FRANKFURT Dec 23 Puma has signed up
Italian striker Mario Balotelli to wear its soccer boots, part
of the German sportswear company's efforts to strengthen a
footwear business that has lost out to rivals Nike and
Adidas in recent years.
Puma, which is 84 percent-owned by French luxury group
Kering, wants to sign up big-name players ahead of
next year's football World Cup in Brazil.
The Italy striker joins a line-up of Puma sponsored stars
including Argentinian footballer Sergio Aguero, Spaniard Cesc
Fabregas, German Marco Reus, and Colombian Radamel Falcao.
Puma, which ranks a distant third in the sports apparel
industry behind Nike and Adidas, did not disclose the cost of
its partnership with Balotelli.
In November, Chief Executive Bjoern Gulden said the company
needed to focus less on fashion, as it had done over the last
two decades, and more on performance sportswear.
One of Gulden's priorities is to fix footwear sales, which
fell 7.5 percent in the first nine months of the year and which
he described as Puma's "Achilles' heel".