How sneaker brand puma is making an unexpected comeback to the world of basketball sneakers – nba

Now, as Puma returns to a basketball market competing not just with Nike and Adidas but also Under Armour and a slew of China-based brands, the company is broadening the scope of its NBA roster. In addition to the rookie class and Rozier, who wasn’t under contract to any shoe company last season, Puma will aggressively court this year’s class of sneaker free agents once those players are able to take meetings beginning Wednesday, hoping to expand the roster to as many as 15 players by the time the season starts.

Jay-Z’s exact role remains cloudy, with the brand framing his duties loosely as a "cultural and creative consultant." The initial notion that he’d be providing hands-on direction around which endorsers the brand would sign sparked concern from both rival brands and rival agents, with several complaints voiced to the league’s players union, according to sources.

Rival agents worried that signing their clients to a deal with Puma could potentially make them vulnerable to flee to Roc Nation, while rival brands have wondered aloud if Roc Nation clients might use Puma pitches to drive up the price on their next Nike or Adidas shoe deals.

However, from Puma’s standpoint, even without direct involvement from Jay-Z, the ongoing partnership with Roc Nation has proved mutually beneficial. The pipeline of clients dates to 2013, when then-Roc client Solange Knowles, the sister of Jay-Z’s wife, Beyonce, signed with Puma as a brand ambassador. Pop star Rihanna, rapper Big Sean, WNBA star Skylar Diggins-Smith and NFL players all followed suit.

Basketball sneaker sales peaked in 2015 at $1.3 billion but fell a whopping 13.6 percent in 2017, according to research from the NPD Group. Detractors down on the category have cited the high cost of player endorsement deals, along with the rising sales of the ongoing athleisure trend. Brand insights have shown that less than 10 percent of basketball sneakers sold are actually put to their intended use, with the majority of Nike and Jordan Brand pairs worn off the court.

Its first sneaker of the rebirth is a modernized knit take on the industry’s first signature shoe, the Puma Clyde. Originally made for New York Knicks Hall of Fame point guard Walt "Clyde" Frazier in 1973, the sneaker has had a long life as a lifestyle shoe with a timeless look. The Clyde Court Disrupt, styled by the brand’s former head of design Sean O’Shea, will be launching this October for $120 and worn by all of Puma’s NBA endorsers.

While basketball may be down stateside, Puma is looking overseas to China, where it will open between 400 to 600 stores per year in the country, hoping to make the country Puma’s top market by 2022. For now, Puma is well short of its competitors across the massive region, with total sales under $500 million, compared to the $4 billion each in sales by Nike and Adidas, according to Wedbush Securities estimates. Skechers and New Balance are also larger.

While the revamped Clyde Court has been in development for more than a year, the athletes signed to the brand during the week of the NBA draft only had a matter of weeks before they began summer league play with their new teams. By his second summer game in a Phoenix Suns uniform, Ayton was curiously wearing a pair of the Nike Kobe AD with a blacked-out Swoosh, sparking instant questions on social media.

While brands typically never comment on players currently signed to other brands, the @PumaHoops Instagram account re-posted a Kawhi Leonard-themed meme featuring Jay-Z looking over the shoulder of the character Jim Halpert from "The Office" after it was reported that Jordan Brand would be moving on from Leonard once his shoe deal expires this October.