PUMA PUNCHES UP ITS ONLINE IMAGE

Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — Movie previews, personalized music and Atari games are some of the freebies Puma is using to lure shoppers to its new e-commerce site.
Puma.com, which was officially launched Tuesday, aims to create a strong following by offering interactive shopping experiences that people will talk about.
“This is the first time that we’re going direct to consumers to speak to them about the Puma story with Puma athletes. We’re telling them Puma’s lifestyle and alternative sports story,” said Darren Ross, the 25-year-old head of global interactive marketing and business for the company. “We’re a retro brand that is trying to update itself.”
Before browsing on Puma.com, visitors can choose songs from Korn, One Hit Wonder and other select groups for a personal shopping soundtrack. The move reflects the company’s strategy to combine its alliances in sports and entertainment. Korn, for example, has a marketing partnership with Puma. The site’s movie previews will feature films produced by New Regency or the Fox Entertainment Group, which own 32 percent and 20 percent, respectively, of Puma. A preview of “Fight Club,” a New Regency film, was the most recent one to be featured.
The less athletically inclined can check out Puma commercials and Atari games like Centipede, Breakout and Frogger.
Online shoppers can also read about Puma-sponsored athletes, including tennis star Serena Williams and boxer Oscar de la Hoya. After listing some basic information, including their favorite sports, visitors can e-mail the athletes. But replies aren’t guaranteed. One advisory reads, “We can’t guarantee a response from Serena herself, but we’ll get the e-mails to her and she’ll get back to as many as she can.”
Additional sports news is printed under “news flash,” on the home page and negotiations are under way for a sports update show, Ross said. There are also plans to let Web shoppers take a look at the interior of Puma’s store in Santa Monica, Calif.
Launching Puma’s e-commerce site was a six-figure investment — well below the industry average of $1 million due in part to Puma’s alliances, Ross said.
Online sales are expected to account for about $1 million, or 1 percent, of Puma’s projected wholesale volume of $100 million this year, he said. Sales of women’s activewear should account for less than half of that 1 percent figure.
In terms of women’s activewear, the site offers a smattering of Puma products, including baby T-shirts, ringer T-shirts and running wear, as well as athletic footwear. For shoppers who are uncertain of their shoe size, there is a printout sizer that allows them to measure their shoe sizes on a printout of Puma’s shoe sizes. The printout is designed to double as a poster for teenagers.
“We’re taking a different track. Our goal is not just to sell products,” Ross said. “The idea is to let people know we make a variety of stuff and to expand our brand’s presence.”
Ross, just three years out of college, has overseen the revamping of Puma’s site, but this is not his first foray online. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1997, Ross and a few college friends who were in a band set out to make some extra “beer money” by starting DNA Creative Design, a Web site design company. Personalnutrition.com and Patti Labelle’s home page were some of the projects the company worked on.
Ross said he expects the online store to enhance Puma’s business with traditional retailers.
“Our brand is so underserved that most people we talk to said they just can’t find it,” Ross said. “We can take a concept online, prove it works by selling it and then walk back to retailers and show them.”