Puma on Thursday announced the launch of a new basketball shoe, dubbed the Clyde Court #REFORM, inspired by hip-hop artist Meek Mill's advocacy work around reforming the criminal justice system as well as Olympian Tommie Smith's for universal equality, according to a company press release.
Puma also announced it will be the exclusive brand partner of REFORM Alliance, a new organization backed by Mill, Puma basketball Creative Director Jay-Z, Fanatics Executive Chairman and Philadelphia 76ers Co-owner Michael Rubin and Kraft Group CEO and New England Patriots Owner Robert Kraft, among others.
All proceeds from the new shoe will be donated to the organization, the company said. Puma athletes including DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Ayton began wearing the sneakers Thursday, and Puma said it will donate $5,000 in the name of each player.
This isn't Puma's first shot at taking a stand on social justice issues. In October, the sneaker brand launched a social justice platform called #REFORM. The goal was to help give Puma ambassadors from the sports, music and entertainment industries a platform to advocate for social justice issues. So far, efforts on that platform include Mill's advocacy for criminal justice reform, Smith's for universal equality and WNBA star Skylar Diggins-Smith's for gender equality.
Puma's initiative and its larger platform to address social justice issues follows a growing trend among retailers and brands to show a bolder social consciousness.
"We are particularly proud of the Clyde Court #REFORM, as it not only takes inspiration from the past but hopefully encourages a new generation of individuals to fight for universal equality," Adam Petrick, Puma global director of brand and marketing, said in a statement.
That's a message that many of its youngest customers are increasingly demanding from the brands they shop. Fifty-six percent of Gen Zers consider themselves to be socially conscious and more than half report that knowing a brand is socially conscious influences their buying habits, according to a report last year from MNI Targeted Media, a division of Meredith Corp. The age demographic currently influences around $4 billion in discretionary spending, according to the same report.
That consumer angle is what presents a business case for support of social causes, Scott Galloway, founder of L2 and professor of marketing at New York University's Stern School of Business, said during a keynote speech at NRF's Big Show conference earlier this month. Among his predictions for the year is a trend he summarized as "woke as a business strategy."
"Businesses are going to go increasingly woke over the next couple years. I'm not saying it's not a principled decision, but it's really more, in my mind, a shareholder-driven move," Galloway said