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A “nice coincidence” is how Guido Terreni describes it. Yet it almost appears as if Bulgari were fated to join forces with the New Zealand rugby team.
They were both founded in 1884, and 21 years later, as the Italian company opened its business headquarters and flagship store at via Condotti in Rome, a representative All Blacks side known as the “Originals” embarked on a landmark first tour of the British Isles, beaten just once by Wales in their 35 games.
Brodie Retallick relishing his role as New Zealand’s not-so-secret weapon
Since then both have continually strived to impress and conquer worldwide with simplicity, skill and style.
Timing was certainly everything in their unlikely partnership as it came just months before the All Blacks were crowned world champions on home soil in 2011.
Terreni (pictured below), managing director of Bulgari’s Watch Division, cannot hide his admiration for rugby’s dominant outfit at the Bulgari All Blacks 100 Club Tribute event.
It was where captain Richie McCaw, prop Tony Woodcock, fly-half Daniel Carter and hooker Keven Mealamu received an exclusive Octo All Blacks 100 Club watch for playing a century or more Test matches.
So two members of the management team, including coach Steve Hansen and chief executive Steve Tew, who have officiated over a similar amount of games.
An all-black design, the dial has a black Maori tattoo imprint designed by Maori carver Tana Salzmann – a feature that Terreni felt was essential to the design.
“A player visited us and showed me his tattoo and I was fascinated by the story,” he says.
“Nowadays having a tattoo is a fashion, but you tell a Maori guy this and they are almost offended.
“A tattoo is an expression of values and important to them and you can’t play with it.
“The tattoo artist would say, ‘tell me your life, your father’s, ancestors’ and values and experiences, everything’.
“This player was covered from the shoulders to the knees and told me he spent three days with the artist and didn’t know what he was drawing on his body.
“We wanted a tattoo that was an expression of power, strength and loyalty, and the artist came out with this face which has this symbology that’s there. Then we put it into the watch.
“As a tattoo is under your clothes and they don’t show off, we found a way to interpret this as a black on black colour.
“It’s a bond with the team, but a lot of respect too.
“When you get to know them you really admire what they have achieved. It’s three million people who beat the whole world – and that’s unique.
“People ask me why did we partner with the All Blacks? But which other team has their percentage of victories. Its history is storied.”
And just as the All Blacks show they are all-powerful on the pitch, Terreni says Bulgari similarly want to stand alone in their field.
“When you speak about Bulgari, you speak about Rome. When you speak about Rome, you speak about power,” he tells Sport360°.
“The power of Rome is known since thousands of years and you fear the power of Rome.
“When you go to Rome you have this majesty of expression of buildings that are historic. They are a majestic expression of power.
“The word luxury was also invented by the Romans. That’s part of who we are.
“We are Romans, we have that strength about being different. We ruled the world and we rule ourselves because we do a process that we want, and not what the others want. We are unique.
“With the All Blacks partnership, we wanted to pay tribute.
“It’s the same thing we did with Maserati [for a limited edition Octo watch]. When I went to Maserati I told them I’m not going to put your name on my watch, they said: ‘What? No brand ever did that’.
“Maserati does not have Maserati on the dial because it’s not a Maserati watch. It is a Bulgari watch.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 17, 2015
“I interpret what you ask and through who you are I do an interpretation of a Bulgari watch.
“I convinced them by saying ‘if you had done a car for Bulgari would you have put Bulgari on the front? No, you would keep your mark’. It’s the same for the watch.
“These are things that are meaningful, and relationships. Maserati is an Italian company, style, quality like us. The All Blacks have this conquering the world that we as Romans did 2,000 years ago.”
Other top watch brands have delved into sports sponsorship with teams, players and coaches to increase their profile and sales.
But Terreni says they are not considering other deals right now.
“The exercise has to be unique and you can’t do the same thing as your opponents. So I don’t see that coming, no,” he states.
“We could have done a black watch ourselves. We didn’t need the All Blacks to do a black watch, but we wanted to do it with a meaning, with a value that was meaningful.
“Heart and soul… that’s what moves people.
“You don’t win against the competition through commercial things. You win it through expressing your DNA.
“Take our Serpenti watch, no other brand can do it. You don’t do something like that because you see what’s selling in the market. It doesn’t exist and you come out and make it exist.
“Others can copy you, but they won’t be selling it because you own the sign.
“This is what makes you a success. Serpenti didn’t need to be sold as a partnership. You have to be true to yourself.”
Born in Milan, a supporter of football club Internazionale and admirer of motorcycle legend Valentino Rossi and tennis great Roger Federer, Terreni became intrigued by the All Blacks and rugby after first meeting with them in 2009.
“I got hooked by them,” he adds. “I saw the England versus All Blacks game in 2010 at Twickenham.
“Firstly I was moved by the reaction of the English.
“The All Blacks were doing the Haka and you had 80,000 English people singing their own hymn and it was bold and deep, and that was a psychological defence of the Haka.
“You see that it’s a game you cannot win by yourself.
“In football, you have Cristiano Ronaldo who can score a goal in the last minute and win a game by himself. In rugby, no way. The team has to be perfectly in sync.”
— Bulgari (@Bulgariofficial) September 11, 2015
The All Blacks have proved to be the latter in this World Cup so far, booking their place in the semi-finals following their 62-13 thrashing of France on Saturday.
But Terreni adds: “It’s not important if they win or they lose, but it’s important how they win and how they lose.
“If we wanted to do a sponsorship as a brand commercially, we would have done a different thing, a cheaper watch, but we did a luxury watch.
“The value is important, not the quantity of what we sell here.”
These are the players who have contested 100 or more matches for New Zealand and were honoured by receiving an exclusive Octo All Blacks 100 Club watch:
Richie McCaw, 2001-15
– 146 matches, 139 starts, 7 sub
– 135 points, 27 tries
– Won: 129, Lost: 15, Drawn: 2,
– Win percentage: 89.04
Keven Mealamu, 2002-15
– 130 matches, 77 starts, 53 sub
– 60 points, 12 tries
– Won:112, Lost: 16, Drawn: 2.
– Win percentage: 86.92
Tony Woodcock, 2002-15
118 matches, 105 starts, 13 sub
50 points, 10 tries
Won: 102, Lost: 15, Drawn: 1.
Win percentage: 86.86
Dan Carter, 2003-15
110 matches, 104 starts, 6 sub
29 tries, 289 conversions, 276 penalties,
6 drop goals
Won: 97, Lost: 12, Drawn: 1.
Win percentage: 88.63
Other major players in sports sponsorship:
Has been at the forefront of sponsorship deals in sport for luxury watches. From 2006, it has become the official timekeeper of
the World Cup until 2022. It also had the same role at the European Championships in 2008 and 2012, and is now the official watch of the Cricket World Cup.
Pulled off a coup before 2014 World Cup when it signed Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo to be a brand ambassador, joining
Maria Sharapova, and more recently four-time NFL champion Tom Brady. This season, also became official timekeeper for the
Has an impressive list of sporting stars promoting the brand. None more so than Lionel Messi, NBA hero LeBron James and tennis champions Serena Williams and Stanislas Wawrinka, retired Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, and golfers Nick Faldo, Henrik Stenson and Darren Clarke.
Rolex has strong ties with golf through Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickleson, Adam Scott and Martin Kaymer, adding to its association with tennis’ Roger Federer and more recently, Bulgarian up-and-comer Grigor Dimitrov. Has been the official timekeeper of Wimbledon since 1978.
Has big name ambassadors in tennis star Rafael Nadal, Formula One driver Felipe Massa and golfer Bubba Watson and has become one of Manchester City’s sponsors while European champions Barcelona are associated with Maurice Lacroix and Arsenal with JeanRichard.
Is an official timekeeper of the Australian Football League (AFL), MotoGP, FIBA and Asian Games. Its brand ambassadors include San Antonio Spur Tony Parker, MotoGP rider Nicky Hayden and American driver Danica Patrick. Sponsors the Swiss
National Hockey Team and cycling’s Tour de Romandie.
Noted for its sponsorship of tournaments like the Dubai Desert Classic and Dubai Ladies Masters, Omega has teamed up with star Rory McIlroy, who joins his fellow golfers Sergio Garcia and Greg Norman as a brand ambassador along with Michael Phelps. Also official watch of Olympics.
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