Blog: Puma takes marketing gold in Beijing

Joe Ayling | 21 August 2008

Sportswear giant Nike must be seething at Puma's endorsement deal with Beijing sprint sensation Usain Bolt, after its own Olympic dream quite literally fell at the first hurdle.

After winning the 200m gold medal and breaking the event's long-established world record, Bolt took off his Puma Theseus II golden spikes and faced them to the heavens.

Furthermore, the Jamaican athlete had done exactly the same thing four days earlier in the 100m - even slowing for a celebration before he crossed the finishing line.

Just about visible to around 4bn viewers at the end of both races were a number of deflated athletes brandishing the famous Nike tick and trying desperately to keep up with him.

It was salt in the wounds for Nike after its own one-man show and local hero, Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang, was sensationally forced out of the Games with an injury earlier in the week.

The company has since tried to turn the limelight onto its US basketball team and is certainly not short of exposure at the Games, having outfitted many of the US and Chinese athletes dominating the medal leader board.

However, Xiang's withdrawal is a real blow, not least because he represents a host country that is Nike's second biggest marketplace.

The turn of events has also lent marketing exposure towards other brands at the Games, with Nike's main rival Adidas triumphing as Official Sportswear Partner and outfitter of a surprisingly successful Team GB.

The Olympics has also done wonders for Chinese sportswear brand Li Ning, which was bolstered by the spectacular appearance of its founder as final torch-bearer during the opening ceremony.

Meanwhile, Bolt's success has only been rivalled in the swimming pool, where US swimmer Michael Phelps has tallied up a collection of eight gold medals at Beijing 2008.

One beneficiary of Phelps' success is undeniably Speedo, with its already much-talked about LZR Racer swimsuit helping him cross the line in each race.

When the dust has settled in Beijing though it will be images like the one below that define an Olympics of mixed marketing fortunes for sportswear brands though, and one of triumph for Bolt and Puma.

By Joe Ayling, news editor.


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