WELLINGTON (Reuters) - American International Group Inc is to sponsor the All Blacks rugby team on a five-and-a-half deal the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) described as a 'game changer' on Friday.
The U.S.-based insurance company said it had struck a deal to sponsor the World Cup winning All Blacks and five other national teams, with the company's logo to be displayed on the jersey and shorts of their playing and training gear.
"Prominently associating the AIG brand with the All Blacks and the highly competitive and successful New Zealand Rugby Union teams, as well as passionate rugby fans around the world, represents a tremendous opportunity for AIG, the NZRU, and rugby," AIG President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Benmosche said in a statement.
No financial details of the sponsorship deal were disclosed, though the NZRU said they believed it to be "the second most valuable rugby sponsorship" in the world.
The organization's apparel agreement with Adidas, which runs until 2019, is reportedly the highest sponsorship deal in rugby.
"Today's announcement is a game changer for New Zealand rugby," NZRU Chief Executive Steve Tew said in a statement.
"AIG's support provides significant additional financial security for the NZRU.
"The partnership will help ensure rugby continues to flourish at the community level upwards so that we can keep producing winning teams, run the most exciting competitions in the world and keep turning out, and retaining, the world's best players and coaches."
The All Blacks jerseys carried a small sponsorship logo of a New Zealand beer brand during the 1990s but have been 'clean' since the Adidas deal began in 1999.
"Like all New Zealanders we greatly respect the rich and proud heritage of the black jersey, which is why NZRU consulted with senior players and others as we carefully weighed up this latest move," Tew added.
"On balance it is a very positive opportunity to secure the additional funds that we need to help safeguard the future of the game in this country."
The NZRU had consulted with Adidas, which endorsed the new deal.
The All Blacks Sevens side will be the first to wear the new jersey and shorts at this week's IRB World Sevens series on the Gold Coast. The full All Blacks side will showcase them in the Bledisloe Cup clash against Australia in Brisbane on October 20.
(Reporting by Gyles Beckford/Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)