Puma CEO Bjørn Gulden was likely opening a bottle of bubbly when he revealed the athletic apparel company’s numbers in a Puma press release.
“2021 was a very successful year for us. Despite all the issues and obstacles related to COVID- 19 and political tensions around the world, we had the best year in PUMA’s history.”
(“Pop!” goes the cork.)
Gulden pointed to “continued brand momentum combined with high operational flexibility” as the factors behind this growth. Puma was able to keep its suppliers close during a closed down time, enabling the company room to “maneuver through all the short-term issues and obstacles without hindering our mid-term momentum.”
Sales grew by 32% to 6,805 billion euros – that’s over $7.5 billion — and EBIT (earnings before income taxes) rocketed up 166% to 557 million euros (just under $620 million). Compared even to 2019 pre-pandemic levels, Gulden said, Puma’s sales are up 30%.
What was Puma to do after the most successful year in its history but to pounce into the metaverse? In terms of NFTs, the sportswear brand has its eye on animal-themed collections, apropos for a company named after a cat. Puma’s wallet already contains NFTs from Gutter Cat, Lazy Lions, Cool Cats, and a Kuddle Koala, all of whom are now partnering with their fellow feline. This cluster of cat-related NFT purchases is punctuated by Puma adopting a new @coolcatsnft profile pic in a recent tweet.
— PUMA.eth (@PUMA) March 2, 2022
With Nike purchasing metaverse fashionistas RTFKt and Adidas following in partnering with the Bored Ape Yacht Club, Puma almost had to join its competitors in the digital world to remain relevant. What they’re doing, however, is growing in an industry that’s still trying to find its post-pandemic footing.
Adidas net sales were down $3.8 billion, an over 20% hit, in 2020 while supply disruptions caused the company to trim sales projections in 2021. Nike, on the other hand, remains a nimble goliath and is up over 14% from pre-pandemic levels. This still doesn’t reach half of Puma’s growth.
In addition to joining Adidas and Nike in the metaverse, Puma purchased an Ethereum ID, Puma.eth, and started building its own impressive crypto portfolio. At the time of writing, Puma is already up to number 11 on the .eth Leaderboard. It’ll have to pass rapper Waka Flocka and the Shitty OG to break into the top nine. (In an inane note, Paris Hilton is leading with very close to 17 million followers. That’s 5% of the American population.)
Puma has also partnered up with Norwegian chess player Magnus Carlsen — the highest-rated player in history — as part of its Only See Great campaign. Carlsen is making his own virtual moves, purchasing virtual land in The Sandbox recently to bring the chess world to web3.
— PUMA.eth (@PUMA) February 21, 2022
In Only See Great, PUMA explores the career path of brand ambassadors like Carlsen, as they talk about forging ahead on the path to find greatness amidst great striving.
“I have never been motivated for specific goals in my chess career. I just always wanted to learn to be better each time that I play and now I do have a goal of being the first player to reach that 2900 rating inflation in chess, but what’s more important to me is the journey,” Carlsen said in the drive’s promotional video.
While this might seem like an odd combo, it’s a brilliant move by Puma to find an athlete’s constitution in Carlsen, who even works out in order to gain more of a mental edge at the chessboard.
“It’s essential to be in good shape to be a good player,” Carlsen said. “I play a lot better when I feel well and I’m at my best physically.”
In the interview, Carlsen talks about finding a vision that no one else can see, which allowed him to take his first Grandmaster title at 13 years old. This journey to success — melding physical training and a healthy lifestyle — gives the prodigy the brainpower to overcome any odds. Puma is a fierce force to aid his quest to become the first player to reach a 2900 rating in chess. Gulden doesn’t anticipate the athleisure firm to lose its growl any time soon.
“We expect a strong currency-adjusted sales growth of at least ten percent in the financial year 2022,” Gulden noted. “We anticipate net earnings to improve correspondingly.”
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