ASB is calling on some of its heaviest lifters to draw attention to the nation's small to medium-sized businesses.

The bank has announced it would be donating its largest sponsorship asset – the All Blacks, Black Ferns and Māori All Blacks – to 100 small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) across the country.

The only catch is that the businesses have to bank with ASB to apply for the opportunity to work with one of the 50 sports stars selected to feature in the initiative.

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ASB executive general manager of business banking Tim Deane said the bank is dedicating $3 million to create and produce the 100 advertisements and purchase media placements to ensure the ads reach the right audience.

Once businesses express their interest, a judging panel made up of bank staff, business specialists and NZ Rugby representatives will select the 100 lucky organisations for the initiative.

"We want a range of businesses from right around the country, but more important than anything else, we need to support those businesses that need it most," Deane said.

Each business will receive a personalised video advertisement starring one of the players, and the campaign will be distributed to millions of Kiwis through digital media, billboards and social media.

"Depending on the business, we'll be having a look at channels that are relevant to the geography of the business," says Deane.

"You might, for instance, have a small business in a small town that ends up with their ad on a bus shelter. There'll be a mix of media relevant to the individual businesses."

In addition to the famous faces of the athletes, the businesses will also gain access to the services of ASB's advertising agency, With Collective.

"When we're working with the team at With Collective, we take a lot of guidance from them about how the creative idea should be executed, so we're taking that expertise to the small business community," says Deane.

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"The small businesses will also have creative input, but, heck, I'd imagine they'd be excited to have the creative talents of these folks to develop something they're proud of and represents their business."

This isn't the first time ASB has taken an unconventional approach to sponsorship advertising. During the ASB Tennis Classic at the beginning of the year, the bank developed a biodegradable tennis ball aimed at backyard cricket players. This was packaged together in a cute ad that took the bank's sponsorship well beyond the eyeballs of the event's 70,000 attendees.

However, this campaign ups the ante. An All Blacks sponsorship is the holy grail of endorsement deals – and companies pay eye-watering sums for the privilege to have their names associated with the team.

ASB hasn't revealed how much it paid to sponsor the All Blacks, but it wouldn't have been cheap. For a bit of context, AIG was understood to have paid $80 million in 2012 for a five-year deal to have its logo pasted across the shirts of the All Blacks, All Blacks Sevens, Māori All Blacks, New Zealand Black Ferns Sevens and New Zealand under 20 teams. That deal was renewed in 2016 and will now expire at the end of 2021.

The ads will feature All Blacks, Black Ferns and Māori All Blacks. Photo / Supplied
The ads will feature All Blacks, Black Ferns and Māori All Blacks. Photo / Supplied

Businesses that pay these huge sums for sponsorship deals are usually very protective of the asset and quickly look to snuff out any efforts by other companies to leverage an association they didn't pay for.

So is ASB worried about diluting the value of its sponsorship by sharing it with so many different organisations?

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"I'm not worried at all," is the response from Deane.

"If our customers don't survive and thrive, then we won't. I just think this about asking what the right thing is to do. And the right thing to do is to support our customers. And if we support our customers, then they'll support us. That's the motivation here."

The 100 stories told across the country will also have a direct link back to the bank. And while the focus of the campaign might be on the SMEs around the country, it will, after all, be ASB – rather than any other bank – that made it possible.

ASB also has a major interest in supporting SMEs, given the importance of these businesses to the economy.

"Over 600,000 jobs and a quarter of GDP comes from small businesses," Deane points out.

"We bank about a fifth to a quarter of those small businesses nationwide, so we knew we had to do a whole bunch of things other than what a bank normally does to support small business."

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"We all know someone who has owned, worked in or frequents a small business, but with limited resources, we know many small businesses aren't able to market themselves sufficiently at a time where it's so crucial for revenue."

Businesses will from today be able to lodge their interest and the campaigns are set to kick off in August.