Adidas & the All Blacks: How to Anger an Entire Nation of Rabid Sports Fans

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So much for a locals discount. With action at the 2011 Rugby World Cup just weeks from starting in host country New Zealand, sporting goods giant Adidas decided to charge 220 Kiwi dollars (about US$182) for a jersey of New Zealand’s national team, the hugely popular All Blacks. What makes this qualify as an extraordinary rip-off is not simply the lofty retail price, but the fact that Adidas is charging about half the price for the same exact jersey in other parts of the world.

Even when the New Zealand price is cut in half, the jersey is arguably still a rip-off. Per the New Zealand Herald, the All Blacks jerseys are manufactured in China and Thailand, and the estimated cost for making one is NZ$8 or NZ$9. Charging NZ$220 for that jersey represents quite a hefty markup.

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The New York Times rehashes the entire jersey controversy, which started earlier this month when the media got wind that Adidas had jacked up prices for All Blacks merchandise purchased in New Zealand. (An entire All Blacks get, including jersey, scarf, and jacket would fun a Kiwi fan NZ$478, or about US$396). Locals, who consider the All Blacks not only the national team but something closer to the national religion, only grew angrier as Adidas refused to lower wholesale prices, and then began stopping international Internet retailers from selling All Blacks gear to Kiwis at cheaper prices.

Adidas has since backed off these mandates, and several retailers have started price wars on jerseys in the hopes of making customers happy, even though the companies say they’re losing money on every jersey sold.

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Even so, many All Blacks fans swear they’ll never buy Adidas products again. One fan who has joined the boycott refuses to buy a new jersey and even placed tape over the Adidas logo on his old jersey, had this to say about Adidas:

“They must think that the people of New Zealand are stupid.”

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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