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WWDFAST: Five Golden Rings

The 2008 Summer Games in Beijing are mere months away, and the branding games have begun.

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Part of its involvement includes outfitting athletes competing in 27 of 28 Olympic sports.Puma also is pouncing on the hype generated by the Beijing Olympics. The Puma Runway collection for next summer was inspired by the spirit of the Games, according to its executives. The brand chose 19-year-old Norwegian track star Kristine Engeset for the ads.

“Puma Runway is the perfect combination of a sporty and cool style,” says Engeset. “When I’m running, I want to be relaxed and train in good clothes. So, when I’m standing at the starting line, I’m feeling fresh and good, and it helps me to have confidence and focus on my running.”

The sportswear line for women includes styles for runners both on and off the track, plus accessories and running shoes. Also in the collection is the company’s new sprint spike running/track shoe that will be worn by teams Puma sponsors, including Morocco, Sweden and Jamaica. The collection is expected to hit stores this month and will be priced from $25 to $125.

According to Antonio Bertone, Puma’s chief marketing officer, 2008 “is a big year on the sports calendar for Puma with the European championships, Olympics and our new entry into sailing with the Volvo Ocean Race. The Olympics, specifically, will give us increased brand visibility with our sponsorship of 16 national track and field teams, and also provides the opportunity to showcase new product in our running category across a variety of marketing platforms.”

Meanwhile, smaller sporting goods brands are taking their business to the starting block. Japan’s Asics said it will expand its global apparel business in time for the Games, while the U.S.’ New Balance hopes to become the number-one running wear brand in China, its executives say. New Balance expects that the country will become its second-largest market after the U.S. by 2012, when its overall sales should reach $3 billion, or double what they are today. The company will unveil its new store concept next year and hopes to boast 1,000 stores in China by 2012.

“We have achieved strong brand growth in China in recent years, which will serve as a solid foundation on which to expand and increase our market share,” says Robert DeMartini, chief executive officer of New Balance, who adds that the Games provide a prime opportunity to showcase the label for consumers and distributors alike. New Balance also says it is looking to expand its consumer base by reaching clients ages 16 to 29.
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