No Business Like Shoe Business
July 5, 2006 | 12:32 P.M. EST
Ever since Michael Jordan strapped on the first pair of Air Jordans back in 1985, the athletic shoe industry was changed forever.
Things have also changed over the past 20 years within NASCAR, which has grown to be one of the hottest sports in America, leaving shoe companies looking to gain a spot in the marketplace with NASCAR’s brand-loyal fans.
Although they have been involved with motorsports over the past couple decades, Puma has upped its presence in the racing world as of late.
In a market that typically caters to “stick and ball sports,” industry leaders like Nike, Reebok and Adidas have signed stars from sports like basketball, baseball, football to endorse their latest athletic products.
In a bold move Puma went out and signed rising NASCAR star Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 9 UAW/Dodge Dealers Dodge Charger, to an endorsement deal last season.
“Puma has been a part of racing for awhile,” Kahne said. “For myself to get involved with them last year and wear their racing shoe and gear and all their other shoes everyday is cool. They have a lot of neat shoes and there's a lot of shoes for girls too.”
Kahne joins Puma’s growing Motorsports line-up that includes seven–time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher, two-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais and the IRL IndyCar Series team Andretti Green Racing.
Kahne is the center of Puma's recent shoe advertisement for the Kart Cat II sneakers, found in major magazines and even at bus stops across the country.
Puma’s trademark jumping puma cat is not only showcased on Kahne’s shoes, but is also seen on his firesuit and through-out the No. 9 garage on any given weekend. The popularity of Puma is growing in the garage area as other drivers, even without endorsements, support Puma by wearing their gear in the race, which includes DEI teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Martin Truex, Jr.
But it doesn’t stop with the drivers.
Race sport enthusiasts can look like their favorite drivers with Puma’s stylish Speed Cat line, which come in variety of colors. These shoes, which closely resemble an actual racing shoe, are becoming popular not only with the fans, both men and women, but even with team members in the garage area.
Kahne hopes to one day to have his own Puma model shoe just like Johnny Damon of the New York Yankees.
"I know that Johnny Damon has a model (shoe) and he's one of my buddies that I met through Puma,” Kahne said. "Hopefully if we win a bunch of races in the future I'll get my own shoe."
At the rate Kahne is going, with already four wins on the season, his own shoe might very well be on the horizon.