Sometimes it’s not about how much sponsorship money you have, but how you use it. Earlier this year, German sportswear company Puma triumphed over bigger rivals Nike and Adidas as Usain Bolt held up one of his gold-decked running shoes for the cameras after his historic 100m victory at the Olympics in China. Puma and running shoes is a relatively easy association, but now the company is entering the sailing apparel market with a spectacular entry in the Volvo Ocean Race.
Yachtsponsorship.com asked Daniel Miles, Group Head of Marketing, PUMA Sailing about the campaign.
Why has Puma chosen sailing as a mechanism to promote the company & brand?
As part of PUMA’s long-term strategy for expansion into new categories, we were looking for a new area in which we felt we had the ability to grow. Sailing was chosen as the priority area. We entered the Motor Sports category 10 years ago, and it has now become one of our biggest categories. There is definitely the potential in Sailing to do the same. It is a big investment that we are making but believe it will pay off in terms of sales, image and brand equity.
Were other types of sailing besides the Volvo Ocean Race considered? Which ones?
From the very start, the Volvo Ocean Race was the event we were going to focus on.
Why was the Volvo Ocean Race chosen as the platform for the sponsorship?
With our boat ‘il mostro’, our crew led by Skipper Ken Read and the Volvo Ocean Race itself we have the ability to give our range credibility and maximise exposure for the PUMA brand within the sailing community and beyond. The Volvo Ocean Race also combined the key components of a global media reach, stopovers that allow us to activate in key geographical markets and an on-board media crew member who allows our target consumers to get into the action. On top of that, what tougher test could a sports company like PUMA have to test its new apparel and footwear than competing in the race that is dubbed ‘life at the extreme’!?
Are there stops on the Volvo Ocean Race that are more important than others from a marketing point of view?
Each one of the stopovers during the race present their own particular opportunities from a marketing standpoint, with key three areas standing out. Firstly, the Asian stops are important for PUMA as we use Sailing as a key component of our brand expansion in these emerging markets. Secondly, the Boston stopover is particularly important to us as PUMA’s International Marketing headquarters are based in the city. We christened our yacht ‘il mostro’ in the waters of Boston harbour and it is an opportunity to continue to strengthen our business in North America. Last, but certainly not least, Cape Town is very important for PUMA as we are in sight of the Football World Cup taking place in 2010 where PUMA will continue its support of many of the leading African teams.
What are the success factors in terms of the sponsorship?
Well, we’ve got to excite our consumers for starters. We also need to demonstrate that we can create a sustainable level of sales of apparel and footwear. Oh, and not forgetting to win the race of course!
It is too early for us to draw any firm conclusions but so far our performance on the water has been strong with PUMA in second place overall at the end of leg one. Off the water our marketing activities are beginning to pay dividends in terms of press coverage, customer confidence and consumer engagement.
How will you measure whether you have achieved your goals?
We have our internal measures coupled with consumer and customer feedback plus we have access to a comprehensive research project conducted by Volvo Event Management (VEMUK). Another benefit of our strategy is that we can assess a direct ROI via the sales of licensed products (the official Volvo Ocean Race collection) and our own sailing collections.