Puma Set To Dethrone Nike In NBA & Culture Push
The Breakdown You Need to Know
The company announced its re-entry into basketball back in March, when nearly 70% of NBA athletes were wearing shoes branded by a group of just 15 players this past season, according to ESPN. Overall, it seems as though performance sneakers have fallen out of style. Research from the NPD Group found that basketball shoe sales peaked in 2015 at $1.3 billion but were down 13.6% in 2017.
For Puma there still seems to be a huge upside in re-entering the race for NBA athletes. “The headline for us when it comes down to why are we getting back into basketball after 20 years is culture culture culture culture culture,” said Adam Petrick, Puma’s global director for brand and marketing. Being associated with the league gives brands some credibility with young consumers.
NBA players generate enormous amounts of value to brands. CultureBanx noted that during the 2015 - 2016 season, players generated $333 million in brand value solely on social media. That number went up to $444 million for the 2016 - 2017 season. Also, the top 5 NBA brand ambassadors in 2018, Lebron James, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Lonzo Ball, and Russell Westbrook, have created $25 million in brand value solely for their shoe sponsors.
Puma’s Cultural Jump Shot: Puma was able to sign four of the top 15 picks in this year's draft, including Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III. Their unique proposition to players comes in the form of offering them the immediate chance to become the face of a brand, and taking on issues they are passionate about both on and off the court.
“Basketball isn't driven only by the performance on the court. It's the culture around the sport that's almost more meaningful,” Petrick said to AdAge. He went on to tell the publication Puma will be able to address issues of social justice and inequality. These are topics important to the fans and the culture around the game, in a way that Nike and Under Armour haven’t done.
Not to mention signing with Puma gives up and coming NBA stars direct access to hip hop icon Jay-Z. His role with Puma as creative director concretely infuses music, culture and sports in an authentic way. However, Jay-Z’s work with Puma has raised questions about a potential conflict of interest with his role at Roc Nation Sports agency. Several rival brands complained to the NBA players union about the possibility of Puma’s allure increasing the price of their next Nike or Adidas shoe deals.
The next stop for Puma is looking overseas to China, where it will open between 400 to 600 stores per year in the country. Bloomberg found that the NBA is six times more popular in China than the three largest European soccer leagues combined. The company plans to make the country its top market by 2022. For now, Puma lags extensively behind its competitors across China, with total sales under $500 million, compared to the $4 billion each in sales by Nike and Adidas, according to Wedbush Securities.