Puma pounces on H'wood in hopes of building brand

Marketing office to focus on biz ties

Puma is looking to add a bit more glamour to its brand.

The fashion athletic company said that it will open a new office dedicated to entertainment marketing next month in Los Angeles. The West Coast office will be geared at increasing the company's partnerships and product interaction with music and film celebrities.

Puma, based in Westford, Mass., also will add a few roles to fill out the new offices. It has tapped Ryan Babenzien as the head of U.S. marketing operations; he was the business development and strategy consultant for Oddcast in New York. Ryan Ayanian, who worked as a consultant for Canadian marketing firm Antenna, has been brought on board as music marketing manager. Ed Choi, who joined Puma in 2006 after at stint at Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based ID Agency, has been named entertainment marketing manager.

For Barney Waters, vp marketing at Puma North America, the Los Angeles office is a move to go "fish where the fish are," though he did note that the brand has had a smaller marketing presence on the West Coast for some time.

"These moves represent a re-commitment to entertainment marketing as a real driver for the Puma brand," Waters said. "We're also evolving our approach as there are so many more opportunities beyond product placement. Hollywood is a great place to develop relationships and brand-driven content, which can help reach the people that may not be spending as much time looking at traditional media outlets."

This isn't the first time Puma has looked to Hollywood. In the 1990s, film producer Arnon Milchan supplied investment capital to help place Puma into the mainstream athletic footwear scene via his industry connections. Milchan stepped down from the company's board this year.

Puma has been making inroads with celebrities during the past several years, working on design and advertising projects with rapper Ludacris and socialite-heiress Lydia Hearst among others. This month, Puma unveiled its new TV campaign featuring Scottish singer-songwriter Paolo Nutini. Nutini's single, "New Shoes," is being used in Puma's lifestyle campaign.

In May, the company will begin promotional tie-ins with "Speed Racer," which will include a signature shoe, product placement in the movie and worldwide in-store promotional campaigns.

In 2006, Puma spent $13 million on advertising in the U.S., excluding online, down 23% from $17 million in 2006, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Eric Newman is a reporter for Brandweek.