Not too long ago traditional German sports brand Puma wasn’t exactly what you would call the talk of town. Rather the opposite. But recently things seem to change, certainly also due to some clever marketing coups by betting on testimonials and brand ambassadors such as Rihanna, The Weeknd or Kylie Jenner. At the same time sport sponsoring activities have been pushed to underline Puma’s will to score as a credible football brand: the Kering daughter is outfitter of renowned teams such as Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal London and Olympique Marseille. Documented in numbers the company internationally grew by 10% and generated sales of 3,63 billion Euro in 2016, the first quarter in 2017 closed with a good 1 billion Euro compared to 856 million Euro on a year on year basis (+17,9%). We talked to Matthias Bäumer, Puma’s Area General Manager DACH (Germany, Austria, Switzerland), about this development and future plans.
Well, in the beginning we were actually looking for a female sports icon, because we saw a lot of potential lying in the female sports and sports style market for us. But there is not really one female athlete that is globally known. That made us think to choose a pop star – and Rihanna is the best choice for us. It’s important that we work with testimonials that all our retail partners, but also the end consumers have a kind of access to. The same goes for other global testimonials we work with such as Kylie Jenner and Cara Delevingne for the women’s sport style ranges, but also The Weeknd and Big Sean for men’s sport style.
Still, could all this not cause troubles in being recognized as a brand with credibility in the performance sector as well?
Not at all, because performance is our foundation. Our heritage in sports serves as an inspiration and all sport style products are rooted in sports. Also, we are heavily engaged in core sports. In the performance sector, for example, football is key for us in Europe. We underline this by being the outfitter of teams such as Arsenal FC, Borussia Dortmund, Borussia Monchengladbach and Olympique de Marseille among many others, but also sponsoring single players such as Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud, Sergio „Kun“ Agüero, Marco Reus, Julian Weigl, Cesc Fàbregas, Mario Balotelli, Héctor Bellerín und Yaya Touré. Regarding indoor sports, we have an eye on handball and have just hooked up with Stefan Kretzschmar to partner with us. We will also stick to top sprinter Usain Bolt and reach out to newcomers such as Kemar Bailey-Cole.
Be it from the lifestyle or performance sector - it seems we see a kind of Puma revival...
You could say that we have a momentum right now. Because of the enhanced brand heat and the improved sell-through of our products, we have experienced increased interest from retailers in DACH. This resulted in more and better shelf space with existing retailers, and also new shelf space with retailers that had not ranged Puma lately. The whole selling process works - we not only sell into the stores, but they also sell out, that's important.
So you remember the times when Puma was not the brand of the highest demand...
Absolutely. We are very humble in that respect, because we do remember the times when Puma was not in demand very well. Especially from 2007 to 2012, we were not considered to be relevant. In 2014, we started to reposition Puma as a sports brand. We have improved the product engine with a strong pipeline of exciting and commercial products, we have enhanced the organizational speed and business processes and we have optimized our distribution quality. You definitely have to work hard to gain your space on the shelves.
...or create more of your own shelves again by opening own stores?
We aim to provide to our consumers the best shopping experience across all channels: wholesale, retail and E-commerce. In retail, we focus on exciting our consumers with brand stores in key cities such as Berlin and Munich. However, we also put a lot of energy in wholesale and our wholesale partners, because we generate 80% of our sales through wholesale. This is where we are good at.