The New Zealand Rugby Union is exploring its legal rights after a troupe imitated the All Blacks by performing a haka for a Japanese Coca-Cola commercial.
The haka also upset Maori who said the portrayal was disrespectful and want the campaign stopped.
But while Coca-Cola Japan apologised for any offence caused, it stuck to its guns saying it was an original haka and not Ka Mate.
It said the haka was created, choreographed and performed by a Japanese-based Maori cultural group.
However, the performers were dressed as All Blacks – without the Silver Fern – and the haka bore a striking resemblance to Ka Mate.
The commercial featured Japanese popstar Namie Amuro and dancing girls facing off with the group described as "a troupe of studs from Kiwiland in the traditional Maori haka dance".
NZRU spokesman Paul Dalton said it appeared no All Blacks trademarks had been infringed.
"But the NZRU remains concerned that an association with the All Blacks will have been suggested to the average Japanese consumer.
"We are currently exploring what our legal rights might be under Japanese law."
Depending on the advice, NZRU would be working with Coca-Cola to resolve the matter.
Ngati Toa spokesman Te Ariki WiNeera said the commercial was disrespectful.
The iwi was extremely unhappy with the portrayal of the haka. Though it was an original composition it alluded to the fact that the haka in the commercial was Ka Mate and the All Blacks through their performance. "That's what we find offensive," he said.
Last year the New Zealand embassy contacted Ngati Toa advising they had told producers of the commercial to make contact before using the haka, but nothing happened.
The iwi believed the company should change or remove the commercial.
Coca-Cola Japan said it engaged extensively with parties when developing the Coke Zero campaign.
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- The Dominion Post