New Zealand's rugby World Cup triumph: All Blacks' ethos holds up sponsorship riches

Captain Richie McCaw of New Zealand holds up the Webb Ellis Cup after winning the Rugby World Cup Final against Australia at Twickenham in London on Oct 31, 2015.
Captain Richie McCaw of New Zealand holds up the Webb Ellis Cup after winning the Rugby World Cup Final against Australia at Twickenham in London on Oct 31, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - Richie McCaw and his fellow All Black stars clear up the dressing room after each game in a gesture that might horrify multi-millionaire footballers.

It is part of the team-comes-first ethos that has made New Zealand - who won an unprecedented third World Cup title on Saturday - the most respected rugby force of the past half-century.

"Everyone tidies up," Joe Locke, All Blacks team spokesman, told AFP.

Rugby traditions die hard in New Zealand. And resistance to change also partly explains why the All Black brand was valued this year at just US$132 million (S$185 million) while Manchester United's name weighs in at more than US$1 billion, analysts said.

"When you compare it to other sporting brands, Manchester United and some of the American codes, it is absolutely tiny in comparison," Bryn Anderson, chief operating officer for the Brand Finance consultancy, which carried out the study, told AFP.

United's annual revenues are about US$700 million a year while New Zealand revealed about US$80 million in commercial revenues for 2014.

New Zealand have major sponsor deals with insurance giant AIG and German kit maker adidas.

New Zealand media said AIG is paying about US$10 million a year to put its name on the All Black jersey next to the famous silver fern badge. The adidas deal is reportedly worth slightly more.

Adidas this year signed a 10-year deal with Manchester United worth US$1.1 billion however. And US car manufacturer Chevrolet has a seven-year deal with United worth about US$80 million a year to put its name on the team shirt.

Comparing rugby with the English Premier League and the United States' National Basketball Association is an "unfair fight", according to Paul Smith, chief executive of the Repucom sports data company.

The All Blacks also suffer because New Zealand has a population of just over four million, he added.

But Anderson and Smith said the All Blacks are not exploiting all their opportunities and that revenues would grow.

"Globally they are acknowledged as one of the great sporting brands," Smith told AFP.

"The All Blacks (brand) almost transcends rugby. It is almost a bigger brand than rugby," added Anderson.

But the All Blacks' status as a national institution has held them back, according to the Brand Finance chief.

"New Zealand people think they are shareholders in this brand, it is not just the New Zealand Rugby Union, not just the team.

"And they have a say when the All Blacks try and go off into new commercial avenues and new opportunities. Every New Zealander has their say and sometimes there was death by committee."

He highlighted examples when the All Blacks had found new sponsors and put their names on planes for example.

"People said, 'You are getting too big for your boots'."

Even some former All Black players were opposed when the New Zealand Rugby Union announced the deal with AIG that they considered demeaning to the silver fern symbol.

Anderson said the All Blacks were starting to realise their worth and said they should learn from Ferrari.

"In motor sport, it is the strongest brand and goes beyond motor sport. They have got stores, they have licensing deals they have a merchandise name.

"They are streets ahead of the All Black brand and I put the All Blacks and Ferrari in a very similar position really."

Experts believe the growth of rugby worldwide, particularly its return to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro next year with a sevens contest, will help the All Blacks and other teams.

"Lots of investment is going to come into rugby now because of the Olympics," said Smith.

He said rugby had to target growth in the US, where it is increasingly popular in colleges.

World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper said this week that two major Chinese companies, which he did not name, had approached the governing body at the World Cup to find out how they could get involved in the sport.