Media: Strategy Analysis - Pele scandal rocks the football world

Brand: Puma
Brief: World Cup 2006: it's time the big two become big three
Target audience: Men aged 14 to 34
Budget: Undisclosed

Media: ZenithOptimedia International
Creative:, Puma International
Online media: Zed International
Online creative: Beam
Ambient media: ZenithOptimedia, Open Village


Puma identified the 2006 Fifa World Cup as the tipping point for establishing itself as one of the top three football brands in the world. The challenge was to stand out during the World Cup clutter without being an official sponsor and with a fraction of the main competitors' budgets.

Two key insights drove the communication strategy. First, young audiences enjoy brand stories that live on the verge between fiction and reality. A theme of "scandal and intrigue" would create interest and encourage consumers to follow the brand in a more engaged way. This approach would also follow Puma's quirky style of brand communications.

Second, Puma was the official kit supplier to 12 national football teams. In order to tap into this presence, ZenithOptimedia focused most of its TV activity around matches featuring these teams.

These two insights fed into the creative work. Puma's "willkommen zum fussball" strapline was designed to position the brand as a source of joy and love for the game. The creative featured the Brazilian football legend Pele subjected to a mock investigation by Gifo - a fictional football governing body - for distributing packages of performance-enhancing contents to the 12 Puma-sponsored teams.


- DM: Polaroids were inserted in several magazines, including Loaded and FourFourTwo, across Europe. The Polaroids were designed to work in tandem with the above-the-line creative featuring Pele, as evidence in the mock trial. Small print on the Polaroids directed consumers to and to a fake site.

- Ambient: The idea of fake evidence was continued with CCTV footage. Looped tapes were played on TV sets in outlets owned by the electronic retailer Saturn across Germany, Austria and Switzerland. They also ran on TV channels, including MTV and Sky Sports, across the continent.

- Online: Ads were booked to run on football and lifestyle sites such as, and The ads directed traffic to and, while a Pele blog appeared on sites including and

- TV: Activity around the international commuter newspaper Metro was designed to bridge the pre-World Cup activity with the second half of the campaign. Ten-second spots were run on national TV channels, urging the public to "read about Pele's trial in tomorrow's Metro". The ten-second commericals urged viewers to pick up a copy of Metro the next day to find out the truth.

- Press: Metro prepared tabloid-expose-style cover wraps for the French, Italian, Dutch and Swedish editions of the paper. The cover wraps were emblazoned with the headline: "The king on trial."

Press ads were booked in 40 newspapers across Europe, including The Sun, Metro, L'Equipe, the Financial Times and Gazzetta dello Sport on the day after the World Cup final to highlight Puma's association with the winner, Italy. (Puma is the official kit supplier to the Italian national football team.) The strapline read: "The case is closed. Gli Azzurri World Champions. Congratulations."

- PR: The building occupied by Puma's Berlin headquarters was wrapped up as evidence. Cycle taxis and canal boats in Berlin carried ads and point-of-sale material was also linked to the mock trial.


Puma's football performance turnover is estimated to have risen by 40 per cent year on year following the "willkommen zum fussball" campaign.

In addition, Puma gained on-field visibility of 56 per cent during the tournament through its association as the official kit supplier to 12 teams, making Puma the most prominent brand in terms of visibility.

THE VERDICT - Matt Andrews, joint managing director, Vizeum UK

Let's consider the evidence.

Puma, the sponsor of the Italian football team, runs a campaign during the World Cup that features Pele having been caught distributing mysterious brown paper packages to international footballers. Meanwhile, a match-fixing scandal erupts at the heart of Italian football. Is it any surprise, then, that Italy win the World Cup?

The only sensible conclusion from this evidence is that the final was a fix, with Pele clearly implicated at the centre of an international football conspiracy.

This Puma campaign is built on the insight that balancing on the boundary between fact and fiction creates intrigue and drives the audience's appetite for more. When you experience all parts of this campaign, it is a good example of moving beyond advertising to a bigger idea that engages and entertains. It requires audience participation and intrigue to work. It is not short of creative media ideas executed in innovative channels that bring the idea to life, such as Polaroid photos, CCTV footage on screens in electronic retailers, blogs, spoof editorial in press and on the web and ... the list goes on.

But how many people did see enough of the elements to get the idea or were intrigued enough to investigate to find out more?

The potential downfall of this campaign is that the majority of the audience was preoccupied with watching football and hence will have only seen the TV commercial. In isolation, it can leave you bemused rather than intrigued.

On the pitch, Puma clearly stood out. Yes, Italy won the cup, but the real strength was sponsoring 12 countries, including six African nations, clearly supporting their positioning as suppliers of joy and love of the game. Their teams brought a raw spirit and freshness to a tournament in danger of being spoilt by underwhelming, overpaid and overweight diving winkers.

You can't deny the smart strategic thinking and creative media solutions, but the strength and simplicity of Puma's positioning gets lost in the complexity of the idea and its execution.

The next World Cup is in Africa. This is the perfect opportunity for Puma to celebrate joy and love of the game and make it their tournament.

Score: 3 out of 5.

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