Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

Transnational Sport Marketing at the Global/local Nexus: The Adidasification of the New Zealand All Blacks

Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

Transnational Sport Marketing at the Global/local Nexus: The Adidasification of the New Zealand All Blacks

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

As we enter the new millennium the notion of globalisation has come to figure prominently in everyday conversation. However, despite the advances of global media and other technologies the nature and extent to which they impact on our lives and shape our experiences is still unclear. Notably, there has been very little assessment of the long-term impact of global forces on local experience. For example, while the frenetic global expansion of transnational corporations is clearly providing them with some short-term economic benefits, relatively little considered thought has been given to how this has impacted on both the local and global environments and indigenous cultures. Likewise, further understanding of the role of global forces on local sporting cultures is certainly required.

Arguably, individuals and corporations associated with the business of transnational sport are enjoying enormous success at the turn of the century. The increasingly synergistic approach to producing global sporting spectacles that link media, corporate and sponsorship interests is accelerating the pace and the reach of particular initiatives. And while the Olympics, World Cup Soccer, the NBA, and the Super Bowl certainly come to mind when thinking about global sport we should not forget the host of other sports that are embracing, confronting and/or negotiating the new global frontier.

Take, for example, the sport of rugby union. Originating in Britain as a largely amateur game for the upper class, rugby union is now played throughout the world though it is dominated by nations such as New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, France, England, Wales and Scotland. Although rugby administrators, particularly in Britain, endeavoured to keep the amateur ethos alive, from the 1970s the game slowly shifted towards a form of semi-professionalism and in 1995 the organisation and structure of the game underwent a radical change towards full professionalism. The transformation can largely be attributed to the competition between two rival rugby groups, the newly-emergent World Rugby Corporation and the long-standing . national unions of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. For a variety of reasons 1995 became the pivotal moment where the value of rugby union as a global television commodity was recognised. Ultimately, the tri-nation rugby unions backed by Rupert Murdoch's media empire won out and rugby was quickly transformed into an entertainment spectacle: faster, sexier and increasingly global. As a consequence the game, its teams and its star players attracted significant sponsor attention; and, within rugby circles one of the ultimate sponsorship prizes was the New Zealand All Blacks.

In 1998 global sportswear company adidas signed a record-breaking deal with the New Zealand Rugby Football Union (NZRFU) for the rights to sponsor the All Blacks. After a prolonged period of decline and living in the shadows of rivals Nike and Reebok, adidas was slowly winning back its share of the market during the 1990s. The All Blacks, as a premier rugby union commodity, were a strategic selection for sponsorship. They boasted a long history of success and embodied a unique image combining power and flair. The sponsorship deal, which commenced on July 1, 1999, represented the beginning of a new era--the All Blacks were truly going global.

This study examines the processes and strategies used and the challenges faced by a global company, adidas, as they assumed the role of official sponsor of the New Zealand All Blacks. In particular, the study outlines how adidas assumed control of the All Blacks sponsorship and examines the strategies they employed to appropriate "the nation" by inventing a history and tradition as part of New Zealand's national game. In turn, we outline an example of cultural resistance to both adidas and the corporatisation of New Zealand identity as revealed in a Maori intellectual property rights lawsuit challenging the use of the All Black "haka". …

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