Pele, Puma, & The World Cup: The $120,000 Shoelace Story
Friday August 11, 2023,
2 min Read
The realm of sports has seen countless iconic moments, many of which have lived on through the annals of history. The 1970 World Cup was no exception, serving up moments that have become the stuff of legends. While Pele's mesmerizing skill on the ball is no doubt one of those, there's a behind-the-scenes story that takes the cake, and it involves a pair of boots and two rival sports shoe companies: Adidas and Puma.
To truly understand the gravity of the situation, one must first delve into the creation of Adidas and Puma. Stemming from a family feud, brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler split paths after a heated disagreement. This division led to the birth of two of the world's most renowned sportswear brands, Adidas and Puma.
However, the spotlight of this story truly shines on the events leading up to the 1970 World Cup quarter-final between Brazil and Peru. As athlete endorsements were gaining momentum, both Adidas and Puma wanted Pele, the jewel of football, to sport their brand. But instead of pushing both companies to the brink of bankruptcy in a bidding war, they forged the "Pelé Pact." The terms were straightforward: neither company would sign Pele.
But then came the twist. Before the quarter-final clash, Puma saw an opportunity and took a daring leap. They approached Pele with an enticing offer of $120,000 — equivalent to a whopping $1 million today, adjusted for inflation. In return for this sum, all Pele had to do was pause just before kick-off, in full view of the world, and tie his shoe laces.
As the Brazilian maestro strolled to the middle of the field, all eyes (and cameras) were on him. And in a cinematic moment of sheer marketing genius, the cameras zoomed in to catch the act, unveiling to millions that Pele, the world's greatest, was donning Puma boots. The cherry on top of this marketing masterstroke? Puma had ensured this iconic shot by compensating the cameraman.
Through this audacious move, Puma not only broke the "Pelé Pact" but also etched its name in one of the most ingenious marketing plays of all time. The 1970 World Cup remains memorable for many reasons, but for those in the advertising and marketing world, it's a testament to the lengths brands will go to, in pursuit of the spotlight.
1970 World Cup
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