The Marketing Director of PUMA South Africa has been with the brand for 20 years and has seen plenty of change in the sports marketing industry, particularly in the digital space.
Q: As Marketing Director, what do you consider your primary areas of responsibility?
A: Oversight of all marketing activity across all the business units that PUMA sells product in. There is a lot of co-ordination with the Merchandise and Sales divisions to ensure our seasonal plans roll out properly, deliver results for us and our partners, and most importantly, deliver ‘Brand Heat’ and positioning in what is a very competitive marketplace.
Q: What does your daily routine look like?
A: No day is the same, that is for sure. The usual day starts with mails from about 07h00 until around 09h00, when the majority of staff arrive and then we can catch up on some specifics and a lot of forward planning for launches. We have regular internal meetings with the Sportstyle and Performance areas of the business to do final tweaks to our plans for the coming months. As has become the norm, the day is interspersed with several Teams meetings and calls with some of our partners in the sponsorship space or retail partners.
Q: How different is the sports apparel space to when you first joined PUMA in 2001?
A: For sure there are a lot more players in the marketplace and a lot of the big retailers with their own house brands. As a result the marketplace is quite cluttered and noisy, so you need to do things differently to cut through. In addition, consumer centricity has become a real thing and those that aren’t putting the consumer at the centre of their business plan struggle. The consumer and their wants and demands have changed and they really look to their brands to support, facilitate, lead, disrupt and excite more than ever before. The advent of eCommerce and marketing in the digital space has probably been the biggest shift over the 20 years, and the knowledge base required in this area is now substantial. So, an understanding of this realm and how best to use the tools and data has become an absolute necessity.
Q: What’s the PUMA approach to effectively leveraging its sponsorships and ensuring it gets good ‘bang for its buck’?
A: Leverage the potential in the digital realm, know the consumers/fans and put them at the centre of your plan, ensure we put the product offering in the market space that is required, and fulfil their needs and wants. Support the partner: we try to look for sponsorships that deliver more than just brand visibility and sales, and provide a real connection to the fan – ones that also align with our ethos and brand values.
Q: What’s your view on the state of the SA sports sponsorship/marketing space, in the wake of the impact of Covid-19?
A: We are seeing lots of smaller sponsorships come into the marketplace in the sports realm, with a lot of new brands using the space and opportunities to drive awareness and visibility. In the absence of crowd attendances, many teams who had some reliance on gate takings now have to sell additional space to make up for lost revenue. In addition, the move to digital only as a result of Covid impacts and non-attendance has meant a double-down on leveraging digital elements on game day, and also developing digital storytelling around the teams outside of game day. What has been impressive is how many of the big companies have worked with their teams to ensure they find a way to continue to enjoy the benefits of the association while impacted massively due to Covid, and potentially where they could’ve saved their money and cut their sponsorships.
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Q: What impact has the coronavirus pandemic had on PUMA SA?
A: There is no chance the loss of sales during the first few months of lockdown can ever be caught up – it was a real and significant impact. Those initial hard lockdown decisions when no-one really had much knowledge of the virus hurt everyone. We, as many others, who have been lucky enough to trade through those first months, have now found a way to serve our customers, engage with consumers and manage the curve-balls of which there are still multiple, especially in shipping and transport, as well as production. There is a lot of playing the ball as it comes and you can’t be too precious about your plans as these can change in a second. In short, we have managed our business pretty well and with the support of our partners have ensured we have a lot of potential to develop our business and theirs in the years to come.
Q: How has PUMA SA adapted?
A: We have developed the position that the PUMA offices should be your second safest place to be after your own home. We have mobile work days and flexi-hours, but the vast majority of staff still find our offices invigorating and a place where we can escape the monotony of the Teams environment. This being said, we have all adapted to that very well and this coming ‘Go-To-Market’ period will be our fourth fully digital go-to-market, which is a massive achievement, seeing as products are something which buyers from our accounts actually like to have in hand. So, we have developed our digital capabilities and indeed expanded these, but we still have a strong hands on-approach and face-to-face relationship with our partners. Luckily, we had just launched PUMA.com locally before the lockdown, so we were able to maximise this at a time when no physical stores could be open. The lockdown in a sense was a springboard for our eCommerce business.
Q: Once sport in general is back up and running fully, post-Covid-19, do you anticipate change, in terms of how sport is run, consumed, commercialised etc?
A: To be honest, I think the changes are already there and will speed up as everyone works out how adding back consumers to events brings back some more traditional elements. I think everyone in the field – rights-holders, sponsors etc – have learnt a lot of where the value sits and have adjusted how they view each other and how they identify potential opportunities.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
A: “Look after the brand and the money will follow.” That’s a quote by Ron Rink, the former MD of PUMA South Africa and the guy who set up the South Africa subsidiary as we know it today. He is also the guy who took the risk on me way back in 2001.