Puma has quickly become the go-to sport and fitness wear brand for the urban youth in India. Since entering the Indian market in 2006, nearly a decade after most of their competition, the German brand has carved a niche for itself through a mixture of quality products and innovative marketing campaigns.
In the Indian Super League (ISL) too, the company has renewed its presence in the form of its collaborations with Mumbai City FC and Bengaluru FC. The Bridge spoke to Puma India’s head for marketing and strategic initiatives, Ms Shreya Sachdev and we sought her views on the future of football in India and what role brands like Puma can play in that journey.
“We are still a cricket-led nation but recent data suggests that football is gaining on cricket as well. Especially with the OTT platforms coming in, people have a lot more access now to international events. Viewership is gaining exponentially and it remains the second biggest sport in the country. And we have seen that from our partnerships with BFC and MCFC,” she says when asked about how Puma sees itself as a part of the Indian footballing landscape.
She also feels that football in India is slowly getting where it needs to be in terms of the demand for team merchandise, something that is a big part of the European fan culture. “Both Mumbai City and Bengaluru FC have an extremely loyal fanbase who are eager for products and engagement. We had locally relevant content during their jersey launches that connected well with the fans and built a lot of excitement. This makes us all the more confident that football is definitely going to be a big part of our future in India,” expresses Shreya.
Last year, Sunil Chhetri and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu became the latest in a long line of Indian sports stars who became the face of the brand in India. Speaking of how important the Indian football team captain is to their brand’s perception, Shreya said, “As a sports brand, it is very important to work with people who lend credibility to the brand. As the biggest sports brand of the country, we would want to work with the very best. Someone like Sunil Chhetri is perfect in that case because he is the captain of the football team, second-highest (active) international goal-scorer in the world and someone who youngsters look up to.”
Chhetri’s online interaction with Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli became a viral sensation during the lockdown. Although the success of that video wasn’t a huge surprise given the iconic stature of those two, it was something that hadn’t been done in the online sphere before, let alone with two of the brightest sporting stars in the country.
“We also did an Instagram live recently with global sports stars and Chhetri was a part of that. But of course, his chat with Virat Kohli created a lot of buzz online. What worked in that video was that here you had two athletes who are icons in their particular domains having an interesting conversation about sports and so much more,” opined Shreya.
It still remains to be seen if this year’s ISL can sustain the initial buzz for the entirety of the campaign. However, the Puma’s jerseys for Mumbai City and Bengaluru FC have caught the eye of every football fan in the country so far. Although one could argue that both these teams are from cities that have a cosmopolitan, young crowd which is a target market-segment for Puma, Shreya feels there’s more to it than that.
“It is definitely not a conscious choice from the brand to only focus on metro cities. We have collaborated with these teams based on their team composition as well as the value and credibility that they add to our brand name. Football is a big focus area for us and we’re looking to increase our investment as a brand in football so you should stay tuned for some updates on that front,” she answered with a cheeky grin.