Adidas cars go undercover to avoid jersey critics

By Hayley Hannan

A rugby fan makes a point in this defaced adidas poster on K Rd. Photo / Dean Purcell
A rugby fan makes a point in this defaced adidas poster on K Rd. Photo / Dean Purcell

All Blacks sponsor adidas has removed its distinctive branding from six company cars because staff driving them were being abused.

PR spokeswoman Sherryl Arneil said the three-stripes labels were taken off because employees were reporting "verbal threats and hand gestures" from the public.

The brand removal was offered this week to put some staff at ease, she said.

"We didn't have to but it was just the choice that we offered to some staff who felt uncomfortable."

Ms Arneil said the firm had no plans to remove branding from any more of its vehicles.

Adidas has been under attack for more than a week from retailers and consumers after it was revealed New Zealanders were being charged much more than fans in other parts of the world for replica All Black jerseys. The jerseys could be bought through websites in the US and Britain for about half the New Zealand price.

Despite the furore, adidas has refused to lower its New Zealand price.

But marketing experts do not believe that the global sports brand will suffer any long-term harm.

They also say its valuable multi-million-dollar sponsorship deal with the New Zealand Rugby Union is secure.

A nine-year contract signed in 2002 was reportedly worth $200 million.

The sum involved in the 10-year deal signed last year has not been revealed, but union chief executive Steve Tew said it was the largest in rugby history.

Auckland University sports marketing lecturer Mike Lee said the deal gave adidas the right to associate itself with the All Blacks, a trusted brand.

This led to global sales and brand loyalty for adidas, and the NZRU could spend the money as it wished.

"The money enables New Zealand to hang on to top All Blacks players ... and so from that sense it's a necessity in the world of professional sport."

Rugby chiefs weighed into the debate yesterday, saying the pricing controversy had not harmed the Rugby World Cup four weeks before the kick-off.

RWC Minister Murray McCully said yesterday that the jersey issue was a sideshow, and Rugby New Zealand 2011 chief executive Martin Snedden said the effect was zero.

- Additional reporting: Bernard Orsman

- NZ Herald

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