As Bolt Wins, Sponsor Puma Does Nothing

09/25/2008 05:12 am 05:12:01 | Updated May 25, 2011

Jamaican sprint sensation Usain Bolt's historic Olympic victories have provided his shoe sponsor, Puma AG, with an unexpected burst of publicity on the global stage. And yet the German footwear company's immediate reaction -- as laid back as a sunny Jamaican morning -- is almost the opposite of Mr. Bolt's now-famous celebratory antics.

While sponsors like Visa Inc. rushed out congratulatory ads touting Michael Phelps's triumphs -- and Nike Inc. took out full-page ads in China consoling star hurdler Liu Xiang when he came up injured -- Puma has laid low in the wake of Mr. Bolt's world-record performances in the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints. That means no big print ads, no instant TV commercials, no giant murals unveiled in Beijing, Los Angeles or even Kingston, Jamaica.

"When you do congratulations ads, are you doing it for Wall Street or for the consumer?" asks Puma's Chief Marketing Officer Antonio Bertone. Puma, which is 68%-owned by French retailer PPR SA, argues that its target customer -- hip, young, urban and perceiving the brand as alternative fashion as much as high-performance athletic wear -- is resistant to the monolithic marketing campaigns typical of the industry.

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