Massey University researchers are calling for greater protection of the haka Ka Mate ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.
Behind the hiss and the roar of the traditional ritual, commonly performed by the All Blacks before a game, is an origin that stretches back before the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, in 1820, when the Ngāti Toa chief Te Rauparaha said the words in the haka during and after his escape from battle.
However, its history and relevance to the people of Ngāti Toa are often unacknowledged by advertisers and marketing companies, according to academic Jeremy Hapeta.
He is now calling on New Zealand Rugby to require sponsors and corporations to attribute the haka to the people of Ngāti Toa.
Despite intellectual property rights being granted to the iwi in 2014, overseas advertisers of the 2015 Rugby World Cup continued to use the haka inappropriately, he said.
"There were some events that occurred in Dublin, in Ireland and over in the UK, companies trying to promote the Rugby World Cup, used the haka inappropriately," he said.
"It was mana-diminishing, certainly the 'hakarena' performances were very amateur and was just taking the mickey really.
"They were all having good fun and laughing about it, but my research found it impacted Māori communities."
He and his team interviewed relevant rangatira from Ngāti Toa and Ngāti Raukawa for the study.
He said New Zealand Rugby now needed to take the lead and prevent commercial interests from misusing the cultural taonga.
"We can't continue to turn a blind eye to the disrespectful ways that haka are used for commercial purposes."
However, New Zealand Rugby has taken a few steps, he said.
"They have established a kaitiaki group for haka within the All Blacks, a pūkenga for the Māori All Blacks and organisation, the adoption of a Respect and Inclusion program, and a cultural subcommittee of the New Zealand Māori Rugby Board."