. The truth is, you have up and down years. You can have a streak of wins, like Ireland learned, and with one off day, its gone. So, a key thing is that you need to be a team that causes the opposition to worry and be genuinely concerned. And this is where the ABs still have magic. Because as Ireland learned, and given how far they pushed the Saffers with only 14 men, you can tink the ABs are down, but you would be fkn stupid to count them out. And it’s facts!! So big ups to Fozzy, Sam, Nuggey, Ardie and the lads for giving it their all, keepin the faith, and against all odds, getting to the big dance. No, you didn’t win the cup, but you wiped the smirk of many faces, and made sure that only the foolish write off an All Blacks side.

JD Kiwi 224 days ago

We're Brazil, South Africa are Germany. So long as Brazil were at or near the top they sold far more shirts and sponsorships around the world because they played beautiful football.

The Boks won't generate the same sort of love from the neutrals while their rugby is so negative and people remember Rassie's video nasty. He's loved in South Africa but not internationally. The transformation angle is positive though.

We have the flair, the All Black strip, the haka, the footage of Jonah and Catt. NZ as a whole has a positive worldwide image. But we need to stay at or near the top.

Snash 224 days ago

Bring on Razor v Rassie. With their players benefiting from URC involvement / rise of Celtic and EU rugby, Boks star is ascending, while ABs, shorn of physical conditioning of playing Saffas for eg, appears to be in decline

Pecos 224 days ago

There’s no doubt the All Blacks are World Rugby’s biggest global brand & the haka plays a big part in that. You only need to look at World Rugby’s youtube video list where the haka features in nine of the top 10, including #1. When it comes to branding, the haka’s a winner. But it’s more than that. It’s how we do rugby in the South Pacific. Cultural exchange between PI nations freely given freely received. And freely given right back in ya face. With respect.

The All Blacks’ rugby pedigree speaks for itself. I mean, for example, the Home Unions have only beaten us in SIXTEEN test matches out of 149 tests played. A pitiful record. The British & Irish Lions’ record is just as pathetic. But it explains why the haka & the “aura” (whatever that means) are constantly under attack by the Home Union fans & media. On game day they will drown out or mock the haka but not the sipi tau, siva tau, or the cibi. Being belted across two centuries clearly hurts deeply.

Driss 224 days ago

All blacks always will be the team more bankable and with Razor coming, they will become again number 1.
Who can believe that boks cheaters with a shit game are bankable seriously ?? No one in the world likes this shit team except their fans !
All blacks always will be the reference in the rugby and Razor will make them winning in 2027 !

Dr A 224 days ago

Gregor, I think only we, ABs fans, seem to think that we command some form of fantasy status in world rugby. Make no mistake of the devaluation factor the last four years have had on the jersey coupled with the very meteoric rise of the European powers.

And then there’s the Boks. We bring the force of the colour ‘Black’ and it is a force to be reckoned with. However, the rainbow nation, I think through the Boks have uncorked an incredible legacy doused in the history and aroma of the cradle of civilisation, Africa. Throw in their chequered human rights history, apartheid, the third world struggle, the crime stats and what you have is a real solid marketing brand perhaps now ready to supercede the AB’s.

And of course. They now have not only equalled the Back2back bragging rights we have, but also trump carded us with four world cups.

All an entirely self inflicted devaluation from the NZRU as well might I add.

grant 224 days ago

Very interesting read. Would love to see a similar piece on the Boks? They seem to always be in turmoil with budget deficits a regular in the past. Would be fascinating to see how a world cup win may boost revenue unseen before. And what has the back-to-back done for the brand? If winning the double for the All Blacks created such financial interest it would be fascinating to see how the first team to win four titles fairs financially. The addition of Nike surely has boosted this?

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