Agencies compete for Puma's 'lifestyle brand' brief

LONDON - The sportswear apparel company Puma is talking to agencies as part of a drive to turn itself into a major sports lifestyle brand by 2006.

Puma has seen a number of above-the-line agencies. It is not clear whether it will opt for a traditional advertising approach or, more likely, adopt an integrated strategy to hit its target market on a variety of different levels.

Although it is the world's sixth-largest sportswear company, Puma still lags behind Nike and Adidas in terms of brand equity and the company is eager to redress this.

It is certain to use the upcoming European Football Championships in Portugal next year and the burgeoning interest in sportswear as leisurewear as ideal opportunities to help bolster its brand positioning.

Puma sponsored four teams during last year's World Cup (Cameroon, Paraguay, Poland and Tunisia), a strategy which was regarded as a major marketing opportunity.

The sportswear giant lost its way in the mid-80s when it failed to pick up on important trends in the US, a key sports market. There followed five consecutive years of financial losses. However, since Jochen Zeitz took over as Puma's chief executive in 1993, the company has enjoyed something of a renaissance.

For the past two years, it has outperformed the German stock market by about 800%. This year, it expects sales and pre-tax profits to grow by 30%.

Almost half of Puma's sales come in European markets. Footwear accounts for 55% of sales, while apparel accounts for 38%.

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