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Rugby Championship/Bledisloe Cup

All Blacks sponsor under the pump

All Blacks sponsor under the pump

THINGS JUST got a whole lot worse for the All Blacks’ major sponsor, who is in damage control.

After copping criticism over the prices of All Blacks jerseys, adidas has cancelled a glitzy party that was set to be held tonight in Auckland to celebrate the New Zealand national team.

It has also done a U-turn over banning overseas websites from selling the jersey.

And after apologising for the whole saga on a popular current affairs show last night, New Zealand country manager David Huggett reiterated this morning how sorry the company is.

“The last 11 days have been pretty tough and first of all I want to apologise to you and all the listeners for the distraction this topic has created and for what should really be a perfect build-up, leading into the Rugby World Cup," he told Newstalk ZB.

Hundreds of people – including many celebrities and sports stars – had been invited to the ‘Black is Beautiful’ shindig in downtown Auckland tonight.

However, Huggett says adidas has decided to pull the pin on the glamour event in "light of serious customer issues currently before us".

"We are sorry to have to take this step at this time, but we believe it is appropriate that we focus our attention on dealing with these business issues. This decision in no way lessens our passionate support for New Zealand rugby and sport in New Zealand at every level,” he said in a statement.

adidas has copped a barrage of criticism in the past 11 days after it was revealed a replica All Blacks jersey could be bought online for about half the price of those available in New Zealand.

At one point, a jersey cost $220 in New Zealand retail stores, but could be purchased online for between US$94.99 ($110.06) and US$146.26 ($169.45) depending on delivery costs.

adidas prevented two overseas websites from shipping jerseys to New Zealand, but following discussions with its offshore colleagues and the two sites, has backtracked.

“We understand that our people are annoyed about the two sites and we understand that there are dozens of other sites people can buy from,” says Huggett, adding in hindsight that the company would’ve handled things differently.

Australasian head Greg Kerr and Huggett apologised on Close Up last night for the distraction of the saga, but maintained the company would not lower the price.

“We believe our wholesale pricing is absolutely fair and reasonable. What happens in the retail landscape, ultimately the retailer will decide,” said Kerr.

He admitted there had been some “brand damage”.

Kerr plans to hold crisis talks with New Zealand’s largest sports retailer, Rebel Sport, who recently criticised adidas and dropped the prices of All Blacks replica jerseys.

The retailer has knocked $50 off the price of the World Cup jersey, taking it to $170, and the standard All Blacks replica jersey is now $30 cheaper at $149.50.

But despite that, the jersey is still cheaper overseas.

Discussions between Mr Kerr and Rebel Sport head Rod Duke are scheduled to happen at the retail chain's head office.

New Zealand Rugby Union yesterday voiced its support for adidas.

Chief executive Steve Tew said adidas didn't tell the union how to play rugby, and he didn't tell it how to price its goods.

He accepted the firm's brand might have been damaged, but he would stick by adidas "through thick and thin".

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