Why you've got to admire “Brand All Black”, and how their approach should be applied in business

Winners on and off the pitch at this year's RWC2015?

The first weekend's results at the RWC may have been remarkable for one stand out result – Japan surprising South Africa – but something else stood out for me.

Whilst rugby powerhouses New Zealand were going through the motions and swatting aside Argentina in a battle of southern hemisphere rugby, the All-Blacks appearance left me in wonderment. They're intimidating at the best of times, but has their menacing appearance  empowered one of the world's sporting superbrands, even more?

The team were kitted out – head to toe – in black. It's very ominous. Only the badge of the Kiwis and the numbering on the reverse of the shirts were in anything other than black. So what, you ask? But importantly, every member of the teams boots were black. Not an ounce of colour.

Nowadays, multi-colour way boots are now de rigeur. But their brand is bigger than any one player's boot colour preference or indeed contract with a boot manufacturer. These were specifically made boots to harness “Brand All-Black”. As they've been made specifically, they will be ergonomically designed around each player's foot. Back when I was a kid, to get All-Black boots. I had to use lots of black boot polish. What New Zealand has done- I hope - creates a whole new way of promotion and commerciality. You'll have to accept all the boot manufacturers are on board with it too.

I hate comparisons with football and how rugby does this, that, and the other better. In this case, it does prompt the question: Would you see a team of footballers use all blue boots to promote team branding? E.g. Chelsea walking out with blue boots to ratchet up the brand machine that the football club are trying to cultivate.

The truth is the culture between football and rugby are totally unique and separate, and should remain so. Yet, it's an interesting comparison.

Rugby is undergoing a revolution, in sporting and commercial terms. In 2016, a version of Rugby will be used at the Rio Olympics, televised rugby is growing season by season, players have been professionals for years, yet now there are superstars throughout the sport. And yet, you won't find a player going “off message” from what their team (national or international) are promoting. No big time boot contracts or the like. No player is bigger than the team.

Who knows if New Zealand will win the World Cup? Or will a “minnow” upset the applecart? In this context, New Zealand Rugby has created a machine that will only see more commercial partnerships being created – regardless of any result.

It reminds me of when Sir Dave Brailsford assumed the mantle of running the British Cycling team and Team Sky. He looked at everyone and everything. Coming to the conclusion that minor amendments – team clothing, appearance, hotels stayed in, pillows, and cuisine would reap the biggest dividends in reaching the top again. His success for Team Sky and the British Cycling team is the stuff of legends.


This approach naturally can help any sized organisation, in:

  • Productivity
  • Culture
  • Identity
  • Recruitment and retention
  • Creating team persona

It’s these factors that often overlooked by heads of department and business. By getting under the skin of your business, and looking at the detail you can establish best practice unmatched by others. From there, slight tinkering and you’ll create an environment and mentality that looks and acts like your superior. That’s part of the battle won.

How does the Haka go again?