What does it take to be the fastest sports brand in the world? Bob Philion, the President and CEO of PUMA North America and Cobra-PUMA Golf, shared insight into one of the most successful companies in the global sports and fitness lifestyle industry with our CEO, Shawn Lipman, at a recent company-wide Feedonomics meeting.
Philion originally joined PUMA in 2005 as the head of its golf division, and when PUMA acquired Cobra Golf in 2010, he was charged with leading the strategic vision for both brands. His success led to him being named the President and CEO of PUMA North America in 2017, where he quickly fueled the growth of the PUMA brand in the United States and Canada through prominent retailer relationships.
With hundreds of Feedos in attendance at the virtual fireside chat, Philion gave us a look into his professional and personal life, providing an overview of how he works to ensure PUMA stays on the cutting edge of the market, while bridging the gap between fashion and athletics.
“If you’re approaching the market as a leader in your industry, you aren’t going to be a follower; you need to be innovative and know what’s coming next.”
What it means to be the “fastest sports brand”
The conversation began with Philion describing what it means to be the “fastest sports brand” and how that differs from being the “fastest-growing sports brand.” Philion explained that the term “fast” applies to the brand’s partnerships with Usain Bolt and Formula 1, but also transcends sports. “Fast” is about how the brand responds to culture and positions itself as a market leader.
“There’s kind of that consumer side of what people see visibly about being fast, but there’s so much more to our mission behind the scenes, and this is certainly where Feedonomics comes in,” Philion said, “which is to be on top of trends, be innovative, and fast to solve problems for our customers.”
Behind the scenes, Philion said Feedonomics helps PUMA keep its ecommerce business scalable and responsive to the “pace of culture” while maintaining a consistent brand image.
Keeping up with culture
Why does keeping up with culture matter so much to PUMA? The intersection of several product verticals is where PUMA thrives.
“PUMA is a sports company. Our secret sauce is finding the right balance between sports, lifestyle, and fashion,” Philion said. “It’s the ability to have the elasticity in our brand to be in the Eugene World Championships right now, for track and field, and then be on the catwalk in Paris this evening. When people go to our website or into one of our stores, it starts as a sports brand, but our differentiator is that we do more than that.”
The value of influencers
“The key is to meet consumers in their lives, where their interests lie.”
The conversation also touched on how PUMA approaches celebrity endorsements as a sports brand. “Dua Lipa, Rihanna—they’re not athletes,” Lipman said. “Where do they fit in your marketing strategy, and how do you balance celebrity and award-winning athlete endorsements?”
“The key is to meet consumers in their lives, where their interests lie,” Philion said. “By connecting with celebrities, we’re able to tap into a greater fan base and the next generation of consumers.”
Philion reflected on what sports brands were like in his youth, where the focus was strictly on watching ESPN and keeping up-to-date with your favorite athletes.
“I think of my teenagers now, and it’s not just sports anymore–it’s so many things,” Philion said. “It’s gaming, it’s music, it’s food. It’s about the culture of the sport as well, and not just about the ‘big game’ anymore.”
“…Our task is to continue to be adaptive and nimble with where our consumers are going and to help us make sure that we stay front and center. At the end of the day, Feedonomics is helping make it happen.”
PUMA and Feedonomics
For several years, PUMA has partnered with Feedonomics, utilizing our data feed management technology to create product listings on ad channels across five continents. The Feedonomics platform ensures that all product data pulled from PUMA’s websites is optimized and formatted for each of its global marketing partners. With this high-quality product data, PUMA’s product listings are more search relevant and connect with customers who are more likely to make a purchase, wherever they’re shopping online.
“You guys are doing great work,” Philion said. “Feedonomics [is] incredibly important for connecting the dots. Our task is to continue to be adaptive and nimble with where our consumers are going and to help us make sure that we stay front and center. At the end of the day, Feedonomics is helping make it happen.”
During the meeting, Philion took time to make sure Feedonomics’ team knew the impact that its service and technology has on PUMA’s business. He shared some stats and praise for Feedonomics from PUMA’s own marketing team—the people who work directly with our feed managers every day:
- A large percentage of PUMA’s Google Ad spend and Google Ad revenue comes from feed-based advertising; the great data quality adjustments that Feedonomics provides lead to ad personalization with higher click-through rates and conversion rates than the average ad.
- Feedonomics makes it easy and efficient to transmit PUMA’s product data in an optimized fashion.
- Feedonomics’ customer service is top-notch—they’re highly engaged and responsive in communications with PUMA, and they’re more proactive with quality assurance than any feed partner we’ve used in the past.
Brave, Confident, Determined, and Joyful
The legacy principles are integral to the culture at Feedonomics. PUMA also holds true to a set of similar core values. “PUMA’s values are brave, confident, determined, and joyful,” Philion said. “Our employees try to live by those values and bring them to life.”
Philion said the PUMA brand also adheres to these principles on a marketing level.
“When reaching our consumers, you need to be brave, confident, and daring. If you’re approaching the market as a leader in your industry, you aren’t going to be a follower; you need to be innovative and know what’s coming next.”
Balancing Family and Work
In addition to leading the PUMA brand into the future of the sports lifestyle industry, Philion still makes time to connect with his family. During the pandemic, he and his daughter used the downtime to have father-daughter time, which included learning elaborate TikTok dances.
“Looking back at that time is pretty special to me,” Philion said. “We got to spend a lot of time together, and it gave me the opportunity to brush off my dance moves.”