Adidas has refused to budge over the price of its All Black jerseys - and is trying to block online-savvy Kiwis from buying cheaper versions overseas.
The sportswear giant last night went on a public relations offensive, suggesting New Zealanders understood they were supporting local rugby when they bought a jersey and saying the price reflected adidas' investment in the game.
But the comments have been labelled ridiculous, and one leading PR company says the launch of the new jerseys has quickly turned sour.
Rebel Sport is to make a "significant" announcement later today, following a meeting of its top management.
The company's general manager met yesterday with adidas to discuss the high jersey price, but Rod Duke was said to be unhappy with the outcome.
The black jerseys, with the trademark white collar and Rugby World Cup branding, cost between $190 and $220 in New Zealand.
But they are selling for $96.50 on a US website and $128 on a British site, excluding postage and packaging.
It emerged last night that as well as digging in on not dropping the price for New Zealand fans, adidas is also trying to block cheap imports through online retailers.
One American website, worldrugbyshop.com, sells the jerseys for nearly half the New Zealand price.
But the website no longer lists New Zealand as a shipping option.
A website representative, Tanya Hoston, told One News that adidas' distribution policies "limit our sale of this product outside the United States".
Asked if adidas told the site to remove New Zealand from the distribution list, Ms Hoston said: "From the information I'm receiving, I believe that is true."
Adidas said last night that New Zealanders "know they are supporting New Zealand rugby when they buy a replica All Blacks jersey".
"We invest millions of dollars in Kiwi rugby from grassroots through to the All Blacks, including a major investment in the state-of-the-art All Black jersey," said country manager David Huggett.
"The price of the All Blacks jersey is comparable to other licensed replica jerseys being sold in NZ."
The company's position immediately came under fire.
"I think that's a bit rich," said Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin. "Adidas aren't doing it for the goodwill, they're doing it because it's fantastic for their brand. Adidas is a commercial organisation and it's likely they are doing it because it's a winning formula."
Ms Chetwin said it was time for adidas to listen to the growing number of public and retailers' complaints.
"I think adidas should read the writing on the wall ... adidas should take notice and drop the price."
The head of public relations firm Pead PR, Deborah Pead, said adidas had taken the New Zealand consumer for granted.
"It has misjudged the NZ audience and, notwithstanding its investment in the rugby industry, in this instance it has let its loyal fans down and its fans are angry."
The launch of the jersey at the first game of the Tri-Nations series was a PR triumph and could not have been scripted better, Ms Pead said.
"But it turned sour very quickly when NZ consumers and All Black fans realised they'd been taken for granted.
"From a reputation perspective it needs to rethink its pricing structure on this matter and show greater support to NZ retailers and NZ fans."
Rebel Sport general manager Rod Duke, who held a meeting with adidas yesterday over the high prices, said the decision was unsatisfactory and he was unhappy with his talks with the company.
He has called a meeting today with other Rebel Sport leaders to discuss whether the company should drop the jersey price at the cost of its own profit margin.
"We're going to make some hard decisions and we're going to be very, very bold."
He's called a media conference at 11am to follow the meeting, at which Rebel Sport says he'll make a "significant" announcement.
Mr Duke said that despite negotiations lasting until late afternoon, adidas was determined to keep the original price.
"They were fairly well entrenched and they believe the price of the mark-up is the price they want to sell to me at. If I want to make any movement, then I have to take it over to my margin," he told Newstalk ZB.
"It's disappointing because this particular brand and the people working that business have done a fabulous job for NZ sport but I just think they've dropped this particular ball."
After yesterday's meeting with Mr Duke, adidas said the American, British and New Zealand prices reflected each individual market.
"We're comfortable our price to the local retail trade is a reasonable one," Mr Huggett said.