Image is everything - well at least when it comes to big brands.

When New Zealand's national men's sevens side lost to Japan at the Rio Olympics, Japanese media outlets loudly proclaimed "Japan beat the All Blacks". They weren't technically incorrect and that's a worry.

New Zealand Rugby has always fiercely protected its global brand but in 2012 they decided to dilute the product by giving the All Blacks moniker to the men's national sevens and Maori sides.

A reputation built for over a century has been minimised in the name of financial success. Granted, NZR need money to maintain the game in New Zealand but this opened up the possibility of indenting chinks into that armour.


The All Blacks name is known pretty much around the globe - even in the basketball/baseball/American football-crazed USA.

Most people probably couldn't tell you who started at centre for the All Blacks in their 2003 World Cup semifinal defeat to Australia, but they know the All Blacks name (it was Crusaders fullback Leon MacDonald by the way).

If anyone other than the All Blacks should be allowed to carry that brand, it surely has to be the Black Ferns.

With their enthralling 41-32 Women's Rugby World Cup final victory over England, they secured their fifth title. The All Blacks currently have three.

The Black Ferns, much like their male counterparts, are the most exciting team in the world. They're bigger, faster and stronger.

Their match garnered twice the audience of an average Premier League football fixture in England, which is no mean feat.

Surely they should be able to carry the prestige of the All Blacks label - should they want to.

If the All Blacks brand was to be bestowed on to them, you would think there would be an increase in funding and potentially a move towards the professionalism of the women's game.

That won't happen as it isn't financially viable to do so.

In an ideal situation the only teams to carry the moniker would be the national men's and women's sides. Sevens is a different game and the New Zealand Maori is a better label for that particular team.

Akira Ioane (left), Tim Mikkelson and Rieko Ioane dejected after the All Blacks Sevens' poor performance at the Rio Olympics. Their loss to Japan spurred controversial headlines. Photo /
Akira Ioane (left), Tim Mikkelson and Rieko Ioane dejected after the All Blacks Sevens' poor performance at the Rio Olympics. Their loss to Japan spurred controversial headlines. Photo /

The All Blacks name carries a reputation of success, dominance and prestige. The Black Ferns have all those traits in spades.

It would make sense, maybe not financially, but marketing-wise to rename the Black Ferns. But maybe the players don't want that.

Unlike the All Blacks, the Black Ferns have a squeaky-clean record in terms of any controversy. They never put a foot wrong.

Maybe that's down to the semi-professionalism of the side. Most of the players hold down fulltime work while coming together for short periods of time to dominate female rugby so they aren't necessarily protected by the safety net that is a contract with NZR.

It seems every other week there's something in the news about male rugby players (justified or not) while the only thing you hear about our female stars is their on-field successes.

Would NZR not rather have that great publicity under their global brand rather than a sevens side that couldn't make it through the group stages at the Rio Olympics or win a tournament on the IRB World Series circuit all year?

Or is it purely money that's the driving factor? If so it's a sad day and potentially a giant black mark on New Zealand sport's most bankable asset.