Puma this week tapped hip-hop superstar, and music and sports mogul Jay-Z as creative director of its basketball division, overseeing creative strategy, creative marketing and product design, according to several news reports.
The athletic footwear and apparel retailer is revamping its basketball offer, signing several athletes this week, according to other reports, and launching a new social media handle @PumaHoops. Puma didn't immediately return Retail Dive's request for more details.
In January, French luxury conglomerate Kering divested itself of the brand and in April, newly independent, Puma posted healthy first quarter results, as sales rose about 21% (or about 12% in reported terms) to € 1.13 billion ($1.4 billion, per conversion rates at that time).
Puma seems poised to rise thanks to the fashion emphasis Kering brought to the brand, considering that street styles are increasingly preferred by athletic shoe shoppers.
Sneakerheads, with their preference for streetwear, are looming ever larger in sports footwear sales. On the performance side, running shoe sales fell 7%, and training sales declined 15%, while leisure styles grew 17% and captured $9.6 billion in sales in 2017, according to another report by the NPD Group.
Yet the company is staking much on an overhaul of its basketball shoes, signing, in addition to Jay-Z, several rookie professional basketball players and unveiling a reboot of its '70s-era Clyde court shoe. Marvin Bagley III signed on last week, and Deandre Ayton, Zhaire Smith and Michael Porter Jr. joined this week, according to ESPN.
"Since 1973 the sport of basketball has transcended the court and Puma basketball will blend the influences of performance, fashion, music and culture. Jay-Z is the perfect partner to help us reenter the category," Puma spokesman Adam Petrick told The Washington Post Wednesday.
The moves reflect an attempt by Puma "to leverage their strength in lifestyle to establish a performance platform, in hopes that performance makes a return," Matt Powell, vice president and senior industry advisor at The NPD Group, told Retail Dive in an email on Thursday.
The Jay-Z tie-up in particular holds promise for the brand, he said.
"The current basketball brand/endorser model is broken," Powell said. "Few players earn out the endorsement fees they are paid. The performance basketball shoe business has been challenged for 3 years, with no turn in sight. We don't yet know what the Puma/Jay-Z relationship will look like, but it has the potential to be disruptive. Disruption is needed to turn this business around."