SINGAPORE - A move away from paid media towards social, content and influencer marketing, along with a simultaneous increase in sponsorship and event spending, have contributed to improved performance in Asia-Pacific for Puma, according to Adrian Toy, the company's regional marketing director.
In the past two quarters, Asia-Pacific posted a more than 10 percent increase in sales, making it the company's best performing region.
Puma’s deep sports heritage, Toy said, was not previously well known in the region. To improve its perception, the firm began to shift marketing investment to focus on global sports categories including football, running and training.
“The shift in strategy had a lot to do with the dilution of the brand in lifestyle versus a brand rooted in sports,” Toy noted.
The brand launched a global brand platform called 'Forever faster', using its top sports assets like Usain Bolt, Arsenal Football Club, Italy’s national team and its football players.
According to Toy, the message was around reminding people that Puma is the “fastest sports brand in the world”. The German brand also increased engagement in local events including grassroots soccer programs, training classes and Puma Night Runs in multiple cities.
Last year, Arsenal was in Singapore to launch its Away Kit, a first for the club outside of London, and the event was broadcast live worldwide. "The experience for the local fans allowed us to connect them to the rest of the world in an intimate fashion," Toy said.
Puma has also seen success in heavily advertising its Ignite running shoe franchise, featuring Usain Bolt. “Combine this with our running events, and we are making inroads in a highly competitive category.”
Bolt in particular is a big draw in this part of the world. It’s hard to miss his framed autographed shoes in retail stores, and his live appearances and activations in the region are well attended.
Local talent too
However, although Puma leans toward a single global brand strategy, it also enlists local ambassadors in each country. The exception has been Korea, where global campaign materials are not used because local campaigns fare better. One example of this is the firm’s association with Korean boy band BTS, which Toy said helped the brand connect and gain relevance not only in Korea but across the region.
“The initial plan was to target South Korea, but with the power of social media, their story and subsequent content gained life across the region,” he said.
In Asia, Japan, China and South Korea are critical markets for the sportswear giant. China is set to outgrow Japan, driven by critical mass.
Still, growing its football business, especially in China, is a big challenge for the firm. Puma has been late to the game, Toy acknowledged. Fortunately, its global football assets have done well—Leicester City and Arsenal came first and second, respectively, in the Premier League, and this helped boost the category. “We still have a lot to do to grow our presence organically in China and the local markets,” Toy added.
Another regional marketing challenge is balancing the portfolio of global and local assets. Puma recently signed singer-songwriter The Weekend as a global brand ambassador, but he isn’t as well known in this region. “Which global ambassadors do we support while leveraging more locally relevant ones efficiently?” Toy said, describing the challenge.
Marketing to women is also crucial to the sportswear firm’s strategy. Puma has started integrating sports-inspired pieces into its daily outfits and launched fashionable athletic wear. “We aim to own the space where the gym meets the runway by using local style ambassadors to win the hearts of women consumers,” he said.
Puma’s #ForeverFierce campaign, featuring Kylie Jenner, helped boost business for Puma Fierce, a range of training shoes and bra tops. Social-media and influencer outreach led the campaign.
Rihanna’s recent collection has also created “instant brand heat” among key influencers in a short period of time, resulting in queues and sellouts, Toy claimed. In Asia, products like Puma Creeper and Fur Slide have been tremendously popular—generating social buzz and the attention of local celebrities and influencers, he said.