India’s nail-biting cricket victory over Pakistan on Monday night makes heroes out of a crop of raw, passionate players, and Puma plans to pounce on the business opportunity.
Even as captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni cast his shirt off—a throwback to Sourav Ganguly’s bare celebration in 2002—the brand plotted a new line of cricket lifestyle
apparel, dubbed Puma Cricket. Puma Sports India Pvt. Ltd managing director Rajiv Mehta says it will join Puma’s golf apparel and accessories launched earlier this year with Indo-British golfer, Kiran Matharu.
New pitch: Puma Sports India managing director Rajiv Mehta.
The cricket proposal will be part of Mehta’s game plan for Puma’s India operations, to be presented to the company’s senior executives shortly.
Puma’s move coincides with the resurgence of cricket. The sport had taken a beating after India’s exit from the ICC Cricket World Cup earlier this year, goading regular sponsors, notably LG Electronics India Pvt. Ltd, to distance themselves from the sport.
Percept Holdings Pvt. Ltd, the company that sells cricket inventory for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), had trouble finding team sponsors during India’s recent tour of Ireland, and by Percept joint managing director Shailendra Singh’s own admission, had to settle for rates 20% lower than normal.
Now, as Puma’s move shows, there is an abrupt surge of interest—and possibly rates and endorsements.
“We are thinking of signing up a young player, but we don’t have anyone in mind as yet,” Mehta said. “We do have Sourav Ganguly, but we haven’t really used him. That also must be kept in mind.”
In March, Puma signed the former Indian cricket captain as its brand ambassador, but, in an unexpected stroke of good luck as it turned out, it didn’t have the time to shoot any commercials featuring him before he left for the World Cup in the West Indies, where the Indian team tanked.
Puma did put its signature cat logo on the back of the cricketer’s helmet at the World Cup, where India’s tenure was pretty brief.
Still, that move received a jolt during the recently concluded India-England cricket series, prior to the Twenty20 World Cup, when sports goods manufacturer Gray Nicolls, whose helmets Ganguly uses, objected to the large size of the Puma logo the player was sporting. Ganguly had to remove it.
Mehta concedes not using the star player before could put the brakes on signing up a new player, a decision he will have to explain to his bosses at the October strategy meeting. Meanwhile, Ganguly will be seen in Puma’s promotions over the next three months, especially during the upcoming festival season, says Mehta.
Added to this will be the new cricket line that could see a return to the traditional deep V-necked cricket sweaters and dry-fit T-shirts.
Puma already sells cricket gear, excluding footwear, sourced from Meerut-based manufacturers, and is currently experimenting with helmets as well. The new line is planned for this year-end or early 2008.