Rugby chiefs have signed a sponsorship deal that could put a new advertising logo on the All Blacks' jerseys and shorts for their end-of-season tour of Britain, sources say.
The Herald understands the New Zealand Rugby Union has secured a multimillion-dollar, five-year deal with insurance company AIG, which will replace truck maker Iveco as one of the All Blacks' main sponsors.
The All Black kit now carries the logo of main sponsor adidas.
An announcement on the sponsorship will be made at a meeting at Auckland's Viaduct Harbour today.
A source said the deal would also mean changes to the New Zealand Maori and Sevens' playing gear before changes to the All Blacks' kit.
But the All Blacks' shorts and jersey sleeves could be carrying the AIG logo as early as their tour to the United Kingdom, which starts with a test against Scotland in Edinburgh on November 11.
The NZRU would not comment on specifics yesterday, but did not deny developments with a new sponsor.
"Commercial discussions are always confidential until we are ready to announce anything," said the union's commercial general manager, Mark Adam.
"But it is no secret that we have been seeking a new global partner to replace Iveco for some time and we are happy with progress."
Sponsorship consultant Murray Stott said the AIG deal was likely to be worth millions of dollars.
It would align the All Blacks brand with other sporting heavyweights and expose it further to international audiences.
"With AIG you can bet your bottom dollar it's tens of millions. It would have to be; they wouldn't be interested in something for anything less."
Asked how he thought the development would be received by All Black fans, Mr Stott said they needed to be realistic. "You have to get real and move on."
In July, Jed Thian, who runs the Alternative Rugby Commentary website, told the Herald a sponsorship deal with AIG was imminent.
Mr Thian said that while in Hong Kong, he had spoken to a highly placed AIG source who told him the insurance company had secured the deal with the All Blacks.
NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said at that time that the union was discussing opportunities with several potential sponsors.
"Like any commercial organisation we are not able to discuss any of those details until both parties have reached agreement. But ... adidas is our principal partner and that contract extends to 2019 and underpins rugby in this country."
AIG was a sponsor of British soccer giants Manchester United from 2006 to 2010 in a deal worth more than $100 million.
But the insurer aroused anger in its homeland when, in 2008, it had to be bailed out four times by the United States Government.
To beat the bad publicity, it changed its name to Chartis in 2009, reverting to AIG in July this year once the outrage had subsided.
A risky move, specialist warns
The America International Group sells insurance in New Zealand through its Chartis brand. A recent Forbes list ranked it the 29th-largest public company in the world - though in 2008, its credit rating was downgraded and it received bailout help from the US Government.
Otago University lecturer John Guthrie, who specialises in sport marketing, said the New Zealand Rugby brand - especially the All Blacks - was so highly respected there would be risks bringing in a non-sporting sponsor.
"We've always held up the All Blacks as the example of the ultimate sport brand ... . You wonder if they need to risk damaging that."
- Michael Dickison
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