2020 was the biggest year yet for PUMA Basketball. Building on our disruptive momentum within the basketball space, PUMA HOOPS continued to show consumers that the basketball narrative does not have to be told just through a performance-first narrative; it can also be told through music, fashion, art, and gaming narratives. Our successful product and partnership launches throughout 2020 focused on all of these areas and more – doubling down on the fact that basketball is truly a game of sport culture, not just performance. Given the challenging circumstances of 2020, including a pause on the basketball season across the globe, those culture-first stories proved to be critical, as they allowed us to continue our basketball growth even in challenging times. More importantly, this approach allowed us to maintain momentum and connection with our consumers even when the performance basketball world was put on pause, and as a result allowed us to accelerate our growth as basketball started up again.
In February 2020, the NBA took over Chicago for the annual NBA All-Star Game. Using the iconic Chicago basketball history as a backdrop, it was the perfect time for PUMA to bring back an iconic basketball shoe of its own – the Sky. The Sky was one of the iconic hightops that saw action for the brand on many NBA players in the mid-1980s. A fashion-first design with all the elements needed to perform at the highest level made the Sky a key shoe in the history of the game. For the 2020 All-Star Game, PUMA released not only a lifestyle-inspired Sky LX drop, but also a playable future version, the Sky Modern. With a focus on the future, PUMA also introduced its newest PUMA Hoops family member, J.Cole. The announcement that J.Cole was joining the PUMA Hoops family to redefine the basketball market became one of the most talked-about headlines of the weekend. The announcement video, produced in partnership with Dreamville, even became one of the top three trending videos globally on the YouTube platform with millions of views. By the time PUMA athletes took the floor for the weekend events, PUMA Hoops was the talk of the town – Derrick Jones Jr., of the Portland Trailblazers, added to the momentum by taking home the championship in the annual dunk contest wearing both the Sky Modern and Clyde Hardwoods, capping a fantastic weekend for the brand.
J.Cole’s and PUMA’s mission was to disrupt the basketball space with a product that is as fashionable off the court as it is on the court. Telling a culture-first story narrative not only through J.Cole himself, but also through the product. Starting in February 2020, after the partnership’s official announcement, the brand began to tease that something was coming. Even when the basketball season was put on pause, PUMA Hoops leveraged the culture-first narrative to keep building the story with J.Cole and kept consumers excited about what was soon to come. In true #ForeverFaster spirit, PUMA Hoops and J.Cole were able to keep plans nimble and align the reveal and launch of the RS-Dreamer with the restart of the NBA season on July 31. The initial launch of the product was a fantastic success for the brand, with not only the first drop selling out within 30minutes, but also the subsequent drops selling out throughout the summer and fall season. Across the globe, fans eagerly awaited each new drop and products were quickly trading well above original sale prices on the secondary sneaker market. The product proved the hypothesis that you can successfully launch a new modern basketball product with a story focused on the culture of the game, not just the performance aspect. The RS-Dreamer has not only further established PUMA Hoops as a disrupter in the space, but also positioned J.Cole, PUMA, and the entire Dreamer brand for a bright future.
During the build-up phase to the RS-Dreamer launch, the professional basketball world was put on pause, with the NBA suspending the season as of mid-March without a clear restart date. As the summer went on, ideas of playing inside a ‘bubble’ environment became more prevalent. It was actually PUMA Hoops that was part of the first major test case of such a concept in conjunction with our long-term partners The Basketball Tournament. The TBT, a $1 million dollar take-all, 5-on-5 basketball tournament that has become one of the key basketball highlights of the NBA off-season, was also exploring the idea of hosting the 2020 tournament inside a ‘bubble’ environment. PUMA Hoops, being the official sponsor of the TBT, worked closely with the organizers to successfully create the bubble. This became not only the first professional basketball to be played again, but also the first professional basketball to return to TV. Together, the TBT and PUMA set the stage for the NBA to restart successfully in its own bubble a few weeks later. The NBA restart was also a highlight for PUMA Hoops, as the brand had over 11 players participating in the bubble.
The momentum did not stop for PUMA Hoops at the end of the season, as the next class of rookies were gearing up to be drafted into the NBA. A few weeks after the NBA Finals, PUMA announced that LaMelo Ball would be joining the PUMA Hoops family as its newest member. LaMelo is one of the most unique and disruptive young basketball talents to join the NBA in recent years. He has been in the professional spotlight since he was 14 years old and is the younger brother of Lonzo Ball, the second pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. LaMelo already has a following on social media that is larger than some of the NBA’s biggest superstars and reaches an audience that is much younger than the average NBA superstar – a great addition and an opportunity to further expand the PUMA Hoops brand into new age demographics and continue being the disruptive force within the market.
Following the news of Melo and the start of the fall season, PUMA Hoops dropped one last surprise for 2020 – our most advanced Clyde product yet. The Clyde All-Pro is the lightest, fastest, and most advanced basketball shoe that we have built to date. It features our ground-breaking ProFoam+, originally developed for ultimate cushioning and rebound within our Run/Train Business Unit, giving the shoe the perfect base for the highest level of on-court performance. The shoe also features a revolutionary upper technology – MaytrxEvoTech. The upper is a single layer of material constructed from a Kevlar x Carbon blend, allowing us to create a minimal upper shell that is lightweight and flexible for range of motion, yet strong, durable, and able to achieve maximum lockdown to the platform using the carbon and Kevlar threads. This combination of bottom and upper technologies allowed PUMA Hoops to build a Clyde product tuned for the modern game and the future of the sport.