Banking on Black: All Blacks deal paying off for AIG

Chief executive of AIG Insurance NZ, Cris Knell says the company is using the All Blacks sponsorship to build brand recognition. Photo / Norrie Montgomery
Chief executive of AIG Insurance NZ, Cris Knell says the company is using the All Blacks sponsorship to build brand recognition. Photo / Norrie Montgomery

Insurance giant American International Group says it has already got business benefits from its sponsorship of the All Blacks.

Chief executive of AIG Insurance NZ, Cris Knell, said the firm had got a number of leads since announcing its five-year deal in October.

Although the All Blacks deal is AIG's big international sports sponsorship, in New Zealand it hopes to use it to build brand recognition and move beyond its mainly small business and corporate focus.

The company also suffered brand confusion with IAG - owner of NZI, AMI and State Insurance brands - and he said it was important to differentiate itself.

"We also have an ambition in the group to put more emphasis in consumer business," Knell said.

This could include travel insurance. Based on Insurance Council statistics, AIG had roughly 3.3 per cent of a total insurance market in New Zealand worth almost $4 billion.

Knell said from 2006 to 2010 AIG sponsored Manchester United primarily as a way of building brand recognition in Asia.

"We used to be the biggest company that nobody had heard of."

That changed in 2008 when on the brink of collapse it required the first of its bailout funding which reached US$182 billion.

Last month it repaid the last of the funds after it sold assets, scaled back on derivative bets and halved its staff to around 60,000.

The decision to look for a new big international brand came as the company's financial rehabilitation neared completion.

"When we first started looking at this situation this was predicated ... on the recovery path to make full repayment of the US taxpayer support," Knell said.

"We really felt that as an organisation we had a lot of pride in coming through the challenges that we were faced with and we wanted to be able to associate with this [team]."

AIG's director of global branding Mark Clowes said the company worked for almost a year before taking the plunge with the All Blacks.

"All the research we've seen is that the All Blacks is an extremely large brand," Clowes said.

"We looked at a lot of different sports properties and did a lot of research and due diligence on this and in terms of an iconic prestigious franchise - and by most measures with the winningest record in sport - we viewed that as a winning combination."

The appearance of the AIG logo on the All Blacks jersey coincided with a couple of setbacks, a disappointing draw and a trouncing by England at Twickenham, mirroring another result at that ground against France in 1999 when then new sponsor adidas had come on board.

Clowes said AIG was not worried.

"Those are short term one-offs - we're in this relationship for five plus years and well potentially past that so it's not a concern at all."

- NZ Herald

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