To prevent the undermining of the All Black brand, the New Zealand Rugby Union has jealously guarded its trademarks and copyrights.

It is all the more surprising, therefore, that it could be contemplating an advertising logo across the front of the All Black jersey. The suitor is reported to be insurance company AIG.

The rugby union has not denied the suggestion, and says it is talking to several potential sponsors in the lead-up to the Rugby Championship.

Advertising on the All Black jersey would not be new. There was a discreet Steinlager logo in the mid-1990s. That was not well received by many fans. The name of an American insurer with a problematic profile emblazoned across the front of the playing strip would be many times more intrusive and would, therefore, create a far greater furore.

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The level of opposition should lead the rugby union to reconsider. So, too, should the prospect of damage to the All Black brand.

A black jersey adorned only with a silver fern and the manufacturer's moniker makes a powerful statement. Not for nothing does it have a worldwide status akin to that of Italy's soccer shirt, a strip also noted for its commercial-free purity.

If the All Blacks went the way of the Wallabies, the Springboks and British rugby sides, it would only devalue that status.

The All Blacks would become just another team, and any immediate financial gain would have to be balanced against the long-term implications of a serious diminishing of the brand.