As anticipated, Rihanna announced her signing as a multi-year brand ambassador to Puma today. According to WWD, Rihanna’s role includes overseeing the brand’s fitness and training line, including apparel and shoes. Though Puma didn’t announce the cost of the Rihanna partnership, the Daily News put out a figure of $1,000,000. As brand ambassador she will front Puma’s Autumn 2015 ad campaign and joins a roster including sprinter Usain Bolt and soccer player Mario Balotelli. No date was provided for arrival of Rihanna merchandise at retail but if it’s sync with the ad campaign, we will see teasers of items in spring and they will arrive in stores in June or July.
Rihanna shared images from Puma headquarters on Instagram today and in the images (above and below) she is wearing all-white, head-to-toe Puma shoes and apparel. The sneakers she is wearing were customized by Mr. Completely who adds creepers soles to classic sneaker uppers, thus the “creep” hashtag featured under one of the images she posted. Whether or not Puma will make a similar style for her line is unknown. (And if it does, hopefully Mr. Completely receives some compensation for the idea!)
We wrote last week about our mixed feelings on this signing and the fact that we spotted her for the first time ever in Puma kicks just two weeks ago, which we saw as a clear sign that the rumored signing with Puma (first reported on by the Daily News) was a done deal.
Given the splashiness of this signing and Rihanna’s role as brand overseer, one has to wonder if Solange Knowle’s relationship with Puma will continue into 2015. Knowles was announced as art director and creative consultant at Puma in November 2013 and two collections during 2014 were released under her direction.
The announcement timing is also interesting as it relates to Puma’s recent sales struggles. Over the last few years Puma has lost some of its footing and rumors recently surfaced that its parent company, Kering, which also owns Gucci, was looking to sell off the brand with VF Corp. (which also owns Timberland and Vans) mentioned by some as interested in purchasing it. This news comes on top of the recent announcement that Kering had replaced Gucci’s CEO, Patrizio di Marco, and that his partner and head designer of the brand, Frida Giannini, will step down after Gucci’s spring 2015 runway presentation.
All told, there is a lot riding on the success of this collaboration though much more so for Puma CEO Bjørn Gulden than Rihanna. While this may be Rihanna’s biggest brand partnership challenge to date, if she pulls this off and helps turn around Puma’s fortunes, it will be an amazing feat that will put her in the touched-and-turned-to-gold hall of fame. If Puma continues to struggle, however, Puma will carry the brunt of the blame. Celebrity partnerships are meant to function as icing, it’s the CEO who is responsible for the cake.