Puma AG is a shoe and sportswear company based out of Germany. They sponsor many footballers in Europe and even Usain Bolt, the Jamaican track star. So why has the company branched out to sponsor a team in the Volvo Ocean Race? They've even introduced a line of Sailing Gear, which I have yet to see anyone own. Will Puma remain a long-term sponsor of the sport? Or will they essentially bow out after the VOR is completed? A lot rides on the success of the upcoming stopover in Boston.
Puma currently sits second in the standings, not that the overall finish of the team matters a lot in terms of sponsorship. But when the fleet arrives in Boston, they will be greeted by an American style welcome that hopefully will bring the International sailing community coming back for more and more. "Puma City" will be in Boston for three weeks. A collection of 24 shipping containers, arranged into a multilevel retail store, bar, and event space, should gather some local attention. Antonio Bertone, Puma's Chief Marketing Officer, had this to say about the sport, "A lot of time people see sailing as an elite sport, but we're trying to give folks an opportunity to see that's not the case." Puma is obviously marketing its US involvment not only to elite sailors but also the common man, hopefully bridging their product line with the sensory created by ocean racing.
What does Puma hope to gain out of their "city" in Boston? They are admittingly losing money on the undertaking, Bertone was mum on the cost to create Puma City, simply saying it cost "a lot. Obviously it's not the best of economic times to bring something like this here, but people need something to do," he said. "It can't always be gloom and doom. At the end of the day I kind of look at it as a bright spot." With nightly DJ battles, and other events hosted at the city, Puma is betting that if they build it, they will come. With the College Sailing Semi-Nationals also taking place concurrently, the area will simply be a modern sailing mecca. Combing the most succesful sailing circuit in the US and the most successful ocean race in the history of the sport, hopefully the benefits, both in profits and market gains will help the sport and the companies who sponsor it.
On accouncing Puma's entry into the VOR, CEO Jochen Zeitz said, “We are thrilled to announce PUMA’s entry into the Volvo Ocean Race – one of the world’s iconic sporting events. The race’s global reach, lifestyle appeal and true sporting characteristics match the PUMA brand perfectly and provide PUMA with exciting new opportunities to make a mark in the world of sailing, on and off the water. This continues our strategy to expand into new product categories and explore the potential of the brand.” So does this mark Puma's long term interest in remaining in the sport? I half expected Puma to announce an iShares Cup team, one of the other well-marketed and successful sailing events. But perhaps Puma is waiting until their VOR campaign is completed and then will sponsor a German team into the next multi-challanger AC. In the mean time, will Puma continue it's line of gear and funding into specifc regattas? Perhaps Puma will join Acura, Audi, and Rolex as common reggata sponsors.
The future of Puma in the Sailing World has yet to be seen, but one thing is for sure. The success of the VOR stopover will have long lasting effects on how profitable companies see sponsoring sailing in the US. If you will be in Boston in the next few weeks, stop by the city and show some interest, maybe even buy a Puma Cruising Jacket, for only $350. Just think how preppy you'll look now at your weekly club race.
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