Puma steers its hoops drive to women's game with new WNBA deal

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Skylar Diggins-Smith in Clyde Court Disrupt shoes from Puma. Credit: PUMA

Puma is making another basketball move, this time in the women's game: The footwear and apparel marketer has inked a new sponsorship with the WNBA that it will tout at this weekend's All-Star game in Minneapolis.

Puma has been dialing up its hoops marketing this summer, inking multiple deals with individual NBA players, including top draft picks Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III, as well as Celtics guard Terry Rozier, whose deal was made public this week.

The signings mark Puma's return to NBA marketing, which it had sat out since striking a deal with Vince Carter in the late 1990s.

Puma still does not have a leagewide deal with the NBA, meaning it cannot show its endorsers wearing their NBA uniforms. The NBA's sponsors include Nike—which is the official uniform provider—as well as Under Armour and Adidas.

But Puma's WNBA deal is a league-wide sponsorship in the footwear category. As an official sponsor, Puma in its marketing can use the league's trademarks and show women's players in their official NBA gear. The pact marks Puma's first deal with a professional sports league, according to the WNBA.

The brand plans to use the deal in marketing involving Dallas Wings star Skylar Diggins-Smith, including during All-Star Game festivities this weekend. She will wear Puma shoes for the rest of the season, according to the WNBA. ABC is broadcasting the game Saturday from the Target Center in Minneapolis.

According to the WNBA, game broadcasts on ESPN this season are averaging 247,000 viewers through nine games, up 38 percent from last year, making it the most-watched regular season since 2012.

Puma earlier this summer announced that Jay-Z had signed on to help shape its hoops strategy. The brand also sponsors The Basketball Tournament, a $2 million winner-take-all summer hoops tourney broadcast on ESPN that ends Aug. 3.

Puma on Thursday reported that sales grew 15 percent in the second quarter on a currency-adjusted basis. CEO Bjorn Gulden said its return to the basketball category has been well-received by retailers and fans. But the German company's stock price fell in the aftermath of the earnings report after it failed to lift its earnings outlook.

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