Shoe Month: Puma adds fun with bursts of color

Rickie Fowler wearing one of his many color-coordinated pair of Puma shoes.
Rickie Fowler wearing one of his many color-coordinated pair of Puma shoes. ( Getty Images )

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

When it comes to prioritizing performance and style at Puma Golf, even characterizing the two as “1-A” and “1-B” may not be accurate.

In the race for importance, Puma officials say, it’s a dead heat: Performance is a given, and style is a must.

As a relative newcomer to the golf footwear category, Puma understands its shoes must meet the on-course demands of serious golfers. But to grow its business, the company needs to do more than win their support – likely a tough task, considering many will be traditionalists who’ve pledged their allegiance to other brands.

In lock-step with the industry’s efforts to attract new players by making the game more fun and inclusive, Puma’s aiming to gain a following by invigorating footwear with bursts of color and trendy looks.

“We’re all about what’s next, and the latest and greatest… that unique style that comes together with performance,” says Jennifer Rust, the brand’s director of merchandising. “That’s what makes us Puma.”

It’s an identity that still is being built. After all, Puma has been making golf shoes for less than a decade and only fully committed to the category in 2006. But the company amplified its efforts when it acquired equipment maker Cobra in 2010.

The pairing with Cobra bolstered Puma’s golf credibility, as did the recruitment of Rickie Fowler, who became its marquee endorser in 2009 and now plays Cobra clubs and wears Puma apparel and footwear. Cobra-Puma Golf also has Ian Poulter showcasing its clubs, shoes and belts. Aside from being among the PGA Tour elite, each is known as a style maven: Fowler with his penchant for bold colors, especially his trademark orange; and Poulter with his affinity for plaid.

At this year’s PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla., Cobra-Puma Golf president Bob Philion said the company had completed its acquisition integration, and borrowing Fowler’s catch phrase, said it was “go time” to build the business. That means helping make the game more enjoyable.

Said Philion: “Golf has had a tendency to push people away, but our message is one that the industry is rallying around, too. Having more fun and becoming more inclusive is where golf is heading, and we feel like we’re perfectly positioned with both of our brands in that regard.”

Puma officials, however, insist the brand’s use of bright colors and sporty styles isn’t just targeting a younger demographic.

“It’s more about a youthful mindset, not necessarily about the age,” says Kristy Owens, a brand spokeswoman. “When you go to tour events and follow Rickie Fowler, you see people from age 5 to age 55 in Puma-orange flat brims, bright polos and our shoes. The brand crosses all ages.”

Furthermore, Puma says today’s golf consumer, young or old, wants the option to fashion a variety of looks – refined and sophisticated one day; bold and playful on another.

“We really want to make sure we have multiple looks,” Rust says. That range is evident even in the company’s offerings in tour-caliber footwear, a category that skews toward the conservative.

One of its top-of-the-line models is the Super Cell Fusion Ice, designed for Fowler. The shoe’s white base has accent options in bright green, red, purple and, of course, orange. (During this year’s Open Championship, the company also sold a limited-edition version with a plaid upper.) By contrast, Ian Poulter wears the Neo Classic, a solid-black shoe with Puma’s signature stripes flared along its side. “It’s sophisticated, but certainly not stodgy,” Rust says.

Both models are loaded with performance features, including: decoupled heel construction, along with flex grooves in the outsole, are designed for better walking comfort; S2Quill technology – which combines replaceable cleats with directionally molded, rubber spikes – for traction; and a full-length TPU chassis to provide leverage and balance during the swing.

In a nod to golfers who increasingly are demanding lightweight shoes with traction, but may not necessarily need all the bells and whistles of a tour-caliber model, Puma has introduced its FAAS series. The FAAS Trac Evospeed goes without a TPU chassis to reduce weight, but still features S2Quill technology. The angled, molded spikes are designed to sustain traction as the foot moves along the ground, Puma officials say. The FAAS Grip, which has molded spikes but no replaceable cleats, has the versatility to be worn on- or off-course.

“The FAAS Grip is a more casual, multi-purpose shoe… when you’re playing nine holes, then going out for drinks,” Rust says.

Making it a nice addition for a brand that’s all about fun. readers: We value your input and welcome your comments, but please be respectful in this forum.