Maria Valdes

“Our sports DNA is in each product we make”

Maria, 2023 was a great year for PUMA with a lot of exciting product launches. PUMA has such a broad portfolio - how do you make sure that PUMA’s messaging is consistent across its entire product range?

PUMA is a sports company which sits at the intersection of sport and culture. 75 years of history and heritage allow us to root ourselves in sport – giving a nod to our past while rewriting the future. We find consistency through our sports DNA in each product we make – whether it is straight out of the archive, remixed with new technology and innovation or new styles that leverage designs of the past.

Our mission is to push sport and culture forward - we do that with our innovative products, our best-in-class athletes, and disruptive marketing programmes and tactics.

What area did you focus on the most in 2023?

2023 was a crucial year for us at PUMA. We had, and will continue to have, four main focus areas. It’s critical that we sharpen our focus as a sports brand and drive consistency by:

  • Owning the game, plain and simple. There is no sport without culture, and no culture without sport. It’s not just about the minutes of play on the pitch. The music, the fans, the fashion, everything surrounding sport is what our brand is built on. PUMA has a unique opportunity, especially in Football, Basketball, and Motorsport. Bringing newness and innovation to these sports will be key for the current and future success of the categories. In 2023, we focused on introducing a third Franchise in Football with KING, a new signature Basketball model with Scoot Henderson and a new partnership with F1 in Motorsport.
  • Continuing to draw on our history and heritage in sport with classic silhouettes and styles. Bringing a unique point of view to the trend of Terrace and Skate, as well as starting the incubation of low profile.
  • Doubling down on our NITRO™ technology that gives our athletes the drive they need to break records and – particularly in 2023 - empowering everyday runners with our stability franchise ForeverRun.
  • Continuing our focus on the women’s market, making sure we have the right performance proposition for her with women’s specific fits, signature models and new classic takes through our partnership with Rihanna.

You talked about establishing PUMA’s franchises as brands. What do you mean by that?

Building and creating franchises as brands means establishing long-term equity with our consumers through our most relevant and consistent product offerings. In our performance categories, our franchises are linked with well-defined consumer benefits like Deviate, Velocity and ForeverRun in running; FUTURE, ULTRA, and KING in football; and All-Pro and MB in basketball.

In non-performance categories, we will continue to build equity in existing franchises, such as Suede and Palermo on the Classics side, as well as Mostro and RS on the Progressive side. We recognise that tapping into consumer insights as well as ensuring our products and communication around franchises are consistent and culturally relevant, will allow us to achieve this long-term strategy across all categories.

You have offices all over the world. Where do you stand on local versus global product strategies?

PUMA is a global brand that recognises the power in local relevancy. We value the expertise of our local markets and the preferences of our local consumers. Our global product range serves as the core of our business, but we complement this with local products that speak to local styles, trends, and cultural nuances. We stay very closely connected to ensure we are fielding input from all over the world. This shapes our approach to not only product creation but also the way in which we market our products. And in the spirit of the brand and our mantra, FOREVER. FASTER., we work with flexibility and speed to adapt to the shifts in culture and consumer behaviour.

What was your personal highlight of 2023?

I had so many favourites in 2023, it’s hard to narrow them down. Rihanna’s return to PUMA was extremely exciting, especially all the product development and planning behind the scenes that went into the re-launch of FENTY x PUMA. PUMA team Manchester City won five major trophies: the UEFA Champions League, the Premier League, the FA CUP, the UEFA Super Cup as well as the FIFA Cup and showed that it is currently the best football team out there. We also demonstrated how sport can dramatically impact culture through our presence at the Las Vegas Grand Prix – most notably with the launch of our collaboration with A$AP Rocky.

What are you looking forward to in 2024?

2024 is the Year of Sport. With the Olympics, Euro 2024 and Copa America all happening this year, I hope that 2024 will serve as a strong reminder of PUMA’s role in sport and culture through our innovative technology and first-class athletes and teams.

We are launching our new global brand campaign, which will reinforce our commitment to being the fastest sports brand in the world. We plan to continue to incubate the low-profile trend after the success we saw at the end of 2023. And finally, we have so many great opportunities coming up in footwear and apparel with the most powerful couple in the industry, Rihanna and A$AP Rocky.