As part of its aggressive commitment to relaunch its basketball sneaker category for the first time in 20 years, Puma on Monday announced that rapper and business mogul Jay-Z has been named president of Puma Basketball.
In advance of this week’s NBA draft, Puma has already signed projected first-round picks Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III and Zhaire Smith to multiyear footwear and apparel endorsement deals. The trio represents the first NBA endorsement deals for the brand in two decades. Puma last signed Vince Carter in 1998 to a 10-year deal, although the short-lived contract ended after just two seasons.
Jay-Z, whose given name is Shawn Carter, is expected to be leading brand creative direction for marketing campaigns, will have a voice on product and will also help to identify which upcoming NBA players and entertainers may be best suited for the brand to sign.
Before unveiling its new basketball sneaker this week, Puma signed its first signature athlete, Walt “Clyde” Frazier, to a lifetime contract earlier in an elaborate ceremony event in New York. The brand’s new silhouette is expected to be a modernized update to Frazier’s iconic, original Clyde sneaker from 1973, with a knit construction and today’s technology.
“We’re making a serious statement about the entry of the category, that we want to be a performance brand, but then also very culturally focused,” Adam Petrick, the brand’s global director of brand and marketing, told Complex.
While the presidency role is a major development for the relaunch of Puma Basketball, Jay-Z has already been in business with Puma for over a year. The brand outfitted him in Puma sneakers and apparel during his 2017 tour to promote his “4:44” album.
His sports agency, Roc Nation Sports, has also had a constant recent history of doing deals with Puma. Several of the agency’s clients in the NFL, MLB, WNBA and NBA have signed endorsement deals with the brand. Jay-Z’s longtime protégé Rihanna, a Roc Nation client since 2010, has had a successful collection of sneakers and clothing with Puma since signing on as a brand creative director in 2014.
With Jay-Z leading the way, Puma is expected to be aggressive in looking to sign even more upcoming rookies in the 2018 NBA draft, along with several established NBA players who will have current endorsement deals expiring in October.
“It’s clear that we’re looking at basketball through the lens of culture, and thinking about the fashion of basketball, the music of basketball — all the aspects of culture around basketball, all the aspects of culture around basketball as much as the on-court presence that we will have,” Petrick said.