By Wynne Gray

The All Blacks evolved from their jersey colour into common usage and global acceptance.


It is a significant international sporting brand and it’s little wonder that rivals without a deep knowledge of NZ rugby, would trumpet sevens victories as triumphs against the All Blacks.

Major TV networks and media outlets in the United States have ridden that bandwagon across the weekend of victories against the NZ sevens team in Dubai; one even declared: “Holy crap! We beat the All Blacks.” They were terrific results in a year when NZ is putting an extra emphasis on an Olympic gold medal target in Rio.

Sponsors like AIG won’t give a fig about fudging team names as long as they get continuing exposure for their brand across the globe.

They’ve got six teams in their Kiwi portfolio from the All Blacks to the NZ under 20 side and also managed to slip All Black in front of the sevens side. The Maori All Blacks and Junior All Blacks have been around for yonks although the latter appear to have morphed into the NZ under 20s.

NZR will argue that rugby even in such a stronghold as New Zealand, will suffer unless it works in conjunction with a number of major sponsors. Another example happened today when the range of adidas jerseys for next year’s Super rugby series were revealed.

Agreed. Sport needs strong commercial partnerships to assist their multi-pronged business and AIG is a massive contributor to that NZR cause.

But NZR does not need to emulate those sports sides whose identities have been overtaken by their sponsors or twisted to piggyback the tradition and success of their nameplate side.

In New Zealand rugby that side is the All Blacks. Just one side or squad, now that the players’ collective has eaten deeper into the system, not several teams as we seem to be pushing.

All Black sevens – no thanks. It’s a marketing ploy aimed at global audiences at the Olympics and while that appearance will bring more eyeballs to the game and New Zealand, sevens and the All Blacks should not be connected.

Our athletes will go to the Olympics as sportsmen and women representing New Zealand.

Continued below.

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I’m sure I’ve got that right. Our team won’t march around the opening and closing ceremonies under the All Black flag will they?

They won’t have AIG or other sponsors attached to their uniforms but in the meantime, NZR is doing its best to penetrate deeper into the global sporting consciousness by splintering the All Black brand.

When the descriptive All Black term emerged early last century, no one would have imagined where it would end up now. It was about one team then and should be now.

The All Blacks are the peak of our national game, a term to be treasured and protected instead of being cast wider and wider with each sponsor’s investment