Company – Puma
Founder – Rudolf Dassler
Puma is known all over the world as a manufacturer and seller of sports shoes. The company is known as Puma Societas Europaea (SE) and sells its products worldwide under the brand name Puma and is identified by its distinctive ‘formstrip’ logo. Along with its mainstay sports shoes, Puma sells sports apparels and accessories. It offers sport-specific merchandise for basketball, football, golf, running, motorsport, training and fitness and sports-themed casual and lifestyle products for its discerning customers.
The company holds the distinction of being the third-largest sportswear manufacturer in the world. Currently, Puma has sponsorship deals with leading sports icons like Usain Bolt (athletics), Virat Kohli (cricket), Rickie Fowler (golf), Antoine Griezmann (football) among others, along with a host of national teams and clubs for its brand promotion.
The story of Puma began in 1924 with two brothers, Adolf and Rudolf Drassler. Their father, Christoph worked in a shoe factory at the small town of Herzogenaurach, Bavaria, Germany. The town had over sixty such factories manufacturing shoes and it was the main occupation of the residents.
After completing his studies, Rudolf initially joined his father at his factory for work, then drafted in the army during World War I. Upon his return, Rudolf joined a porcelain company and later worked in leather trading at Nuremberg, a city in Bavaria, Germany near his hometown.
But Rudolf’s passion was shoe business, so he returned home in 1924 and started a small shoe manufacturing unit called Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik (Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory), along with his younger sibling, Adolf, popularly known as Adi. They built their base of operations in the laundry run by their mother at the start. Since electricity supply was intermittent, they even pealed a bicycle for powering the machines.
In 1936, during the Berlin Olympics, the brothers drove all the way to the city with a case of spiked shoes and talked the legendary athlete Jesse Owens into using them in the Games. He won four gold medals and the brothers got their business mileage and impetus. By 1938-39, Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory was selling over 200,000 units of sports shoes annually. The Nationalist Movement and 2nd World War caused ideological differences between the brothers and some circumstances arising due to the ongoing conflict created an irreversible rift.
In 1948, Adolf finally split with his elder brother and started his own company across the river in their hometown. Rudolf continued with the old business but decided to rename it ‘Ruda’, using the first two letters of his name and surname combined. Later in the same year, the company again changed its name to Puma Schuhfabrik Rudolf Dassler, thus creating the brand Puma.
The Road to Success
After the successful collaboration with Jesse Owens in 1936, Puma made it a point to endorse sports teams and icons for popularizing their products. In 1948, some of the West German Football team members wore Puma boots which included their goal-scorer, Herbert Burdenski. In 1952, Rudolf developed football boots with studs that can be screwed under it. He named the model “Super Atom” , it was built with inputs from sports personalities including the coach of West Germany’ football team.
The Olympic Games in the same year witnessed the gold-medal winning run of Josie Barthel in 1500 meters wearing Puma shoes. The 1960s saw Puma’s increased involvement with sports personalities keeping in line their business expansion and higher revenues. Sprinter Armin Hary wore Puma shoes during his gold medal-winning 100 meter run at the 1968 Olympics.
The year of 1986 saw Puma becoming a public limited company in Germany. They also developed a technologically advanced running shoe called the RS (Running System) Shoe, which had devices integrated for measuring running speed, steps and calories. In 1989, Armin and Gerd Drassler sold their personal stock holdings of 72 percent to Cosa Liebermann SA, a Swiss business firm.
Early years of the millennium saw Puma maintaining its global expansion and increased earnings by reaching revenues of 1.3 billion Euros. They even entered the Far East market by sponsoring the highly popular anime show Hungry Heart: Wild Striker wherein the characters were shown wearing Puma jerseys and sportswear.
2007 saw Puma being bought in a friendly takeover bid by the French retailer Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (PPR), the owner of the Fashion brand, Gucci. Initially, they bought 27 percent stake in the company with the later announcement of share buybacks. The managing board of Puma welcomed the move as they deemed it in the company’s interest. So, by the end of July 2007, PPR became the principal stakeholder in Puma with over 60% stock of the company. In 2011, Puma formally shifted to the European Union trading model by becoming its member.
The company has a 5% stake in the famous German club, Borussia Dortmund and sponsors their player’s sports gear. Puma also has contract with Formula One and Nascar for sponsoring their driver’s racing suits and shoes, thus have a vested interest in producing racing sportswear. They also re-entered into basketball sponsorship deals after 28 years with NBA draft players in 2018.
- Focus on providing innovative, functional and quality products to its customers
- Continuously developing new technologies for its sports shoes since the beginning and popularizing through the company’s vast marketing channels and brand ambassadors
- Distinctive product identity with prominent design features (formstrip logo)
- Sponsorships deals with major sports icons over the years
- Contracting celebrity youth icons from the glamour industries like modeling (Cara Delavigne), acting (Selena Gomez), singing (Jay Z) as brand ambassadors to further popularize their products among such artists’ fan base
- Creating product lines in collaboration with major sport stars by taking feedback, using their signature designs and launching products with their name
- Signing on sports personalities like Bjørn Gulden (CEO of the company since 2013) and using their expertise to run the company
- Appointed the hugely-popular singer and actor Rihanna as their Global Brand Ambassador and Creative Director for their Puma Women product lines
- Committed to follow environmentally safe practices in their business, uses recycled materials thus creating good publicity
Puma has been on the path of continuous growth since its inception 71 years ago. With the vision of Rudolf Drassler in its early days and competent management teams well-versed with the sports industry later, the company has earned annual revenue of over 4 billion Euros in 2017. Currently spread in over 120 countries, puma is able to maintain the delicate balance of quality along with profitable sales and is poised for further growth in the coming years.