The All Blacks have a brand new sponsor to support them in Rugby World Cup year, through the sevens at the 2016 Rio Olympics and all of 2017 - ASB.

The bank and New Zealand Rugby announced the new association today and ASB marked it with a clever re-branding stunt that might have made a few people driving past ASB branches think their eyesight was failing.

It wasn't. The bank hailed its sponsorship by turning its familiar ASB brand into the words: 'ABs' yesterday - seen at several branches between Kaitaia and Invercargill.

The brand new sponsorship, casting ASB as the official bank of New Zealand Rugby and the All Blacks, covers the defending world rugby champions for three years as well as the world champion All Black Sevens men's and women's teams.

Several branches up and down the country puzzled onlookers for a while as they attached new signs to their building, replacing the normal company brand with the re-arranged ABs letters proclaiming the link to the All Blacks.

'ABs' has become common usage in shorthand references to the country's national team and the bank was quick to capitalise on the wordplay - using All Blacks Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Cory Jane, Sam Cane, Patrick Tuipolutu in a TV commercial joking around with the bank's ASB brand.

ASB chief executive Barbara Chapman says the sponsorship is more than just a conventional corporate arangement.

"This is about a partnership between two organisations with closely aligned values, ambitious goals and a track record of success. The team at ASB are passionate about rugby so it's enormously exciting for everyone to be coming together with an organisation like New Zealand Rugby that shares our passion and ambition," says Ms Chapman, adding it was ASB's aim to work with the All Blacks to benefit its people and customers around the country.

"Rugby fans come from all walks of life and include people of different ages, nationalities, genders, locations and lots of other backgrounds, just like the people we employ and the customers we serve every day."

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew says the new partnership is a great fit for both organisations: "ASB and New Zealand Rugby share the same values and goals. We both want to be the best we can be in very competitive environments and to strive for constant improvement.

"We know that customers and fans are happy when we're on top of our game and successful. Success comes from planning well, working hard, being flexible, smart and innovative and above all team work."

Published in Sponsorship