Ever since the Dassler brothers, Rudi and Adi, had a falling out in 1948 and split their Bavarian sports shoe company into Puma and Adidas, the two firms have been fierce rivals. Puma now has only a quarter of the sales of its larger crosstown rival, but both firms suffer from a common weakness: they are sadly underrepresented in American sports, a huge market for shoes and apparel.
Now, Puma CEO Bjorn Gulden has a plan to change that. The firm, which is owned by France’s Kering, proprietor of such fashion brands as Italian designer Gucci, has decided to enter US sports franchises like American football and basketball against powerful rivals such as Nike.
“We are looking for the key to entering US sports,” Mr. Gulden told Handelsblatt in an interview. It is harder to sell sports shoes in the US market if you don’t sponsor a US sports team or individual athlete, said Mr. Gulden, a Norwegian who once ran the US sports shoe retailer Rack Room Shoes and is intimately familiar with that market. He added that while Puma was once in all US sports, it really only has a presence today in golf.