Puma details marketing plan to reignite ‘brand heat’

Puma is to use AC Milan and Italian footballer Mario Balotelli to drive its repositioning as a performance sports brand after admitting it lacks “brand heat”, commercial products and desirable distribution”.

AC Milan star Mario Balotell will play a key role in revitalising for the struggling sportswear brand.

The German sportswear maker said 2013 had been a “challenging year” when explaining 3 per cent sales slump to €2.9bn (£2.3bn) in the 12 months to December. The decline was accentuated in the last three months of 2013 with sales plummeting more than 13 per cent to €698m (£574m).

It admitted sales in the first half of 2014 were likely to fall again. But predicted an upswing in the second half leading to flat overall sales for the full year.

Puma’s chief executive, Bjoern Gulden said it was still a “great brand” claiming 2014 would mark the start of a turnaround to unify its sportswear and lifestyle categories under a global marketing strategy. Balotelli, who is expected to be one of the stars at this year’s World Cup, will be a “major force” in driving the brand’s performance message, he added.

The former Manchester City striker is likely to star alongside World and Olympic 100m champion Usain Bolt in Puma’s “Forever Faster” global campaign later this year. It aims to focus on the brand’s sports history and product innovations after its foray into lifestyle categories proved unsuccessful under the company’s previous chief executive Jochen Zeitz. Premier League title contenders Arsenal FC are also expected to feature in the campaign after Puma replaces Nike as the club’s shirt sponsor in a five-year £150m deal starting this summer.

The business is hoping the World Cup, where it will have a strong on-pitch presence with eight teams it backs including Italy and Ghana, will help revive demand for its football boots after footwear sales fell 12.9 per cent in its latest quarter. It is understood Puma is also putting in place a social media strategy to exploit the memorable moments during the tournament.

Elsewhere, the company revealed plans to revamp its distribution strategy to enhance its premium credentials. It said it would replace smaller “lower tier distribution” outlets with larger chains.

Nike and Adidas are pursuing similar strategies but have both been referred to the Office of Fair Trading over concerns their efforts could force small shops to close.

Gulden adds: “’Forever Faster’ is not only our new brand statement, it is also our new mindset. Puma is about fast products, fast athletes, fast designs and fast decision-making. With the re- signing of Usain Bolt, and signing of Arsenal FC and Mario Balotelli, we further demonstrate that we are a true sports brand.”

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