Since the professional era began, the New Zealand Rugby Union has been on top of the game. The All Blacks are an inexorable force that dominates world rugby. But the union is facing real financial pressures as a result of the globalization of the game and the subsequent exposure to foreign exchange and international broadcast rights.
Kevin Roberts is the Chair of USARFU
The NZRU needs to create some new revenue streams if it’s to be a sustainable force in future.
I’ve rustled up 15 ideas with a few multinational mates – Aussies, Kiwis, Americans and Brits – to help turn the accounts the same winning color as the jerseys: Black.
1. Re-frame rugby at every level as a real family, social option (one of the original Super 12 objectives).
Look at what Stade Francais are doing in Paris. Flowery team jerseys, massive social networking. We need to move Super 15 games closer to 20/20 Cricket, NBA matches and pop concerts.
The Wellington Sevens is a brilliant example of a festival spirit. Lots of fun around the game, not just because of it. Entice. Reward. Repeat.
2. Develop a super-amped global All Blacks community.
With real intimate, exclusive contact. Behind the scenes stuff. Dressing room/training ground banter. Player proper truthful post-match analysis.
Training tips. Personal stuff from players/coaches. Lots of social networking around games/tours. A global, premium social network of rugby people interacting around the AB’s. 250,000 members x $74 = $18.75 million!
A great gift for your son/dad/mate.
3. Build the global brand, especially in emerging markets.
The All Blacks are the number one brand in world rugby and one of the top sports brands in the world.
We need to deepen and broaden our fan base geographically in a similar way to what ManU has done in China, Chelsea in Africa, the Lakers and the Yankees globally, opening the door for sales of merchandise, videos and training materials.
4. Develop an All Blacks training, fitness and leadership programme.
On-line. Off-line. For individuals and corporates. Relevant to sports teams in all sports, university teams especially China and businesses everywhere. Combine leadership, great stories, amazing video, hands-on coaching, skills, decision-making etc etc.
Aim to be the number one programme globally.
5. Host an NZRU school sports tournament every year.
Different age groups. All Black participation in training and leadership (old players). Sub contract to sports tour specialists.
6. Play more Sevens at School/Club level.
This will increase participation levels, attract new audience demographics, generate new sponsorship opportunities, increase player athleticism, win over mums as violence/ injuries reduce … and increase our Olympic Gold medal count!
7. Bring on the Women.
Include female Board members at every level of the game. Get their voices heard. We need to get all New Zealand women believing once again that rugby is the game for all New Zealanders.
We must listen to them and address their concerns. And we must revitalize funding for our World Champion Black Ferns. More Olympic golds. More world championships. And more sponsorship opportunities.
8. Ensure every seat is sold for every Test match.
Make it unforgiveable for a stadium manager to have an unsold seat at an All Blacks Test match. The GFC is blamed for a drop-off in ticket sales, but it’s equally arguable that poor selling techniques have been used. Test match revenue is core.
NZRU must have a ‘no seat left behind’ attitude.
9. Follow the British example and invest in one 80,000 seater home pitch stadium in Auckland
It should have a huge naming rights sponsor. Play all our big tests there and ensure there are stacks of high price corporate boxes, and special new, low cost family seating.
10. The First XV.
15 lifelong debentures that pass from father to sibling or back to the NZRU. Access to all areas (equal to NZRU chairman), special access to team/sponsor events, hotels/training, and one annual dressing room visit. Super, super exclusive. $1 million each.
11. Offer corporations individual player sponsorships. 45 players at different options. Five days work per player per sponsor, split 50:50 player and NZRU. A $2 million annual return.
12. Change the model of game revenue distribution. We get hammered fiscally on the November Tour. We get the glory. The British get the money. The crowds come to see the All Blacks.
The Number One ranked team in the world. The most entertaining team in the world. The team everyone wants to beat. We need a new revenue sharing model.
13. Appoint the world’s best foreign exchange managers.
Significant elements of NZRU’s profit/loss scenarios comprise management of foreign exchange. NZRU need to ensure they have the Goldman Sachs of foreign exchange on their team.
14. Bring on the Women (again!).
If women make 80% of the purchasing decisions, why then is NZ rugby a women-free zone? The Black Ferns are the best in the world, there are some very capable women commentators, and we see in the US how much the game can be enjoyed by young women because of its physicality. Women are so often the enablers of rugby, making space for the kids to go and practice and play.
Making space for women makes sense for broadening viewership – broadcast revenue is the largest contributor to the pie. Making the game more involving for women (imagine women referees!) broadens the audience.
15. Get famous by committing to film.
Get inside the AB’s heads, their training; the AB’s in Camp a must-watch programme for NFL, NBA, Premiership etc players. This is the serious business of being the best team in the history of world sports. For other elite sports, coaches and teams to learn from.
New Zealand/New York-based Kevin Roberts is the CEO Worldwide of Saatchi & Saatchi, one of the world’s leading creative organizations, with a team of 6000 people in 140 offices across 80 countries. He is the author of Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands (powerHouse Books, 2004) Lovemarks is translated into 17 languages worldwide