Roger Tuivasa-Sheck of the Blues runs down the field. Photo / Photo port
Super Rugby clubs are set to get permission to sever ties with Adidas and the All Blacks in 2024 and seek their own clothing partners.
Since 1999, Adidas has been the textile partner of
all New Zealand Rugby teams – each representative team and the five Super Rugby clubs – in a centralized arrangement where the national body retains all revenue.
But NZR is now believed to be willing to carve out the Super Rugby squads when they launch a tender for a clothing partner later this year.
Adidas have committed until 2023 and will be favorites to extend their relationship even if the new deal does not include Super Rugby teams.
The Germany-based company’s relationship with the All Blacks is one of the longest and most lucrative in world sport and Adidas is unlikely to lose interest in continuing its sponsorship if the deal no longer includes Super Rugby.
NZR are confident they will be able to sign an improved deal with Adidas – or a rival clothing manufacturer like Under Armor or Nike – even without including Super Rugby teams, as the All Blacks remain a prized property with a value of lasting brand.
And if NZR can get more revenue by selling the rights only to its national teams, it will pave the way for Super Rugby clubs to keep revenue from any apparel deals they do.
Super Rugby clubs are currently able to generate revenue through ticket sales and sponsorships. They receive no broadcast or clothing partnership revenue as they are owned by NZR, which in turn pays the player salaries.
This hybrid model where NZR covers most running costs and retains major revenue streams, allowing clubs to generate small independent revenue streams is under increasing pressure to adapt due to increased capital investment– investment in Super Rugby.
NZR is the majority shareholder in each club, but all five now have private investors who feel they need more leeway to make their investment profitable.
There is also a collective desire among the five clubs to be able to build stronger brand identities that are less aligned with NZR and the All Blacks.
Being in control of their own clothing relationship will likely lead to clubs offering a wider range of merchandise at different price points – with officially licensed products alongside a range of supporters’ clothing.
And it’s likely that once clubs get permission to seek their own clothing partners, they’ll do so collectively – selling the rights to all five teams in a bundled package and then splitting the revenue.
It is thought that the Blues and Crusaders – the two biggest and most backed clubs – could sell the production rights to their kit for a total value of around $1million a year – split between around $600,000 in cash and $400,000 in product and marketing expenses.
The other clubs, however, might struggle to attract those sorts of numbers and a collective deal might prove to be better value for all five teams, as the main trump card in any sales pitch would be the possibility of them being a club world championship in 2024.
Discussions are underway over a short competition in 2024 – possibly between four and six weeks – which would see the top teams from Super Rugby clubs, Japan, UK, South Africa and Celtic Nations come together. meet in a best-versus-best scenario.
This competition would not replace Super Rugby but would also add to it and the likely audience and media profile would be such that it could significantly increase the price a clothing partner would be willing to pay to own the rights.
Certainty over the future of Super Rugby Pacific would also be welcomed by clubs ahead of any apparel bidding process. Rugby Australia is only committed to the competition until 2023 and chairman Hamish McLennan has repeatedly asserted in recent days that his organization is ready to split up and form its own tournament in 2024.
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