All Blacks to bear sponsor’s logo after deal signed with insurance giant AIG
Sponsorship deal with insurance giant has delighted some, but angered traditionalists
Agence France-Presse in Wellington
For the first time in the 107-year history of the world's most successful rugby team, the New Zealand All Blacks jersey will have a sponsor's logo emblazoned across the front.
The All Blacks rugby jersey will bear the logo of AIG after the New Zealand Rugby Union yesterday signed a 5½-year sponsorship deal with the American insurance giant.
The logo of German sportswear manufacturer Adidas has been displayed on the jersey, beside the traditional silver fern symbol of New Zealand, since 1999.
The Adidas logo will remain on the right side of the jersey while the larger AIG logo, in white lettering, will now dominate the front of the jersey.
NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said the decision to add the AIG logo was not taken lightly.
"Like all New Zealanders we greatly respect the proud heritage of the black jersey which is why the NZRU consulted with senior players and others as we carefully weighed up this latest move," Tew said.
"On balance, it is a very positive opportunity to secure the additional funds that we need to safeguard the future of the game in this country."
The value of the sponsorship with AIG has not been disclosed but Tew said the insurer would become New Zealand rugby's major global sponsor.
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, a veteran of 112 tests in the black jersey, expressed his support for the deal, although it was unlikely to be warmly welcomed by New Zealand traditionalists.
Fans rallied to social media, news webites and the All Blacks' own website to express strong views. Within hours of the announcement, reaction seemed to be running more than two to one against the logo being added.
New Zealand rugby teams have worn an all-black outfit since their first steps into international rugby more than a century ago. It was during New Zealand's tour to Britain in 1905 that a British journalist reportedly bestowed on the team the All Blacks' name that they have carried ever since.
On the All Blacks website, one disgruntled fan said the team had "sold out to corporate interests" and the New Zealand union "just messed with over a century of history".
Those in favour argued New Zealand needed to generate income to ensure it retained top players who might otherwise leave to join clubs overseas.
But others described the move as "distasteful" and questioned the choice of AIG. The company faced a liquidity crisis during 2008 which required federal intervention. It is now listed as one of the 40 largest companies in the world.