Sports shoe and apparel maker Puma has been making footware since 1924. Olympic champions from Jesse Owens in 1936 to Usain Bolt in 2008 have worn its running shoes while setting world records. Yet in the race for market share, it barely wins the bronze in shoes and finishes without a medal in apparel.
What to do when competing in a crowded category during a worldwide recession? I could have imagined many initiatives from channel development to grass roots social networking to a basketball connection with a prominent amateur (think 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.).
How about joining with a number of mostly money losing companies such as Volvo in a round the world sailing competition. Apparently golf tournaments are not elitist enough. And the image portrayed in much of Puma’s communication is closer to urban street kid.
In each port its racing yacht visits, it will assemble a modular performance space/nightclub/bar with built in gear store called Puma City. Puma City even has its own Facebook page. At a recent reception there, everyone seemed to be having a good time. Yet no one seemed to be patronizing the store.
Puma does make deck shoes and foul weather jackets, but their sales contribute negligibly to overall revenue. The race has eleven ports of call, only one of which is in North America, namely Boston. It’s tough to see how this will develop the market.
The race is being supported by mixed media ranging from subway placards and traditional PR in Boston to a suite of social media including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Blogs. So far, it seems not to have a lot of traction or the internal logic of Puma’s running events and sports clinics.
Is this yet another case of let’s spend the stockholders’ money on what someone in management thinks might be fun or has a suppressed desire to try? Did someone in corporate marketing read Two Years Before The Mast? Anyway, who needs ROI, when you’ve built the meanest looking racing yacht of the bunch?