Puma is trying to find a cheat code to boost its already fast-growing sales.
The German sneaker maker announced a multiyear partnership with esports brand Cloud9 to create an apparel collection for gamers. The clothing will sell for $25 to $75 and be available for purchase on the websites of both companies.
In January, Puma signed a sponsorship deal with Cloud9 to provide official game day shirts and pants for league players. It's similar to the uniform sponsorship or "kit deal" Puma has with Manchester City in the English Premier League.
Esports – or electronic sports – is a form of gaming where people or organized teams compete at video games. Esports is growing in popularity globally as a spectator sport online and in person at stadiums.
According to Morgan Stanley, 194 million people are expected to watch esports this year and they're within a key demographic: 79% are under the age of 35 years old.
"Tapping into the world of esports, and its broad, dynamic consumer audience, is critical to our marketing strategy moving forward," said Adam Petrick, global director of brand and marketing at Puma.
"Being able to transcend esports and elevate our brand within a broader global audience is the natural evolution of the growth of Cloud9," added Jordan Udko, executive vice president, commercial partnerships for Cloud9.
Puma is actively working to reshape its brand image. The company re-entered the basketball sneaker segment last October after a 20-year absence in the space, naming hip-hop mogul Jay-Z creative director of Puma Basketball. It's also taken a page from Adidas' lucrative partnership with Kanye West, by offering products in partnership with celebrities like Rihanna, Adriana Lima and Selena Gomez, in addition to sponsoring sports stars like Olympian Usain Bolt and golfer Rickie Fowler.
But the effort to capture consumers interested in esports to buy sneakers and apparel may be difficult for Puma and others, according to Matt Powell, a senior industry analyst for market researcher NPD Group.
"It's really going to be interesting to see if anyone can monetize it," Powell said. "There is an opportunity for a connection. Players want to identify themselves as players. If this is how they choose to do it, there is a monetary opportunity. Whether the esports player is focused on that as much as the real sports player remains to be seen."
Puma's global sales improved 16.8% in the first half of the year, and according the company, its U.S. sales are growing by 18%, the biggest gain by a top 10 sportswear company in the U.S.
Puma stock is also outperforming Adidas. Both trade on the Frankfurt exchange.