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Gaining and Losing Respect of the New Zealand Public: Adidas' 2011 Rugby World Cup Jersey Pricing Crisis

As principal sponsors of the All Blacks over the past 13 years, Adidas have gone to great lengths to ensure their advertising campaigns reflect respect for the New Zealand public in relation to the traditions, history and heritage of the All Blacks, and the importance of rugby as the country’s national sport. Their carefully crafted advertising campaigns and television commercials have articulated Adidas’s understanding and respect for the historical legacy and primal power of the All Blacks (Scherer & Jackson, 2007) allowing the brands to form a successful co-brand (Motion, Leitch & Brodie, 2003). However in August 2011, Adidas released their Rugby World Cup Edition supporter’s shirt to the New Zealand public selling for $220.00 in New Zealand retailers. This price was over $100.00 more (including shipping) than prices set by international websites selling the exact same shirts. The pricing of this jersey led to a public outrage and quickly became a public relations crisis for Adidas. Through a two phase qualitative research design this study aims to understand the New Zealand public’s response towards Adidas after the jersey pricing crisis by understanding the role that (dis)respect plays in the response. The first part of phase one involved gathering data via a media analysis (Altheide, 2000) to identify the main stages in the crisis from news articles, followed by a nethnography (Kozinets, 2002) of the public’s reaction at the different stages of the crisis. The second phase of the research design involved a survey that consisted of four open ended questions and six demographic questions. The analysis of the crisis stages identified the importance of crisis response strategies when dealing with a crisis (Benoit, 1997). This study highlights the need for organisations to carefully consider the believability, timing, consistency, target audience and of the type of crisis response method before employing any strategy. This finding contributes to the literature by identifying how implementing incorrect and slow response strategies can impact a brands reputation. The bloggers and participants responses reveal the importance of respect in maintaining and developing relationships in sponsorship. This study demonstrates how disrespectful behaviour in sponsorships can negatively impact relationships with the public. This finding is specifically important for organisations that sponsor national teams, as it is clear from this study that national teams, like the All Blacks, are a key signifier of national identity. Thus organisations need to respect the local communities in which they operate. This study shows how the consumer response towards Adidas as a result of their perceived disrespectful behaviour is intensified due to the attachment with the All Blacks and the jersey. This research adds to the sponsorship literature by demonstrating how sponsoring organisations treat the public plays an important role in building and maintaining quality relationships. Thus it is concluded from this study that fans value respect and that respect is a mainstay in sponsorship.
Type of thesis
Farquhar, K. (2013). Gaining and Losing Respect of the New Zealand Public: Adidas’ 2011 Rugby World Cup Jersey Pricing Crisis (Thesis, Master of Management Studies (MMS)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/7952
University of Waikato
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