A decades-old Kiwi collector's item will for the first time feature the New Zealand women’s rugby team thanks to a new sponsorship deal.

The Black Ferns will join a host of other famous Kiwis who have featured in campaigns and on collectors cards for Sanitarium.

The team will appear alongside the All Blacks on special edition Weet-Bix collectors cards and packs, for the new Weet-Bix ‘Play Big’ campaign, aimed at encouraging children to develop their skill-set through unstructured play.

Sanitarium marketing manager Jessica Manihera said the cards have been a celebration of New Zealand history, culture and sporting heroes for more than 70 years.

“As early as 1931 Jean Batten was said to have enjoyed Weet-Bix on her trans-Tasman crossing and in 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary appeared in a campaign after taking Weet-Bix up the summit of Mt Everest during his historic ascent.

“In 1941 the first Weet-Bix cards were created to help educate and inspire Kiwi families,” said Manihera.

In that time, more than 170 different collector’s series have been designed covering topics as diverse as the history of NZ railways, local waterfalls, native birds, fantastic fungi and hot rods.

Manihera says the first All Blacks player series was introduced in 1999 and became one of the most popular series.

“The cards have had a place in the lives of generations of Kiwi children and now, for the first time our national women’s rugby team, the Black Ferns, will also be featured in a special edition set of collectors cards.

“Within this code, we have a sport where both males and females are playing and they're both world-renowned, phenomenally talented players. This presents an opportunity for young Kiwi kids to be inspired by some of the great sporting heroes that this country has to offer.

“Women's rugby is experiencing unprecedented global growth and last years Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland reached more than 70 million people within five days making it the most watched ever.

“As international champions, the Black Ferns have a big part to play in the future growth of this sport and we are proud to support them this year."

Manihera said the new Weet-Bix cards will feature individual player’s stories on how their childhood games of go-home-stay-home; padder tennis and spotlight, helped them develop the skills and mental attitude required for a professional rugby career.

New Zealand Rugby Head of Women’s Rugby Development Cate Sexton said the new Weet-Bix cards provided another exciting opportunity for the Black Ferns to inspire the next generation of players.

“It’s fantastic that our Black Ferns and All Blacks have been given a platform to share these childhood stories and to motivate young people to stay active and develop the same set of skills that helped them achieve their dreams on a rugby field.

“It’s an honour for our Black Ferns to be part of a campaign that has included so many iconic New Zealand heroes.”

Collectors cards will be included in Weet-Bix packets from August.