Puma Pins Majority Of World Cup Marketing Hopes On Balotelli, Italian National Team
Puma's multi-year endorsement deal with AC Milan and Italian national team forward Mario Balotelli is already paying off, as the limited-edition evoPower Stampa boot the company customized after him and debuted during his late December unveiling has already sold out. Balotelli, who was pried away from Nike by the Germany-based company, was officially introduced Dec. 22 along with a photo of him holding the new boot. Puma, which released the personalized, $350 evoPower Stampa in five different cities worldwide, went with scarcity in making less than 1,000 of them originally and now has none remaining, according to company VP/Strategic Planning, Brand Management & Marketing Tara McRae. The uniquely designed shoe, which is part of Puma’s new evoPower line that launches Friday, was emblazoned with photos of actual newspaper clippings involving the mercurial player. It also featured the text, "Why Always Puma?" in a spinoff of Balotelli's infamous "Why Always Me?" shirt he exposed after scoring a goal during the '11 season, when he was playing for Manchester City and seemingly always making the English tabloids' front pages. The boot is just the first facet of an endorsement deal in which the company intends to make Balotelli the featured endorser of the evoPower line, which is the successor to its PowerCat collection. Puma also released a short New Year's ad of him celebrating the mark of a new calendar in which he is holding a lit sparkler, no doubt a reference to a highly publicized incident in which he accidently set part of his Manchester house on fire after playing with fireworks. The spot foreshadows the big role he will play with the company's marketing plans around this summer's World Cup in Brazil.
ON THEIR RADAR FOR A WHILE: McRae did not reveal when the company began negotiations with Balotelli, but said it had been in talks with him for "a little while." She added Puma pursued him because the company seeks "the athlete that stands out, and we felt as though Balotelli was absolutely that player, when looking at the global landscape of soccer players." On top of Balotelli, Puma for the World Cup also will be working with other players from its stable of endorsers, including Spain midfielder Cesc Fàbregas, Côte d'Ivoire midfielder Yaya Touré and Argentina forward Sergio Agüero. This is part of Puma's overarching global campaign for the World Cup entitled "Nature of Believing," which will begin in earnest in late spring and is set to feature an aggressive digital and social component. Puma recently changed lead creative agencies to JWT, N.Y., but worked with Droga5 for the “Nature of Believing” campaign. For more, click here.