The timing could hardly have been worse. Of all the weeks in the past 108 years to show up in Chicago trying to promote their premium asset, New Zealand Rugby chose the one which saw the Cubs win their first World Series since 1908.

The All Blacks didn't stand a chance of anyone local noticing them this week. They were ghosts in a city understandably gripped by an achievement they never thought they would see. The Cubs were the only sports story in town and not even the Bears, who pulled off the shock of their season to date by beating the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night, could get much air time.

The Cubs didn't metaphorically rain on the All Blacks' parade, they literally had a parade, in glorious sunshine and brought the city to a standstill. No doubt plenty of locals would be more than interested in the All Blacks - just not this week.

But such anonymity will have troubled the marketing men more than it did the players. They loved the opportunity to be in a sports-mad city and not be the focus of the euphoria.


They'd unquestionably support any future moves to return to the US and, in truth, so too would the commercial types.

It wasn't a week in which they could spread the gospel, so to speak, but the best marketing of the All Blacks always happens on the field. That's really how they sell the brand and, while Chicago may have been fixated with baseball, there will still be 61,000 people at a packed-out Soldier Field to watch rugby and that one statistic makes the whole venture stack up as worthwhile.

Beauden Barrett of the All Blacks watches the Chicago Cubs victory parade. Photo / Getty
Beauden Barrett of the All Blacks watches the Chicago Cubs victory parade. Photo / Getty

There's usually a bit of conspiracy thinking attached to why the All Blacks go to neutral venues but it's never really that complicated. They are first and foremost about putting money in the bank.

As coach Steve Hansen said before they left for the US: "We are playing this test to try to make some money so we can give it back to grassroots rugby and the PUs [provincial unions] are paid a significant amount of money by the New Zealand Rugby Union and most of that comes from playing these extra games - that's the third Bledisloe Cup game and this one [Chicago]."

That was the No 1 priority in Chicago and, with the stadium sold out and broadcast rights sold, objective achieved. How much they make will only be known when they reveal their annual accounts, but they pocketed $1 million from their last trip to Chicago and will probably take more this time, as it was a neutral venue test which means there was no host union to take the lion's share.

They didn't come to Chicago specifically to sign a deal with US-based insurance group AIG. The deal was already done and it made sense, or at least felt appropriate to AIG, to tell the world about it on US soil.

If it's just about money, they could make considerably more playing in London or Cardiff, but those venues come with issues. Typically, playing there outside the schedule means arranging the game the week after the official test window, not before. That cuts into the pre-season and gives the players a week less rest.

Chicago is on the way and has the added attraction of being fresh and exciting, something different. That's what Hansen wants, for his players to be exposed to new and novel challenges, and preparing for a tough fixture at an iconic, yet neutral, venue fits the bill.

And above all else, it makes the touring experience more fun and there has been plenty to take in and take home.

Baseball can appear to be a sport where men stand in a dugout frowning, chewing and spitting before someone occasionally hits the ball, seemingly more by chance than design. Football is a sport where the only aerobic content comes in endlessly swapping players in and out and yet both games make compelling viewing.

Both games drive huge followings and it was easy to see why. What became apparent is how connected American sports stars are to their fans and how open they are with the media - not fearful, wary or confrontational - and how the whole sports industry is in agreement that its primary role is to entertain.

As a package, it all works. People pay their money and feel they got value for it.
What's on the cards for 2017 isn't yet known but, presumably, the All Blacks won't be coming back to Chicago. They have been twice in three years and it hasn't lost its lustre. To come three years out of four would endanger the novelty value.

They won't be short of alternative options. They never are. The bigger question is whether they feel, in the year they host the Lions, whether they need to play an extra test outside the window.

Commercially, that may not be imperative, so the decision could rest with whether Hansen feels the team would benefit from another test and, if so, against whom?

In 2013, the All Blacks played in Tokyo, and a year later, it was Chicago. Those tests were prime opportunities to blood younger players and allow the coaches to have more of a focus on the future.

A return to Japan is possible. Another test in the US is also a contender, at a new venue against a different opponent. In the past, the All Blacks have been courted by event promoters in Germany, Denver, Dubai and Asia.

Everyone wants a piece of them because they are a good bet to sell out wherever they play.