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Puma North America is set to air an edgy TV commercial that features blunt talk about boxing from endorser Oscar De La Hoya.

The "provocative" ad will not promote a specific product but will serve as an image spot for Puma; it will run in advance of the undefeated welterweight champion's Sept. 18 fight against Felix Trinidad in Las Vegas.

The TV commercial, produced by Gyro Worldwide, Philadelphia, is actually a toned-down version of a more aggressive effort produced earlier this year. The spot features training footage and close-ups of Mr. De La Hoya as he talks in sometimes violent terms about his feelings in the ring.


In the original spot, Mr. De La Hoya says family members notice his eyes become red while he's fighting. Then he angrily compares throwing a punch to throwing a watermelon against the wall.

"That's how your fist feels against a body part or face," he said. "I want to make him bleed more because I get so angry. I want to knock the guy out cold, because I get so angry."

Puma earlier decided to shelve the commercial because it was seen as too intense for broadcast.

"We don't have a problem with taking an edgier image," said Amber Fredman, head of U.S. marketing for the athletic shoes and apparel marketer. "Puma has an unpredictable and dangerous image. And in the ring, Oscar is incredibly ferocious. But the spot was a little over the top."

Still, with the September fight looming, Puma decided to ask Gyro to re-edit the ad. Among the changes is the addition of an 8-second tag at the end of the spot to promote the pay-per-view telecast of the fight, produced by Time Warner's TVKO division.

Gyro executives said while the spot will be somewhat toned down, it will retain much of the intensity of the original effort.

"The spot is provocative," said Steven Grasse, president of Gyro Worldwide.

Ms. Fredman said likely changes will include the elimination of the watermelon reference and the word "bleed."

Puma and Mr. De La Hoya are walking a fine line. Mr. De La Hoya has carefully crafted a marketing image as a clean-cut athlete sometimes called the "golden boy." Still, marketing analysts said he also needs to be seen as a tough competitor.


Ms. Fredman said Puma will shift media dollars that would have been spent on other products and other ads to put a big push behind the De La Hoya campaign. The ads will break Aug. 31 and run for two weeks. Total spending could not be determined; Puma spends about $8 million to $10 million per year on U.S. TV.

Because of the late decision to switch media dollars, Ms. Fredman said media outlets were limited. So the ads will run only on the News Corp.-owned Fox Sports Net, FX and Fox Sports World networks. News Corp. also owns a a significant stake in New Regency, a film production company that owns a majority stake in Puma AG.

Puma is seeing a 90% increase in sales revenue this year, from 1998. Teens have contributed to the growth-they're buying up its classic line of shoes more for fashion than for sports. But Puma is still small in terms of U.S. market share,

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