Was Puma's Biggest Blunder a Clever Marketing Tactic in Disguise?

Was Puma's Biggest Blunder a Clever Marketing Tactic in Disguise?
Photo by Scott Goodwill on Unsplash

Anushka Sharma, Virat Kohli, and some insider insights from Puma’s marketing head.

Puma and celebrity endorsements have a long-standing relationship.

But what happened between Bollywood celebrity Anushka Sharma (62 million Instagram followers) and Puma is everything between intriguing and thrilling.

Read on to learn more about their topsy-turvy affair.

Why did Anushka Sharma strategically report Puma on social media?

The German sportswear brand Puma announced its EOSS (End of season sale) on 19th Dec 2022. To promote their sales campaign, they unethically used Anushaka’s photos on their Instagram post — even though she wasn’t their brand ambassador yet.

The actor took to her Instagram story and slammed the brand for using her photos without permission (Check her Instagram story below).

Screenshot by the author from Instagram public accounts.

Not just that, her husband Virat Kohli reshared her Instagram story and asked the brand to sort that out.

Screenshot by the author from Instagram public accounts.

But it turned out that Virat Kohli liked Puma’s post featuring Anushka’s photos. That was a clear oops moment. Some people noticed this and figured something was fishy.

Screenshot by the author from Instagram public accounts.

Was this a genuine mistake by the brand or a preplanned saga?

The internet is still trying to make sense of this episode.

There was confusion and speculation. Amidst all this, in a few hours, Puma India shared the BIG news of onboarding Anushka Sharma as its ambassador — affirming that it was indeed a staged drama. Immediately after, the actor shared a story announcing her collaboration with Puma.

Instagrammers had mixed reactions to this reveal.

Some people called this campaign purely predictable. Whereas some were all praises for flawless marketing.

Screenshot by the author from Instagram public accounts.

Could the campaign backfire?

Puma’s shockvertising opened a massive possibility of people misinterpreting Puma’s intentions — for they seemed to have misused Anushka’s photos.

Shreya Sachdev, Puma’s Head of Marketing, shared that the timing was crucial for the campaign’s success. They kept only a few hours’ buffer between Anushka’s story and Puma’s official collaboration post. This brief gap got the internet buzzing and talking, ultimately playing to their advantage.

Had they not been mindful of the time factor, it could have invited a barrage of negative comments. This campaign is yet another example that timing can make or break your campaign, especially when it’s digitally executed.

Why was Anushka Sharma Puma’s go-to choice?

Puma launched Propah Lady in 2019. This campaign questioned society’s idea of what ‘proper’ means in today’s time. It busted stereotypes, challenged gender bias, inspired women to embrace their authentic selves, and redesigned women’s athleisure. People loved how relevant and relatable the campaign was, and it soon turned out to be their most influential campaign.

If you look at Anushka’s career trajectory, her journey resonates with Puma’s brand values. Although she didn’t come from a Bollywood family, she paved her path and became one of the most acclaimed actresses today. She’s always held a strong sense of individuality, making her the perfect epitome of a propah lady.

What can brands learn from the Puma X Anushka Sharma collaboration?

If you’re a brand or marketing enthusiast, here are three lessons you can take home from this collab.

  • If you’re taking the celebrity endorsement route to market your brand, choose someone who aligns with your brand values.
  • Understand your customer’s psychology and then time your campaign. Puma’s campaign might have backfired on them if they had discounted the value of time.
  • Take calculated risks and embrace uncertainty. For the campaign to have been successful, Puma had to take the risk of being ‘called out’ by a celebrity. The staged drama could have swung either way.

What are your thoughts on this *unethical* marketing campaign by Puma? Leave your insights in the comments.