NZ Rugby confirms six-year partnership with petrochemical company INEOS

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has announced a six-year partnership with British multinational petrochemical company INEOS.

INEOS will become the official performance partner of the All Blacks, Black Ferns, All Blacks Sevens, Black Ferns Sevens, Māori All Blacks, All Blacks XV and All Blacks Under-20s.

The new deal could be worth in the region of $8 million a year to NZR.

The INEOS logo will appear on the back of the playing shorts and on the front of the Training Jersey of each of those seven teams from 2022. More details on the Performance Partnership will be unveiled later this year.

That would suggest the All Blacks are still on the hunt for a major sponsor to put their logo on the front of the test jerseys, with AIG's deal with NZR finishing up this year.

The INEOS partnership means the teams will join INEOS Sport teams; Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team; INEOS Grenadiers cycling team; INEOS TEAM UK sailing team; and football clubs OGC Nice and FC Lausanne-Sport as part of a sport performance group.

In a statement NZR said the INEOS Sport performance would bring together some of sport's best people and teams to tackle the greatest sporting challenges, through technology and human performance, and will officially launch later this year.

"To partner with INEOS and be part of such a unique and diverse global sports performance group is an exciting new venture," said NZR CEO Mark Robinson.

"We are committed to nurturing the development of rugby over the next six years with INEOS Sport and are looking forward to working alongside some of the best sports teams in the world.

"INEOS will bring an innovative approach and dedication to the partnership with our Teams in Black, qualities we see across all aspects of their business, particularly around sustainability with their commitment to deliver a zero-carbon emission future in line with the Paris Agreement," Robinson said.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Chairman of INEOS, added: "We're delighted to partner with the All Blacks. They have consistently shown the grit and determination needed to perform at the highest level of sport and there will be a lot that we can learn from them."

All Blacks Captain Samuel Whitelock welcomed INEOS to the All Blacks family of sponsors.

"INEOS is involved in high-performance sport all over the world, which is something we have been really impressed with. The All Blacks are looking forward to being part of this performance partnership and learning from some of their incredible sporting partnerships as well," said Whitelock.

However the move hasn't been met with universal welcome, with Greenpeace and other environmental groups in New Zealand strongly against it.

Greenpeace senior campaigner Steve Abel last month called the possible deal "appalling" and urged NZR to abandon the sponsorship with INEOS.

"In the thick of the climate crisis, our treasured national rugby teams could be branded with the logo of a company responsible for choking our oceans with plastic pollution and driving climate disasters.

"The All Blacks have this amazing brand and reputation. They must not sell that out to an oil corporate who is cynically wanting to greenwash its image by associating with the All Blacks and our country's environmental reputation."

Greenpeace said INEOS was one of only 20 companies responsible for half of single-use plastic items thrown away globally - and a significant player in the oil and gas sector.

Abel argued the All Blacks' brand would be destroyed.

"There is no way that we should allow that iconic rugby team to wear an oil corporation's logo on its back in the name of New Zealand.

Last month Green Party sports and recreation spokesperson Ricardo Menéndez March agreed with Greenpeace, saying the sponsorship should not go ahead.

He said it was similar to how community sports might rely on alcohol or gambling to get cash.

"I do think the onus should be on government to create ethical funding avenues for sport bodies to apply for so they're not reliant on effectively unethical and exploitative corporates in order to sustain themselves."

He said increased funding for sporting groups, particularly those in local communities", should be part of that.

AUT sports marketing lecturer Dr Marilyn Giroux knew NZR had been vocal about needing "a little bit of an injection of money" to get the sport going.

But she personally doubted it would be a good deal.

"For me, if I had a choice of a cleaner sponsor, someone that fits more with the image of New Zealand, that is trying to be very more pro-environmental, that's trying to be more green, I would definitely go with something that fits better with the image that you want."