Rugby World Cup sponsorship showdown: Australia v New Zealand

Chris ChuckAs the Wallabies and All Blacks prepare to face off in the Rugby World Cup final Chris Chuck looks at who won the sponsorship battle – Australia or New Zealand.

As millions of Wallabies fans come pouring out of the woodwork this week (even The Daily Telegraph had the RWC on its front cover), with hopes of a glorious win against our great rivals from across the ditch (pronounced dutch in New Zealand). It’s the perfect time to look at the Rugby World Cup and see how it stacks up from a sponsorship point of view.

Coming hot on the heels of the AFL and NRL grand finals and filling the gap before the cricket starts the Rugby World Cup offers the perfect intersection of a beloved local sport being played out on the world stage (something that neither AFL nor NRL can truly offer). It also comes with a massive potential to the upside as seen by those sponsors on-board with the Wallabies and All Blacks, although spare a thought for those supporting the English team.

So with the upcoming match on all our minds let’s pack a scrum and take a look at who is winning the head to head sponsorship war across a few key categories.


Force of Black Adidas Rugby

ASICS: 2015 Wallabies Campaign – It’s Game Time. Go Dominate It.

The All Blacks jersey is arguably one of the most iconic in the world making this a very tough match up for Australia. New Zealand is sponsored by Adidas and the Wallabies have Asics providing kit.

Both had local campaigns and videos leveraging talent, and Asics did some good PR work engaging with key sports commentators and involving them in training with the Wallabies all the while educating them on both the tech behind the jersey and also the pride of wearing it on to the field.

But this one has to go to the All Blacks – as a part of the lead up to the RWC they created a 60 minute documentary The Making of Black aired on Sept 13 capturing the full history of what it

means to wear the black. With over 100 years history behind the All Black jersey it’s just too tough

to ask for a push over here.

Winner: NZ


Emirates Bringing Rugby Home

Qantas Wallabies Late Night Match Guide – Before the Game

Air New Zealand Men in Black Safety Defenders

Emirates as global partner have an interesting take, choosing to focus on the Gilbert match ball and utilising the #bringingrugbyhome tag they’re clearly aiming at the heart strings of all fans. Their activation continues the theme asking fans to post to social media using #bringingrugbyhome.

Qantas meanwhile is the naming rights partner of the Wallabies so arguably has the most on the line from a sponsorship perspective, whilst Air New Zealand is a global sponsor for the All Blacks. Once again both sponsors leverage talent to get their message across.

Qantas have done a nice line in aligning the style of in flight safety messaging with messaging acknowledging the fact that for most Australians watching the game it will be all about setting their alarm correctly. The downloadable Late Night Guide in the same form as their back of seat safety card is a nice touch too. All of that said however the Men in Black style air safety message that Air New Zealand produced is the clear winner here picking up massive earned media around the world.

Winner: NZ


Ford – The Drive All Blacks

BMW. The Driving Force Behind The Wallabies TVC.

Rugby World Cup 2015 Worldwide Partner Land Rover: We Deal in Real

Land Rover makes a nice play here tying the local in with the global. So local sponsors need to be smarter about how they keep their message out there. Ford have been a sponsor of the All Blacks for the past 21 years, and given their length of association went with a more low key local approach.

They chose to dial up the often unknown fact that when a new All Black gets their cap and jersey they also get the keys to a new ford. In Australia BMW came on-board as a part of the global alignment of BMW with key national teams, having already been a partner of the Melbourne Rebels.

We’re giving the win here to Australia – despite the fact that it is essentially global creative the use of Waltzing Matilda in the soundtrack as the vision drives to Twickenham is really quite stirring.

Winner: Australia


Steinlager presents ‘The Originals’

Hahn Super Dry Every Game Makes You Better

Heineken Presents The Jonah Lomu Machine

The final category of comparison here and once again a category that has an incredibly strong global partner in Heineken. In Australia Hahn Super Dry is the sponsor whilst in New Zealand it is Steinlager.

Hahn once again tapped into the pride of playing and what it means to be a part of the Wallabies for their video activation. While Steinlager used the long history of All Black rugby developing a custom website and video to retell the story of the ‘originals” the NZ rugby team that played in the UK 110 years ago and won 34 out of 35 games.

Tempting here to give the win to Steinlager, however…

Winner: Heineken – who doesn’t want a personally signed football from Jonah Lomu

Man of the Match

Samsung We Rise Together with Izzy Folau

Beats by Dre Richie McCaw in The Game Starts Here

A special category here since it pits a domestic sponsor in Samsung up against an unofficial participant in Beats by Dre. It also pits two of the most iconic players currently playing against each other in Richie McCaw and Israel Folau. Unfortunately for Israel the power of Richie is hard to deny.

As they did last year with their FIFA World Cup campaign Beats has produced an impeccable video tapping in to the full range of emotion surrounding the Rugby World Cup. Not bad for a company that has had no previous association – their storytelling ability in the sports landscape at this point is simply awesome!

Winner: Richie (NZ)

Full Time

While there has to be a winner in the end I’m sure that everyone associated with all of these campaigns is currently very happy to see their team preparing for the final this weekend (although I’m sure that the NZ sponsorship managers slept a little better in the lead up than their Australian counterparts). Events like the Rugby World Cup remind us all of the power of sport to connect and inspire.

Winner: Rugby (yeah I know sickening but I couldn’t bring myself to write New Zealand)

Chris Chuck is integration and sponsorship manager – sport at themediastore

(Full disclosure I don’t work on any of these clients and all comments represent my own thoughts)

Related: Hear All Blacks marketer Todd Barberel talk about protecting the iconic brand, working with sponsors and his favourite campaigns.


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