Photo: Ray Ally
With the Olympics being held in China for the first time most brands both local and international have jumped on the ‘China brandwagon’ trying win over the 1.3 billion Chinese consumers. Even the most American of brands like Coke, Budweiser and Nike have not be immune to this advertising trend.
Sports brands in particular have embraced this wave of nationalism sweeping the country and not surprisingly Nike, Adidas and Li Ning have all created ads with support this platform. While Nike has been more individualist and focused on its star athletes, Adidas has focussed on the people embracing the games and their support behind the athletes.
Puma however, have taken a slightly different approach as they don’t have the same mega budgets and superstars athletes like Nike and are not the official sponsor like Adidas. They are also positioned as a more sport/lifestyle/fashion brand so don’t go head to head with the two serious sports brands except in the category of football.
The only thing that Puma has is the sponsorship of the Jamaican, Swedish and Moroccan teams, which actually is not that much compared to the glamorous world that Adidas and Nike inhabit. But in life and in branding you have to work with what you have and with that in mind Puma have tried to maximise this to their fullest potential.
Their newest Olympic advertising campaign uses athletes from those countries to portray their national pride using the traditional Chinese art form of the Peking Opera masks. Each athlete has his face painted in the national colours of his country, using Chinese symbols, graphic elements and the Puma cat logo.
Peking Opera dates back to the end of 18th century and combines speech, song, dance and combat to dramatise stories about Chinese history and folklore. The performers wear masks, which are dramatically painted and colour coded to describe the actor’s character to the audience.
Red – courage and loyalty
Black – strength and fierceness
White – treacherous and sly
Blue – uprightness and stubbornness
Green – bravery and irascibility
Yellow – ambition and cool-headedness.
Nowadays the Peking Opera is seen as being old fashioned and something that your parents and grandparents would attend. Therefore using opera masks might not seem like the best way to talk with China’s youth. However the ads have been well received and have connected with China’s culture in a new, modern and contemporary way.
Puma have managed this by turning the masks into more of a fashion statement inline with the brands positioning. At the launch of the campaign they had fashion models with painted faces parading around in store and have even created an online game where you can create you own mask.
The three athletes in the poster are Jamaica’s Usain Bolt (the fastest man in the world), Sweden’s sprinter Jenny Kallur and Moroccan middle distance runner Mohamed Moustaoui. However you would probably not recognise any of them if they were walking down the street, except if they were wearing their painted faces.