Puma betting on Fowler to spark U.S. sales

Rickie Fowler nearly won a PGA Tour event last fall.

Rickie Fowler nearly won a PGA Tour event last fall.

It might be a stretch to say Ted Fletcher has a “Fowler cam” at PGA Tour events to keep tabs on his marquee endorser rookie Rickie Fowler. But it’s not much of one.

Fletcher, president of Puma Golf North America, keeps close tabs on Fowler, whom Puma is counting on to spark sales on this side of the Atlantic.

“For this thing to really, really kind of explode and be what it really should be, can be and will be, it has to be more American-based,” Fletcher told Golfweek recently, when asked about Puma’s decision to part ways with Australia’s Geoff Ogilvy. Much of the decision came down to marketing.

Puma announced the creation of Puma Golf North America at the end of last year. Fowler is the first PGA Tour player to wear Puma headwear, a key piece for the brand’s marketing plan.

“He’s the perfect fit for us,” Fletcher said.

Puma plans to grow in the U.S. by focusing on green-grass accounts. The brand won’t be found in department stores or lower-level retail.

“We believe in the philosophy that shortage creates demand,” Fletcher said.

Track and field superstar Usain Bolt and Italy’s World Championship soccer team have raised Puma’s visibility worldwide. Fletcher hopes that brand popularity will extend to golf, specifically among U.S. consumers. While the Puma cat is most recognizable, Fletcher aims for the 18-hole logo to catch on with American consumers.

“Some of our direct competitors have gotten more classic, more traditional,” he said. “Puma kind of steps right out, and says, ‘We definitely want to be different.’ ”

Fletcher said the spring 2011 program will double in size in terms of styling and colors, and the footwear collection will be stronger, too.

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