After a week of speculation, Neymar's 15-year relationship with Nike has officially come to an end, with the Brazilian superstar swapping the Swoosh for PUMA in one of the biggest brand switches of the modern era. Signing a baller of Neymar's status is a real statement of intent from PUMA, and most certainly a power shift in football's brand wars. And while many were confused as to why the PSG forward would switch sides after being a bonafide face of Nike, make no mistake, this is a win for Neymar too.
What made the news so shocking when it first circulated last weekend, is how central Neymar has been to Nike’s marketing efforts over the last few years, with the Brazilian baller more or less teed up as the eventual heir to Cristiano Ronaldo’s throne as football’s Swoosh King. The player has had a string of signature boot releases, dropped apparel collections, and even became the first football player to receive a Jordan Brand boot. Major moves.
— PUMA (@PUMA) September 12, 2020
However, those with an eagle eye on the situation could have seen this coming. While CR7 remains one of the best players in the world at the age of 35 – and with no real decline yet in sight – players like Kylian Mbappé and Jadon Sancho have risen up to be very legitimate contenders as the next face of Nike. Just last month, Sancho became the youngest ever player to get a signature boot for the brand. It was a power move for JS7 and confirmation of how much stock the brand are putting in him.
Ultimately, it’s meant Neymar has been left in the shadows. It’s eerily similar to his situation at Barcelona, when he was always looked at as a backup dancer to Leo Messi.
In this case, Nike equals Barca and PUMA equals PSG. Neymar just wants a chance to be the biggest star of his own show.
At PUMA, Neymar will be undisputed in his claim to be the face of the brand. Currently, the German giants are pushing Antoine Griezmann, Sergio Aguero and Luis Suarez as some of their biggest ambassadors. While Griezmann’s star has fallen after a stop-start career at Barca, Aguero and Suarez are both approaching the end of their prime – and neither have the star power that Neymar does.
Jay Z after he helps deliver AC Milan their fifth consecutive UCL in 2026. pic.twitter.com/aZTvt6hz03
— VERSUS (@vsrsus) July 9, 2020
While currently behind adidas and Nike as the biggest brand in football right now – PUMA’s stock is rising fast and they’re on the brink of a breakthrough. Their close allegiance with Jay Z is helping to bring players like Romelu Lukaku to the family and giving their marketing a more cultured lens than ever before, while rumours are also strong that they’ve been lining up a deal to bring Raheem Sterling to the brand – with their very real heritage in identity politics and fighting for racial justice likely to be a big pull for the Brent baller.
Financially, PUMA also just recorded its best ever year in 2019 after posting sales of $6 billion. Neymar’s arrival will carry that momentum even further forward.
This is a big move. Football’s brand wars are about to be taken to the next level.