Weekend Herald

Billionair­e eyeing ABs sponsorshi­p deal

Ineos logo likely to appear on back of shorts in agreement expected to be worth $5m-$8m to NZ Rugby

- Gregor Paul exclusive

The All Blacks are on the verge of completing a deal to have the back of their shorts sponsored by UK petrochemi­cal firm Ineos. Ineos, which funded Team UK’s America’s Cup boat this year, are understood to have all but reached terms with New Zealand Rugby in an agreement that is understood to be worth somewhere between $5 million to $8m a year.

The agreement still needs approval from adidas, who will remain the apparel sponsor of the All

Blacks, with their logo continuing to appear on the jersey and front of shorts.

The New Zealand Rugby Players’ Associatio­n (NZRPA) also has to approve the deal that will begin next year when existing sponsor AIG’s 10-year commitment to the All Blacks comes to an end.

While Ineos have committed to sponsoring not just the All Blacks, but all of New Zealand’s internatio­nal sides — the Black Ferns, Sevens, under-20s and Ma¯ori — they are not in the running to extend their investment to include the front of the jersey.

When AIG came on board as lead sponsor in 2012, they bought the rights to the front of the jersey and the back of the shorts.

But after the US insurance group announced in January 2020 they would not be renewing their agreement when it expired, NZR opted for a major change of strategy.

The national body decided to sell the rights to the front of the jersey, back of the shorts and training jerseys separately instead of to one buyer as they did with AIG.

They also contracted a third party to scour the globe for sponsors and sources say interest has been higher than expected. But many of the companies who began talks with NZR put them on hold as they waited to see the wider impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Weekend Herald understand­s talks with Ineos began earlier this year when billionair­e chief executive Sir Jim Ratcliffe was in New Zealand to watch the 36th America’s Cup.

Notoriousl­y shy and private, Ratcliffe, who founded Ineos and remains a 60 per cent shareholde­r, has committed an estimated $800m into sports teams and initiative­s in the past few years.

Ineos supported the Team UK America’s Cup and have also bought two major European football clubs, become lead sponsor of the Mercedes Formula One team and bought the Tour de France-winning cycling team formerly known as Team Sky.

Opinion is divided on why Ineos have spent so much so quickly on sport. Ineos say their investment­s in elite teams are about linking the brand to successful enterprise­s and having a strong associatio­n with excellence.

But environmen­talist groups have accused the company of using sports sponsorshi­p to “green wash” and detract from their core business.

Ineos have been criticised in the

UK for supporting shale gas extraction via fracking, while some of their key production sites in the UK have received low compliance ratings.

NZR is understood to have spent the past few months digging into Ineos’ business plans and motivation for investing in the All Blacks.

A deal is now imminent because Ineos have made a commitment to become carbon zero by 2050 in line with the Paris Agreement and because they are also a key manufactur­er of components that are vital in sustainabl­e industries and products.

An announceme­nt confirming the deal is expected in a few weeks.

 ?? Photo / Michael Craig ?? Ineos has invested heavily in sport, including this year’s America’s Cup.
Photo / Michael Craig Ineos has invested heavily in sport, including this year’s America’s Cup.

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