All Blacks end 21-year sponsorship with Coca-Cola, sign deal with Pepsi

The New Zealand Rugby Union has ended a two-decade long commercial relationship with Coca-Cola by signing a deal with Pepsi.

The new five-year partnership will see the All Blacks linked to Gatorade, rather than Coca-Cola owned Powerade, the rugby union said in a statement. NZRU first signed a sponsorship deal with Coca-Cola in 1995, and it was last renewed in 2012.

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No financial details of the deal have been released. The most recent set of accounts published by the NZRU for calendar 2014 show it had commercial income of just over $87 million dollars, just under 75 percent of its total income of $121 million dollars.

NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said "we were looking for an instantly recognisable, global brand with the scale to help us increase the profile of the New Zealand game and our teams overseas so a partnership with Gatorade made sense on many levels".

The rugby union's relationship with Coca-Cola had been controversial in recent years. In 2014 campaigners against sugary drinks described the sponsorship as inappropriate and an embarrassment, although the deal was defended by Coca-Cola and the NZRU. Coca-Cola launched a 50,000 limited edition 440ml can emblazoned with the All-Blacks shirt last November, to mark victory in the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.

In New Zealand, Gatorade is made and marketed by Suntory-owned Frucor Beverages in South Auckland.

In a statement, Coca-Cola said it had been a "long standing" partner of the All Blacks. The company said "our current contract with the All Blacks expired in December 2015 and we did not renew the contract. We will however continue our support of New Zealand sport through a number of our sports sponsorships. We wish the All Blacks all the best for the future."

- BusinessDesk

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