Puma Celebrates Darts And Other Hip Pastimes

You don’t need a special kind of footwear to play ping pong, darts or pool. But if you’re among the growing number of den jocks who have taken up these retro-chic diversions, a cool pair of sneaks doesn’t hurt, at least.

That, at any rate, seems to be the message behind the new Puma Social ad campaign from Droga5. A 60-second video shows twentysomething athletes vigorously engaged in the sort of “sports” that hail from the era of polyester shirts and furnished basements (ping pong, bowing, air hockey and pool) while a voiceover celebrates smooth moves like “picking up a spare in the final frame” and “a kiss off the 8-ball, a bank off the 6.”

The effort also includes a Puma Social microsite with the usual hooks to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. The site is designed to be a mix of Puma-created content (“from Puma”) and user-generated content (“from you”) on the topic.

Buttressing the effort are ads running in mags like Fader, Vice, Nylon and Spin and on hipster Web sites like Pitchfork, Flavorpill and Stereogum directing users to the site. As an added draw to what Puma terms “after-hours athletes,” the shoemaker opened a Puma Social Club this summer at New York’s South Street Seaport. The pop-up hipster den (timed to the World Cup) boasted ping pong tables and a bar, along with a light show and live DJ. More clubs are in the planning stages.

But why the resurgence of such old-school diversions as foosball? Puma CMO Antonio Bertone feels that the videogame craze may have hit its saturation point. “It’s about vintage-y pre-Internet sports,” he said, adding that “going out, having fun and playing” are cool again.

There’s evidence to back him up. Ping pong, in particular, has been the subject of numerous articles lately. And clubs like Susan Sarandon’s SPiN in New York have been cited as hubs for twentysomethings looking for cheap entertainment. And what choice have they got? Many of these kids can’t find jobs, which pretty much kills the idea of dropping $125 for a Yankees ticket.

“During the recession, people lean on simple pleasures,” said Ann Mack, director of trendspotting for JWT, “and [ping pong and darts] are definitely simple pleasures.”

Puma’s effort comes as sales of sneakers have continued to be strong, despite the economy. According to SportsONESource, dollar sales for athletic footwear grew 9 percent year to date, mostly on strong sales of running and toning shoes.

Puma’s market share grew from 2 percent to 2.2 percent over that period. But SportsONESource analyst Matt Powell said that much of Puma’s gain came from its running shoes. Sales of lifestyle shoes, like those featured in this latest campaign, are “just OK,” Powell said. “People are demanding more technical shoes,” he said.

Spending for the campaign was not disclosed, but Puma spent under $1 million on measured media in 2009, according to data from Nielsen.