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What’s Behind the Buzz Surrounding Puma Basketball?

What’s Behind the Buzz Surrounding Puma Basketball?

6 Minute Read

  • NBA-All Star Weekend took place from February 15th – 18th – MKTG will provide an activation recap next week

  • Puma Basketball recently announced its marketing partnership with the NBA, giving players the opportunity to wear Puma Basketball shoes

  • MKTG reviews Puma Basketball’s strategies to gain relevancy in the basketball sneaker market, including proving its authentic historical connection to basketball and its current efforts to elevate basketball culture

  • Social pages receive high engagement when brands join conversations with millennial fans on subjects and causes they care about

Puma dove back into the basketball category in 2018 with the launch of Puma Basketball, announcing its multiyear marketing partnership with the NBA just days before the start of All-Star Weekend. Dan Rossomondo, NBA senior vice president of media and business Development, had this to say:

Puma played an important part in the early footwear culture of the NBA. As Puma expands its presence in the basketball market with new player relationships and a new line of basketball sneakers, becoming an official footwear partner of the league was a natural next step to help amplify the brand’s return to the category.
— Dan Rossomondo
Puma Signing.png

While there has been a lot of discussion on the internet about their re-entry into the category, with impassioned supporters and detractors, Puma has made some important steps as they seek to thread the needle with a fanbase that is protective of basketball culture:

Puma’s Authentic Connection to Basketball

What many people forget (or are unaware of) is that this isn’t Puma’s first foray into basketball – Puma Basketball used to have dozens of NBA All-Stars and Hall of Famers under its belt, including Isaiah Thomas, Vince Carter and Puma icon Walt “Clyde” Frazier, who’s name the newly re-launched Clyde Court Disrupt sneaker bares. Frazier’s original signature sneaker in 1973 was the first of its kind, cementing Puma Basketball and Frazier with an iconic position in history: The Puma Clydes made Frazier the first player in NBA history to receive his own signature sneaker. Before Jordans, Currys and Iversons, there were Clydes.

With a newly revamped marketing strategy, Puma Basketball is back and here to stay. Their first tactic for remaining relevant in the Basketball Shoe landscape was hiring Jay Z as Creative Director of Puma’s basketball division – this not only gives the brand clout and business expertise but, as described by Adam Petrick, Global Director of Brand and Marketing, Jay’s “extraordinary knowledge about the culture surrounding the game” has proven to be hugely impactful.

Continuing the Story Through CSR

Jay Z is a strong advocate and activist for prison reform, and this influence is evident in Puma Hoops’ recent Clyde Court #Reform sneaker in collaboration with Puma-Endorsee Meek Mill (Meek was released from prison in April 2018 after serving nearly 5 months behind bars following a highly publicized and controversial ruling that many deemed unjust). 100% of net proceeds from every pair sold will benefit the Reform Alliance, in the fight against criminal injustice. This is a theme that obviously resonates with many NBA players and fans, so Puma Basketball’s efforts not only speak directly to the causes they care about by aligning with Meek Mill and Jay Z, but Puma Hoops has successfully cemented itself within basketball culture in an authentic way and impactful way with a natural connection to Jay Z’s cause of choice.


Opening a Dialogue with Basketball Fans

@PumaHoops on Instagram has garnered over 315K followers since its first post in June 2018 – since then, they have stood out amongst athleticwear brands by joining the conversation with basketball fans, rather than speaking to fans. For instance, Puma Hoops invited fans to take pictures for their Instagram page on disposable cameras which they leveraged for content over time – this not only gave them lots of great and aesthetic content, but it spoke to fans by giving them an opportunity to get featured and show their work in exchange for a free pair of kicks.

As mentioned above, the Clyde Court #Reform sneaker benefits a cause that resonates with many NBA fans – but it also literally features the hashtag #Reform on the sole and tongue of the shoe, giving fans the belief that Puma Hoops is not trying to just push products, but they are trying to push important conversations about Prison #Reform, too.


Finally, Puma Hoops has a cheeky vibe to it – whether we’re talking about when they took the negative comments on their IG page and made a cake and t-shirt, or the smoothie they made from printing the “hate” comments on their page, putting it into a blender and created “Haterade” – Puma Hoops’ cheekiness is likely an effort to speak to millennial fans and give them something to talk about. They’ve also involved themselves in conversations on social by posting memes about their brand, and commenting on popular basketball IG pages – Puma Hoops has involved themselves in conversations with fans in a way that many brands can learn from when striving for relevancy in a cluttered marketplace.

Opening a Dialogue with Basketball Fans

Given the recent success of Puma Hoops, it’s no surprise that they delivered an impressive effort during their first All-Star Weekend. Here is one of our favourites:

Puma Hoops x Slam x Baby Dunk Dunk Contest


Puma Hoops collaborated with Slam Magazine, a classic publication in basketball history and culture, and Baby Dunk, described as the “New Generation of NYC Streetball” for a Dunk Contest on February 15th. The Dunk Contest’s guest judges included Puma Hoops athlete and Toronto Raptor Danny Green, and was teased by Slam on Twitter in what appeared to be a classic hoops highlight reel.

Baby Dunk is a new category of amateur basketball with lowered nets, giving youth the opportunity to create dunks just like the pros do. Partnering with this up-and-coming organization is aligned with Puma Basketball’s strategy of signing up-and-coming players, illustrating an authentic effort to elevate basketball culture by supporting a young basketball organization.

A high intensity event with a retro aesthetic, the Puma Hoops Dunk Contest enabled Puma Basketball to display their products in action, with a fresh style of basketball – perhaps to support the fresh take that Puma Hoops is embodying with their basketball resurgence.

To appeal to fans on social, Danny Green took over the @PumaHoops Instagram story to share a behind-the-scenes look at the action. The event also had a guest appearance from @TheShiggyShow (the man responsible for the viral “In My Feelings Challenge”: it’s clear that Puma Hoops is striving to speak to millennial basketball fans through their activation efforts by reminding fans that they understand basketball culture.

MKTG highlighted a taste of Puma Hoops’ activations above, but notable highlights from Puma Hoops, as well as other brands, will be featured in MKTG’s upcoming NBA All-Star Weekend report – stay tuned!

Follow us on Instagram @mktg_canada to see when our NBA All-Star report goes live!

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