A recent article on the Economic Times portal of the India Times, noted that the major sports apparel firms (Puma, Adidas, and Nike) are expected to boost their marketing spends during the lead up to the World Cup, particularly if past World Cups are to be an indicator.
This shouldn’t be surprising. But it will be interesting to examine the marketing strategies of the three companies in light of their current positions on the continent and in relation to sponsorship (or not) of the event. Adidas is the official apparel sponsor of the World Cup. They sponsor the official event apparel as well as a number of teams that will likely qualify i.e. Germany, Argentina, Spain, South Africa, etc. However, their rival, Nike also sponsors a number of likely qualifiers i.e. Brazil, Portugal, and the USA. But Puma, probably has the greatest African representation, sponsoring the Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and Egyptian teams, besides sponsoring the defending champions, Italy.
It is clear that these apparel giants will be using the global appeal of soccer and the World Cup in South Africa to increase their market presence around Africa and around the World. Puma has a slight advantage in their sponsorship of a few African giants, but Nike and Adidas enjoy greater global brand recognition and enjoy connections to some of Africa’s biggest stars i.e. Michael Essien, Didier Drobga, and Emmanuel Adebayor, to name a few.
I know that Adidas as a World Cup sponsor has already committed CSR funds to develop the youth football infrastructure around South Africa and that Nike has invested in some of the youth leagues, particularly the Soweto Football Association. But I haven’t heard much from Puma as of yet. In some respects, Puma has the steeper hill to climb, being the lesser known brand of the three. Is this an opportunity for Puma to really invest in a compelling, authentic, and visible CSR initiative in South Africa and around the continent? They’ve invested heavily into the commercial side of African football already; now will they build upon that investment to show they are serious about Africa and African football?
Since Adidas is the tournament sponsor, Puma won’t be able to market at the stadiums and fan zones (due to the prohibiting of “ambush marketing”). But this presents them a huge opportunity to be in other parts of the country (likely ignored by brands and marketers) as well as other parts of the Continent (who will be viewing the games intently). I think Puma has a huge marketing opportunity as well as the chance to help leave a lasting legacy for the games (and their brand). Puma has a strong commitment to social responsibility which is evident in their recently published CSR report; let’s just hope they integrate this commitment with their marketing strategy in South Africa.
What do you think Puma could do around the World Cup to help build their brand and be a good corporate citizen? Ideas are welcome!