New Zealand Rugby are in talks with the world's richest company for what is believed would be the biggest jersey sponsorship in rugby history – but any deal would come with a surprising twist. Gregor Paul reports.
Amazon are talking to New Zealand Rugby about becoming the All Blacks' front of jersey sponsor from 2022 - a deal worth in excess of $20 million a year.
The Herald understands that discussions with the tech giant have been ongoing for months, with the world's richest company eager to strike a meaningful alliance with the All Blacks.
It's not known if Amazon has preferred bidder status, but well-placed sources have said they believe the US conglomerate has made a strong bid to take over as lead sponsor from AIG. It is understood there are also other options on the table.
New Zealand Rugby is also believed to be close to confirming that Ineos will sponsor the back of the All Blacks shorts from next year – with the combined value of those deals sitting upwards of $30m, making the famous playing kit the most lucrative in world rugby.
The existing deal with US insurance group AIG expires at the end of this year and is thought to be worth about $12m a year to NZR.
Should the deal with Amazon - which is filming several major TV and film productions in New Zealand - go ahead, it is believed it will be the biggest jersey sponsorship in rugby history, worth about 50 per cent more than England's recently renewed agreement with telecommunications company O2.
However, while Amazon is one of the most recognisable names in the corporate world, having become the richest company in history initially as an online seller of books before diversifying into other technological services, streaming and film and TV production, it won't be the name that appears in the centre of the All Blacks jersey if they do strike a deal.
The Herald understands that Amazon will most likely use the jersey to promote its The Climate Pledge initiative.
This is a pact that was announced by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2019 and is aimed at making signatories – major corporations such as Unilever, Microsoft and Mercedez Benz are on board - accountable to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement 10 years early.
Amazon, last year, purchased the rights to rename Seattle's Key Arena – the home venue of the city's NHL and WNBA teams – as the Climate Pledge arena.
In doing so, Bezos, said: "Instead of naming the arena after Amazon, we're calling it Climate Pledge Arena as a regular reminder of the importance of fighting climate change."
As first reported by the Herald last month, Ineos is also set to become a sponsor after the UK petrochemical firm announced major plans to invest in hydrogen initiatives and investment funds across Europe.
The ability to drive a better sponsorship deal for the All Blacks through these Covid-ravaged times is illustrative of the pulling power of the brand which continues to intrigue and inspire global audiences.
It is also a major tick to the change of strategy which saw NZR opt to sell the rights to the front of the jersey, back of the shorts and training jerseys separately instead of to one buyer as they did with AIG.
The national body also used a third party to scour the globe for sponsors and the benefits of that can be seen in their financial forecasts, which state that they expect total income to jump from $206m this year to $238m next when the new deals kick in.
There is also the possibility that Amazon's interest in striking a sponsorship deal could signal that the US firm is intent on becoming, in time, a major owner of rugby broadcast rights.
Last year, Amazon bought rights to the Nations Cup – an extended Six Nations tournament that featured Fiji and Georgia. They also have produced the All or Nothing documentary series with the All Blacks which ran on Amazon Prime in 2017.
Sky TV are the existing domestic rights holders of All Blacks content, having signed a five-year deal in late 2019 that was reportedly worth about $400m.