SBJ/20090629/SBJ In-Depth

Golfers call the shots on this tour as Puma puts fun and fashion on the front nine

Puma needed a way to build grassroots interest in its entry into golf, which was more about the golf lifestyle than smacking a 300-yard drive. Puma also wanted to redefine the image of the golf lifestyle, from ill-fitting shirts and country clubs to a younger, more fashion-forward individual.

The brand partnered with Maxim magazine in 2008 on a tour that visited six trendsetting cities — Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Boston, Fort Lauderdale and Austin — to stage the Puma Open. This year the tour will go to 15 cities, with each stop hosting 144 recreational golfers willing to pay $75 each for a one-of-a-kind tournament.

As Puma states on its Web site, participants must abide by three rules:

You must be at least 21.

You must wear appropriate golf attire (the flashier the better).

You can’t wear metal spikes (does anyone still own them anyway?).

Puma’s tour and its wacky rules are
all about redefining the golf lifestyle.

The Puma Open, run by Octagon, is played on an 18-hole golf course, but the competition has more of an amusement park, miniature golf feel than a traditional stroke or match play event.

On one hole, golfers only use a 7-iron from tee to green. On another, teams compete to see who can play the hole in the shortest amount of time. At the end of the round, the teams compete in a poker tournament, and the group with the best combined winnings from golf and poker is named the champion.

The after party has a buffet dinner and DJ, and cocktails figure heavily into the equation. Puma offers a 20 percent discount on its golf footwear, apparel and accessories, but the event is not about driving immediate sales, said Puma Golf business unit manager Bob Philion. “It’s about building the brand,” he said.

Puma instituted social-networking components this year, allowing its Facebook followers to suggest and then vote on a competition format for one hole. The winner: Contestants will drive with their putters and putt with their drivers.

There are also videos posted from each tournament on YouTube. When the New York event sold out in seven hours, Puma offered the last spot to whomever submitted the best video plea.

Puma also got its athlete endorsers in the mix with a series of humorous videos. Yankees center fielder Johnny Damon, NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne and golfer Erica Blasberg each make preparations to play in the event.

— Jon Show

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