Another shoe company has jumped on the social justice bandwagon, marking the anniversary of a historic moment in black activism with a new ad campaign and shoe line.
Last week marked the 50th anniversary of U.S. sprinter Tommie Smith’s infamous “black power” salute at the 1968 Olympics. Now, shoe company Puma is celebrating the moment with an ad campaign highlighting the history of “black activism” that the moment defined.
A line of shoes under the banner “Power Through Peace” has been introduced by the company to celebrate the movement, with proceeds from shoe sales going to charity.
The shoes include this design, which features the “black power” fist inside of a dove on a black suede shoe.
The Puma announcement comes just as rival shoe company Nike made the controversial decision to make anthem-protester Colin Kaepernick the face of their latest ad campaign.
Puma’s #REFORM ad campaign will use the “black power” salute as the foundation of ads that it hopes will being back young African Americans to their brand, who tend to buy Nike and Adidas. Rapper Meek Mill is part of the #Reform campaign, and even created ads for the company (including one shown below).
Puma is also working with rapper Jay-Z’s Roc Nation on live and social media events to fight racism and sexism, and the company is even matching donations to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), up to $100,000.
Chief Executive Bjorn Gulden justified the move to have the company advocate for “black power” activism as a moral choice. “We are not trying to make commercial advertising out of this but we think it is good for the brand because it is part of our values,” he said. Puma has sponsored Tommie Smith since he went to the Olympics in 1968. He was wearing Pumas at the time of the protest on the medal stand. They have continued to sponsor him all of these years, even as his professional sports career derailed after his protest.
Gulden praised Smith’s decision to raise the “black power” fist, which led to him never competing professionally again. “What he did then … was the bravest thing an athlete has ever done when you think about the consequences,” Gulden said.
In this ad for Puma’s #Reform campaign, rapper Meek Mill evokes images from past social justice activism and merges them with current protests.
Adam Petrick, Puma’s global marketing head, claims basketball has a tradition of supporting social justice causes. “If we’re going to participate in the basketball culture, then we have to participate in all aspects of that,” he said.
Smith himself gave an interview recently about Puma’s #Reform campaign, giving his endorsement and discussing the “black power” movement in today’s world.
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