The key trends currently affecting this industry can be seen in both the macro and micro environments. Firstly, alongside Government health campaigns, consumers are exercising more (Bauer 2008, p.14). Dichotomously, the World Health Organization predicts that there will be 2.3 billion overweight adults in the world by 2015 (BBC News, 2008). Therefore an interesting paradox is emerging between consumers becoming more fitness-oriented and those who are being pushed to exercise more. Bauer further reports that an increase in health-club memberships has driven sales of sportswear.
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More specific to the sportswear sector, an initial trend is the rise of consumer nostalgia, which has led to many brands re-releasing heritage or “retro” products for fashion-related purposes. Another key trend is the merging of sportswear and technology as brands develop advanced fabrics and continue to develop activity-specific technologies in each sport (Pedersen, Parks, Quaterman and Thibault 2010, p. 80). Bauer also reports that these companies have a bias towards male consumers, but this being addressed by more attention to women’s sporting needs and tastes. Moreover, in response to a higher bargaining power of retailers, sportswear companies are opening their own concept stores.
Puma AG can be considered as one the leading manufacturers of athletic shoes, sportswear, as well as accessories in the world. It is best known for its products like soccer shoes, and uses sponsorship for its marketing strategy. The company had already done several sponsorship for different international sports super stars like Diego Armando Maradonna and offer different line of sport clothing that designed by renowned designers such as Lamine Kouyate.
The company was first founded in 1924, as Gebruder Dassler Schuhfabrik, in English, the Dassler Brother’s Shoe Factory by the Dassler brothers, Adi and Rudi. But the partnership ended during the World War II, when the brothers had a great fight, that lead for separation of the business. Adi continue the business and renamed it from his nickname and first 3 letters of his surname: Adidas. On the other hand, Rudi founded his own company named, Puma AG Schufabrik Rudolf Dassles, on the other side of Aurach, in 1948 (Pedersen 2006, p.513).
The company had become famous due to their innovative products such as the process of vulcanization in producing their soccer shoes that had become the standard process for the soccer shoes during that time. The company had also introduced their innovation in running shoes with the help of the unique shape sole and the Velcro strap.
Puma brand differentiation
In recent years, the Puma brand has become synonymous with fashion, style, and sport. Through fresh design, co-branding and partnerships with celebrities and famous designers, Puma has elevated their brand image so that it now competes with fashion brands as well as their traditional rivals in the sporting footwear industry. The Puma brand communication strategy is flexible across multiple categories, yet communicates innovation for an “active lifestyle” (Sports in America 2008). Puma communicates with each category in a unique manner, but the tone is distinctly tied back to the overall brand through the overarching brand personality and identity.
To extend their brand Puma has created concept retail stores that enable people to experience the brand in engaging and compelling ways (Cassidy 2001, p.31). Puma also engages customers through their Mongolian barbeque concept that enables customers to design and build their own footwear from scratch. Further differentiating the brand from traditional rivals, Puma frequently hosts promotional events that are based around “active lifestyle” themes based on dining, entertainment, fashion, and music.
Puma creative advertising
Puma has emphasized its position as a trendy brand. For example, during the 2002 World Cup in Japan, while Nike and Adidas spent millions of dollars on conventional advertising, Puma used sushi bars in fifteen cities around the world including New York, Hong Kong, and Madrid to showcase its product. Puma branding director Antonio Bertone noted that Puma’s target market of fashion-conscious customers are “eating sushi anyway.” The company also began running a commercial that featured former English soccer player Vinnie Jones and other Puma sponsored athletes in a sushi restaurant (Tkacik 2002, p. B8).
Not all major ad campaigns feature celebrity athlete endorsements. New Balance has a long standing policy against such endorsements. Instead, it relies on campaigns featuring every day people. One of their most recent campaigns ran under the slogan “There are two motivations in sports. Which is yours? For love or money?” which emphasized their focus on producing shoes for everyone who enjoys sports, not just star athletes (White 2005, p. 13). This strategy complements their original product positioning as a company for serious runners that also makes shoes in all widths, for athletes of different abilities and shoes sizes.
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Style-conscious consumers, guided in part by effective marketing, want shoes that will enhance their image and not just cover their toes. Customers notice whether their shoes have a swoosh or a lack thereof, thus entrants will have difficulty winning them over without these symbols and the cool-factor that goes with them. Even in the athletic shoe sector, the importance of fashion over function is rising. The “fashionization of shoes” took off in 1997, when Puma enlisted designer Jil Sander to create a limited-edition women’s running shoe to ignite its lackluster image and sales (Orecklin 2002, p. Y4).
The effectiveness of celebrity advertising has been linked by some authors, to the process of social influence (All-Star Athletes Reveal -Almost- All for Puma TV Campaign 2005, p.9). In a seminal work, authors had it distinguished two forms of social influence. The first, termed “informational social influence,” refers to “influence to accept information obtained from another as evidence about reality.” The second, “normative social influence”, refers to the influence to conform to another person or group (Pedersen, Parks, Quaterman and Thibault 2010, p. 112). Using celebrity advertising is necessary, since Puma shoes stick to its goal to mix sports, lifestyle, and fashion.
“New Stuff” campaign
PUMA decided to communicate their brand image through a product-focused campaign that conveys cutting edge style to a 16-34 year old audience (Sports Industry Trends 2008). Puma introduced the award winning “New Stuff” campaign as a way to showcase their design leadership. New stuff print executions highlighted the freshest new Puma styles and the commitment that Puma has to providing customers with innovative sport lifestyle products.
A core objective of the campaign was to increase sales, increase the mainstream audience’s knowledge of Puma ranges and project the brand’s core values as being different. New products needed to be showcased to the mainstream audience in a creative and unique way that was “unexpected, unique and different” (Sports Industry Trends 2008). To communicate this concept, animated animals such as monkeys, bats, bees, mice, and fish are depicted as playfully interacting with Puma products in an engaging and fresh manner.
Puma first introduced this campaign in 15 second television advertisements (Thompson and Baden-Fuller 2010, p. 118). The campaign was visually fresh and clean with crisp photography that drew attention to the products. The print advertising that followed reflects the focused simplicity and whimsical nature of the TV spots. Building momentum from the holiday season TV spots were run in November and they drew inspiration from Aesop’s fables by depicting two typical adversaries gifting each other Puma presents. Based upon the success of the TV ads, print ads were run into the following two seasons highlighting new Puma products. Elements of the ad migrated into surrounding media environments, engaging advertising savvy young adults who might be suspicious of broadcast advertising (Pedersen, Parks, Quaterman and Thibault 2010, p. 218).
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