Adidas and a fledgling league modeled after the Atlantic Coast Conference unveiled a partnership that strikingly demonstrates the implicit value of university brands for American rugby.
Along with equipment vendor World Rugby Shop, the multinational sporting goods maker will be an official partner of the Atlantic Coast Rugby League, providing marketing and gear for conference events as well as free or discounted equipment to each of the league's nine members. The pact will serve to introduce the mi adidas product line to the US market, the parties yesterday said in a press statement.
The multiyear agreement conveys significant credibility on the new grouping of southeastern schools, which to date have not challenged for national honors, by suggesting the organization is appealing to established businesses in the sports marketplace. The league-wide deal appears to set a precedent for domestic rugby.
Great hopes have been vested in the so-called restructuring process that has allowed collegiate teams to break apart from America's regional territories, in order to manage themselves in NCAA-style conferences. But apart from facilitating the College Premier League, which like the ACRL has yet to play any matches, USARFU has essentially left the schools (as well as their former parent territories) to fend for themselves.
Startup outfits have emerged in the Pacific Northwest and New England, plus the ACRL and the Ivy League, which has a long competitive rugby tradition. Most of America's 500 or so men's college teams haven't seemed anxious to set up new administrative structures, however, let alone reach out to the commercial marketplace.
Nor has the 31-team, USARFU-managed CPL managed to land any sponsorships. Much like the ACRL-Adidas-WRS agreement, the arrangement between Boulder and the participants calls for net sponsorship proceeds to be split equally.
The Adidas-WRS pact therefore stands as an exemplar because it has advanced from concept to execution in less than 12 months.
Under the terms, all clubs will have access to the same gear on identical terms. As a partner, the league will enjoy promotion in WRS catalogs and online properties, including a 160,000-strong Facebook page.
The ACRL, which launched in March 2010 and staged a 7s tournament this past fall, opens it debut season on February 19 with Duke traveling to Georgia Tech.