Toronto: People are going to want a piece of you if you are one of the greatest players who have ever graced the field, and they are going to want a piece of you if they can get it. Which is exactly the idea that was behind Puma’s approach with Pele during the 1970 FIFA World Cup when they were competing against Adidas in the so-called “sneaker war.”
Pele wore a pair of football boots manufactured by Puma for the quarterfinal match between Brazil and Peru. At the beginning of the contest, he consciously requested that the referee stop the action so that he could tie them up, well aware of the fact that everyone’s attention was focused on him.
As was to be expected, the cameras focused their attention on Pele and the unlaced Puma footwear he was wearing, which resulted in the creation of what is widely considered to be the first viral promotion ever. And a neat and useful public relations boost for the sneaker brand. Despite the fact that this didn’t come cheap at all.
In her book Three Stripes Versus Puma, Barbara Smit claims that Pele was paid an unbelievable $120,000 to be the human billboard for the football boot for just a few seconds. Pele’s appearance reportedly only lasted a few seconds. This number is nothing to be embarrassed of in today’s day and age, much less in an era when $120,000 is the modern equivalent of nearly $800,000 in today’s dollars (when considering that whole chestnut of inflation). A respectable amount of money…
Behind this sponsored play, there is a detail that is much more interesting to consider. In the past, Puma and Adidas came to an understanding on something that came to be known as the “Pele Pact.” This was a pact between the two companies in which they agreed not to sign a contract with the football player.
The reasoning behind this was that both businesses would eventually go out of business as a result of the bidding war, which would make the entire “sneaker war” a game with a net loss for everyone involved. This compensated lace-up, on the other hand, was able to legally sidestep the agreement but still managed to enrage Adidas. It should come as no surprise that the “sneaker war” escalated not long after that event.
Pele would later secure the victory, making this his third victory overall at the FIFA World Cup (1958, 1962, 1970). He finished his career with about 1281 goals scored and is now considered to be one of the best football players in the annals of the sport.
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