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180 Backs Legendary Rugby Club

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NEW YORK To mark the beginning of the Rugby World Cup on Friday, Adidas last week launched an international campaign from 180 in Amsterdam (180\TBWA), the Netherlands, highlighting the New Zealand All Blacks.

That team is ranked No. 1 globally and is heavily favored to win this year's World Cup being held in France, Scotland and Wales.

The $10-15 million "From the Earth" push includes a 60-second spot 180 Amsterdam with local activation by WHYBIN\TBWA which includes, a team poster, a Web site and promotional canisters of dirt.

In the commercial, "Rugby of this Earth," picturesque shots of New Zealand locales are shown as a narrator reads the names of towns and the number of players who have come from those towns, ranging from two to 150, who have played for the All Blacks. Men are shown playing rugby, but the fields are all missing a large, square patch roughly the size of a pillow.

The missing patches represent the parts of New Zealand the All Black players carry with them, metaphorically as well as literally. (The team took small patches of rugby fields in New Zealand and placed them on their practice field in France. Additionally, when fans buy an All Blacks jersey, they will receive a small canister of the soil.)

The campaign is running in New Zealand, Japan and various markets in Europe.

"Rugby by far is what the country [New Zealand] lives and breathes. The sponsorship encapsulates the team as well as the country," said Andy Fackrell, ecd at 180, who hails from New Zealand. "We have to be incredibly authentic and humble, but we didn't want to put pressure on the All Blacks because they haven't won the World Cup for 20 years. The campaign serves as a rallying call for the country."

The All Blacks won the inaugural World Cup in 1987; the team placed third in 2003, the last time the competition was held.

The "From the Earth" effort is the latest iteration in a long-running campaign that focuses on New Zealand's unusual relationship with its top sports team. It began with an effort three years ago called "Stand in Black," by WHYBIN\TBWA, in which people were encouraged to wear their jerseys to games, said Nicholas Drake, global head of rugby at Adidas. "It started with the background that the New Zealand public didn't want to wear the All Blacks jersey because they felt it was somewhat sacred and only All Blacks should wear it," he said.

This was followed by last year's "Bonded by Blood," which won a Grand Prix at this year's Cannes International Ad Festival for WHYBIN\TBWA, in the Promo competition. That effort featured posters painted with small amounts of the players' blood.

The All Blacks as a team rank on the same recognition scale that storied teams such as the New York Yankees, Chelsea Football Club and Manchester United do, said Drake. The problem lies in translating that recognition into action on the part of consumers.

"There's an understanding of the name. There's not an understanding of why they're famous or of the sport of rugby," Drake said. "We wanted to really grow more understanding of the game and turn that understanding into support and then to love."

Added 180's Fackrell, "Being an All Blacks in New Zealand is on terms with being president of the United States."