December 15, 2008 – Global sport lifestyle brand PUMA and Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) announced an exclusive partnership making PUMA an official founding partner of WPS and an official sponsor of all WPS franchises.
The multi-year partnership makes PUMA the official sport and lifestyle apparel, footwear and equipment supplier of WPS, including the official WPS Match Ball. In addition to on-field performance wear, PUMA will outfit the athletes and teams at all WPS-related events, activities and WPS appearances in sportlifestyle apparel. This partnership kicks off with the inaugural season in April 2009 and will see PUMA collaborating with WPS to enhance the game of women’s soccer and will act as the foundation in the PUMA Women’s category. (via press release)
According to the WSJ, the German shoe manufacturer and clothing retailer will pay roughly $10 million to become the official equipment supplier to WPS. That means that if players in the seven-team league don’t have existing deals with other cleat makers (e.g. Abby Wambach and Nike), they will wear PUMAS during WPS games.
That’s just the start for PUMA, which will have its name and logo on the league’s balls, uniforms, goalkeeper equipment, even sports bras. “Women’s soccer is on a tremendous growth pattern in the U.S.,” says Jochen Zeitz, chief executive of PUMA. “This is a huge opportunity for us.”
PUMA ranks third by sales behind Nike and Adidas in the global athletic-footwear market and fifth in the U.S. Its decision to join forces with WPS is part of an effort to target its marketing to young women. The company already has a footwear deal with Brazilian star Marta Vieira da Silva, who is widely recognized as the best female soccer player in the world, and is expected to play in WPS. PUMA also has a deal with U.S. national team player Leslie Osborne, who will be playing for FC Gold Pride.
If I remember correctly, Nike provided uniforms for some of the now defunct WUSA teams, which may have led girls and their moms to assume the company was providing key corporate support. I believe, however, Nike declined a league invitation to be its exclusive sponsor and failed to provide help when the league needed it most.
Given PUMA’s name recognition and reach in soccer, the deal is a milestone for the new women’s league especially amid a global recession so kudos to PUMA.