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Foresight goes along way: is Puma positioned to win at South Africa 2010?

12 Jun

This summers World Cup is perilously close. The big sporting goods manufacturers have unveiled their strategies for the competition and last minute injuries are hampering on pitch preparation on a daily basis. Team shirts have been launched; some made out of recycled plastic bottles others made the conventional way. Player, team and brand led campaigns are under way, some making more noise than the others. Nike has again focused their strategy around the individual with a mind blowing ‘write the future’ ad, which is seemingly everywhere. It’s very much focused on how one man can become hero one minute, villain the next. Adidas being adidas prefer to focus on the value of the team, queue ‘every team needs a spark’ and the history of the shirt to understand where they are coming from. Throw in for good measure a reminder that football is not just about performance and seeps into other areas of popular culture and we see Daft Punk and Noel Gallagher hanging out with David Beckham and various other international travelers in the Star Wars bar.

The above-mentioned brands are the obvious candidates for major activity around SA2010, adidas being official sponsors and Nike being the omnipresent competitor. What though of Puma? They laid their cards out for this tournament a long time ago (almost 10 years previous), in fact many where questioning the logic behind such a decision. The tournament in South Africa is seen as the defining moment in what they have intended all along. Puma’s alignment with Africa has long been questioned, almost primarily and naively for its focus too much on a single continent, a continent that has always flattered to deceive. Certainly the rationale behind this decision was not to sell replica shirts in Africa; instead it was a much deeper long-term approach to building a clear positioning for Puma and Puma football. What they have done is very smart; quietly and confidently planting the foundations of a strategy which is only now becoming obvious to the outside world.

Approaching the tournament they are ideally placed to steal the prize, not by ambushing the marketing side (appearing as if they are an official sponsor) even though they will, but by being much smarter than that. The whole brand has been adapted and created to feel like it comes from Africa, the communications, the promotional campaigns, the product and the values and energy that it takes from the continent. It has smartly aligned the continents love and passion for football and built a football offer around this, framing it with the simple message ‘love = football’.  The smartest thing they have done leading upto the last few months is to actually change their brand mark, replacing the iconic Puma stripe with a cut out of the African continent. This is smart, consumers and web 2.0 brands are used to this but for a more traditional brand to change a sacred mark is something else – imagine Apple taking away the apple or Coca-Cola the ribbons.

(the Puma identity with Africa cut-out, plus the love = football idea)

Without using dirty tactics, they are in a position where they could be perceived as ‘the’ sporting brand of the South African world cup. Additionally not being officially aligned with an organisation like FIFA means the brand can stay flexible and cool enough to do things radically different. Synonymous with what is going on in Africa, in tune with customers and timed to perfection. As the intrigue builds in African football; with the run-up to this tournament and the performance of its players in major European leagues, so to does Pumas strength and stock rise in the football category. Could it be finally time for others to step aside and let Puma take the top prize?


Is this the future of the sneaker/trainer box?

14 Apr

Let’s face it they have to come in something. I quite like my trainer boxes and the stuff that is contained inside, but I also know that the current distribution model is not sustainable and something has to change.

Puma and Yves Béhar have spent almost 3 years developing their version of what this might be. The result is the ‘Clever Little Bag’. Isn’t it nice?

As a customer you get a nice keep sake if you so desire with the red tote bag, but more importantly everything is recyclable and the reduction in cardboard is 65% less than standard boxes.

Would’nt it be nice if all sports brands used this form. Somewhat like if all the mobile handset manufacturers got together 10 years ago and decided on a universal form of charger, we wouldnt have the millions and billions of useless chargers getting dumped on landfill sites the world over. Somehow though, I can’t see Puma wanting to share this with their rivals, and who would blame them.

Thanks to Fastcompany for the details:

football shirt + plastic bottle = made real

14 Mar

I’m sure you’ve already heard that the new Nike world cup shirts are made by recycling 8 plastic bottles. Clever idea, nicely executed. Once you contextuliase enviornmental issues and equate them to everyday items or events do you get peoples attention. Here is Nikes effort…

I hope those bottles are in turn recyclable!

Mass to niche: the way forward for sport retailers?

3 Mar

A recession always brings about changes in customer behaviour; a tightening of purse strings and a re-evaluation of what they value from purchases being the most common. The recent recession was no different. Customers increasingly are demanding better experiences, better quality, better knowledge, better value and longer lasting items from brands – they take added time in making decisions on purchases because margin of income dictates that this makes most sense to the consumer.

What does this mean for sport retailers? Well, customers appear sick of getting poor advice from poorly trained staff, in environments that seem to push all and everything at them. See how Apple have addressed this in their retail environments; staff that have better training and can interact with customer, more focused and relevant offers and flexible store environments. They have rode the economic storm and reaped the benefits.

Step forward Footlocker. They are currently testing a pilot scheme in New York City where by they have created a specialist retail environment for runners called, ‘Run’.  The focus is better equipped staff, better advice and more focused offers, making sure customers walk out of the store with the best product for their needs. Buying running equipment can seem like a daunting experience when you don’t know what you are doing, especially when you are surrounded by all kinds of products from what seems like every possible sport and staff that have been spread too wide that they don’t really know what they are talking about.

Foot locker have created a niche offering around a popular sport, directing attention to what customers are increasingly demanding. Last year they did the same when they combined with Nike to create ‘House of Hoops’ for Basketball fans and players alike, again in New York City. Is this the way forward for Sports Retailers who value and need a presence on the high street? Maybe the strategy involves a few big, key multi sport stores and lot of little specialist offers like what Foot Locker are starting to do. Maybe then sports retailers will start being relevant again, not just for me but also for other hardened consumers across the globe.

Another hit to Baseballs credibility: Won’t someone think of the children

12 Jan

Mark McGwire came out on Monday night stating that he took drugs during his long MLB career, one of many who have admitted to cheating in recent times. Now, not being someone who pretends to know much about Baseball – I was however aware of McGwires magnificent achievement in breaking Baseballs season hitting record (even though in England Baseball is scarcely covered).

His status as a Baseball star Stateside was further reinforced to me when he popped up in an episode of my favourite cartoon; the Simpsons. McGwire and MLB carefully cultivated a wholesome image out of one of the games best known characters, marketing McGwire to millions of children who would dream about one day breaking his home run record. Yet he, like so many other Baseball‘stars’ before and after him only managed to reach the dizzy heights of sporting excellence by cheating.

How can baseball recover, and what of the next generation?

Baseball is clearly a sport tarnished. With its rich history; that is as much a part of American society as it is ingrained on its psyche, its carefully crafted legends, deep meaningful stories of rivalry and decades of epic battles. In one foul swoop a group of idolized individuals come along and shatter almost 100 years of brand building by MLB and its teams.

How can young people believe in baseball again, how can it possibly start to regain its credibility amongst the masses. If it was upto me I would start by wiping the records from history of all the known drug cheats. Then I would move to the players who are still playing but have admitted to, or been caught out taking performance enhancing drugs. I would make them wear bright pink uniforms for the rest of their careers, so when little Johnnie turns to his dad and asks why is that player in a different colour uniform his father can say, “he’s a cheat son, therefore no matter what he does he isn’t truly accepted in our sport”.

Baseball is by no means finished, but if ex heroes like McGwire keep announcing their sins to the world every few months then it has one hell of a challenge. MLB has to go back to basics and start thinking about the next generation, only then can fans start believing in the sport again and a platform from which future great stories can unfold once more.