Corporate Design Masters: On the Waterfront

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PUMA’s in-house team built an impressive multi-platform campaign to celebrate the brand’s entry in a global yacht race.

By Bryn Mooth

Imagine that you and 10 mates embark on an around-the-world sailing expedition of nearly 40,000 nautical miles. You have no fresh food. Only one change of clothes. When you pull into port at one of the eight stops you’re making on the journey, you’d be damn glad to set foot on dry land.

Now, imagine that one of the stops is Boston, and you’re met with thousands of fans, a festival atmosphere and a wicked cool campaign celebrating your nautical prowess.

The judges in this year’s In-HOWse Design Awards were plenty impressed with the scope, wit and design effectiveness of a multi-platform promo blitz created by PUMA’s in-house creative team. The footwear and apparel company sponsored an entry in the Volvo Ocean Race, a nine-month test of physical endurance and sailing chops that started in 2008 in Alicante, Spain, and ended in 2009 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The brand’s hometown of Boston was one of just eight port cities, and PUMA was determined to pull out all the stops to celebrate the crew of “Il Mostro,” the company’s 14-ton Volvo Open 70 boat.

The creative team’s concept—a mashup of Colonial Americana, high-tech yachting and local slang—boosted Bostonians’ enthusiasm for activities during the event (or “stopovah”). “Boston was the only North American stopover for the Volvo Ocean Race, so we really wanted to play off the city’s unique heritage, cultural traditions, and distinct accent in the campaign,” says PUMA copywriter Jenni Williamson.  “Boston was the birthplace of the Revolutionary War, it boasts a rich sailing tradition and still today has a flavor all its own.”

All the VOR teams set up tents and invited the public to come see the boats and meet the crews, but nothing matched the full-on experience called PUMA City, Williamson says. The in-house team collaborated with architecture firm LOT-EK to concoct a three-level structure out of, appropriately enough, stacked shipping containers.

“A unique PUMA retail space occupied the ground floor, while the second floor featured the entire Volvo Ocean Race retail collection, and the upper container contained a bar, lounge and event space that spilled out onto an oversized wooden deck,” Williamson says. (In the campaign’s parlance, “We’ve got a bah, a stoah and a dance flooah.”)

For weeks leading up to the port events, billboards, transit signs and ads all over Boston touted the arrival of the “Red Coats”—a nod to U.S. history and to the distinctive red jackets of the PUMA team. That scope—plus the campaign’s bold, smart design, sense of humor and cohesiveness—convinced the judges that this was the Best of Show winner. While the “Il Mostro” crew basked in their very respectable second-place finish in the race, their design colleagues at PUMA’s HQ in Boston collected HOW’s top honors. Without having to leave shore.

Below are images of Puma’s winning entries in the 2010 InHOWse Design Competition.

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