Se­lena on the Record

POW­ER­HOUSE SONGSTRESS SE­LENA GOMEZ IS LEND­ING HER VOICE TO PUMA, HELP­ING THE BRAND SPREAD A NEW KIND OF NAR­RA­TIVE — ONE OF IN­DI­VID­U­AL­ITY, STRENGTH AND STYLE — TO MIL­LEN­NIAL FE­MALES.

Footwear News - - CONTENTS - By CHAR­LIE CAR­BALLO Pho­to­graphs by DIRK BRUNIECKI

How Se­lena Gomez is help­ing Puma at­tract mil­len­nial women.

“That’s so weird,” Gomez told the Puma team as she in­spected the up­dated SG brand­ing on her sig­na­ture shoes. “It’s not ob­nox­ious. They are so cool. I love them.”

Gomez made a pil­grim­age to Puma’s HQ in Her­zo­ge­nau­rach, where she held court in front of nearly 1,000 em­ploy­ees from around the world for its an­nual con­fer­ence show­cas­ing new prod­ucts and di­rec­tion.

Shortly af­ter the pre­sen­ta­tion in Ger­many, FN caught up with her over the phone, where she waxed po­etic on how she’s lead­ing Puma in a new di­rec­tion while cat­a­pult­ing the brand’s aware­ness in the United States.

As an in­flu­en­tial per­son­al­ity on so­cial me­dia, an in-de­mand en­ter­tainer and a fash­ion tastemaker, Gomez is, in ef­fect, the voice of the Amer­i­can fe­male mil­len­nial con­sumer.

Now, as Puma cel­e­brates its 70th an­niver­sary, the “Re­vival” singer is giv­ing the life­style brand a re­vival of its own from the ranks of the smart­phone gen­er­a­tion.

But what’s dif­fer­ent with Gomez is that the brand is not build­ing a nar­ra­tive fo­cused on the al­lure of the 26-year-old’s celebrity or her trend­set­ting savvy. Rather, it’s the mes­sage of self-em­pow­er­ment that’s fos­ter­ing a com­mu­nity of “strong girls.”

“I feel like there could be end­less op­por­tu­ni­ties for that,” Gomez said of the SG brand­ing that ap­pears on her de­but col­lec­tion drop­ping in De­cem­ber. Though the let­ters share her ini­tials, the in­ter­pre­ta­tion has greater depth. “The whole point is to take the fo­cus away from me; it’s about what I be­lieve in and what I choose to do with the plat­form I’m given. It’s much big­ger than me and it’s much big­ger than Puma — it’s about how you feel.”

To much fan­fare, Puma tapped the singer­ac­tress as an am­bas­sador in Septem­ber. The com­pany’s strategy for Gomez comes on the heels of suc­cess­ful part­ner­ships with Ri­hanna and The Weeknd. The la­bel's ro­bust roster of young tal­ent also in­cludes Big Sean and Cara Delev­ingne.

“I like to think there’s room at the table for every­body. I think what’s most im­por­tant is the re­la­tion­ship that Puma cre­ates,” Gomez ex­plained, adding that Puma crafts unique sto­ries that build upon each am­bas­sador’s in­di­vid­u­al­ity. “Every­thing I’ve done comes from a place of how I would do some­thing, so how I would take ath­let­icwear and how it would feel. I know some girls are very spe­cific about wear­ing cer­tain things.”

Gomez said her in­spi­ra­tion comes from a “gi­ant Pin­ter­est board” in her head un­der the guid­ance of Puma’s de­sign team.

Ul­ti­mately, she re­lies on in­stinct for her cre­ative process.

“I take cues from mu­sic that in­spires me, movies that in­spire me, artists that in­spire me,” Gomez said. “I love learn­ing from all kinds of peo­ple. So for me, it comes from the mood or mo­ment I’m in.”

That kind of cre­ative think­ing res­onates well with the new fe­male con­sumer, ac­cord­ing to Loretta Brady, the au­thor of “Bad Ass & Bold” and a pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy who stud­ies or­ga­ni­za­tional cul­ture and me­dia en­gage­ment.

“In the cur­rent cli­mate, women are be­ing seen and pre­sented as ac­tive, bal­anced, en­gaged and en­cour­ag­ing of each other. Puma is em­pha­siz­ing the re­al­ity and the ideal that [res­onates with] to­day’s women. Be­ing ac­tive is just part of keep­ing one­self ready to lead or serve,” Brady ex­plained. “This em­pow­er­ing mes­sage is at­trac­tive to women, and per­haps es­pe­cially so in the con­text of a cul­tural and po­lit­i­cal cli­mate that is at times pretty dis­em­pow­er­ing, par­tic­u­larly for young women.”

“I TAKE CUES FROM MU­SIC THAT IN­SPIRES ME, MOVIES THAT IN­SPIRE ME, ARTISTS THAT IN­SPIRE ME. I LOVE LEARN­ING FROM ALL KINDS OF PEO­PLE.”

Fol­low­ing Gomez’s first shoe with Puma, an el­e­vated touch on its Phe­nom Lux sil­hou­ette that dropped April 6, the brand is set to re­lease the Defy x SG (which drops Sept. 18), fol­lowed by the Defy Mid x SG and SG Run­ner in De­cem­ber. Ex­pect more luxe, fem­i­nine touches, such as rose gold hard­ware on a sil­hou­ette that’s built for day-to-night ath­leisure life­styles.

“I’m build­ing what I al­ready cre­ated and I’m mak­ing it bet­ter — more so­phis­ti­cated,” she added. “It’s strong — I never for­got to say the

word ‘strong.’ The whole point of my line is for any woman who dresses up in ath­let­icwear to feel strong and beau­ti­ful.”

Who bet­ter than Gomez to de­liver the mes­sage of ac­cep­tance and over­com­ing ad­ver­sity? She has spo­ken openly about bat­tling de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety and lu­pus, an au­toim­mune dis­ease she was di­ag­nosed with in 2015.

Ad­mit­tedly, the world of fash­ion and the out­side crit­i­cisms that come with be­ing show­cased promi­nently, is in­tim­i­dat­ing — and can cer­tainly di­min­ish body con­fi­dence. Gomez is acutely aware that many of her sup­port­ers feel the same way.

“I feel like I’m one of those peo­ple. I ac­tu­ally am one of those peo­ple. I un­der­stand and I get what they’re feel­ing and what they are afraid of,” she said. “It’s all about how you feel at the end of the day. That’s my ap­proach to my­self — see­ing it’s not okay that I’m not ac­cepted, that I’m dif­fer­ent from any­body else.”

Of course, liv­ing in the spot­light com­pounds these is­sues. In June, Dolce & Gab­bana cre­ative di­rec­tor Ste­fano Gab­bana ridiculed her looks af­ter com­ment­ing on Cat­walk Italia’s In­sta­gram ac­count. Un­der a se­ries of com­pos­ite pho­tos show­ing Gomez on the red car­pet, Gab­bana re­sponded, “è pro­prio brutta,” which roughly trans­lates from Ital­ian to: “She’s so ugly.”

When haters go low, Gomez stays strong. She urges her fans to do the same.

“It’s OK that I’m not ac­cepted this way. It’s OK that I’m nice and not in­tense. I don’t re­ally care,” Gomez said of her at­ti­tude to­ward en­ter­tain­ing her de­trac­tors. “I have to ex­press my mes­sage to my­self more than my fans. I would say that ‘I get it, I’m like you.’ ”

And it's this ethos that Puma taps when us­ing her as the face of new cam­paigns. Just look to the Defy sil­hou­ette — the name is an apt one that speaks to her truth. “I re­mind my­self daily about the im­por­tance of de­fy­ing the out­side noise,” she said of the shoes when she launched them in May. “To defy is to be brave.”

The re­la­tion­ship be­tween the brand and the am­bas­sador has been “based on a strong set of shared val­ues,” said Adam Pet­rick, global di­rec­tor of brand and mar­ket­ing. “She’s brave and con­fi­dent in the choices she has made in her ca­reer, and she’s car­ing, thought­ful, and re­spect­ful to her hun­dreds of mil­lions of fans.”

When Gomez takes her mes­sages to so­cial me­dia, they res­onate among her record nearly 140 mil­lion In­sta­gram fol­low­ers — the most any­one has on the plat­form. Puma, with 8.2 mil­lion fol­low­ers, has lev­er­aged this so­cial me­dia clout to its ad­van­tage with greater im­pact than it could ever wield on its own.

Com­pared to Puma, Gomez’s In­sta­gram posts have three times more en­gage­ment, ac­cord­ing to

“I RE­MIND MY­SELF DAILY ABOUT THE IM­POR­TANCE OF DE­FY­ING THE OUT­SIDE NOISE. TO DEFY IS TO BE BRAVE.”

Launch­metrics, a soft­ware and data in­sights com­pany with a fo­cus in fash­ion, cos­met­ics and lux­ury. “In dol­lars, that means some of Se­lena’s posts equated to nearly $3.5 mil­lion in Me­dia Im­pact Value per post, whereas Puma’s best-per­form­ing one only reached $195K,” ex­plained Ali­son Bringé, the com­pany’s chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer.

Me­dia Im­pact Value is Launch­metrics’ al­go­rithm that mea­sures the im­pact of rel­e­vant me­dia place­ments across all chan­nels (on­line, so­cial, print), in­clu­sive of paid, owned and earned me­dia.

Puma’s high­est-per­form­ing In­sta­gram post of Gomez an­nounced that she “joined the fam­ily” last year on Sept. 18. It re­ceived 398,365 likes, a far cry from Gomez’s best-per­form­ing pro­mo­tion for the brand on July 12 — an image of her strik­ing a pose in the Defy Mid sil­hou­ette, which gar­nered more than 7 mil­lion likes.

In May, Puma and Gomez took over Para­mount Stu­dios in Los Angeles with a Defy City ac­ti­va­tion that demon­strated how im­mersed and au­then­tic the am­bas­sador is with her cam­paigns. There, guests had the op­por­tu­nity to pur­chase cus­tom­ized socks that ben­e­fited the Al­liance for Lu­pus Re­search, an or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to med­i­cal re­search on the au­toim­mune dis­ease that af­flicts Gomez and that has in­spired her to be­come a com­mu­nity ad­vo­cate. Last year, Gomez’s best friend, ac­tress Fran­cia Raisa, do­nated a kid­ney to her when she was in need of one.

“I be­lieve every­thing I touch can have a char­i­ta­ble com­po­nent,” Gomez ex­plained. “When I met with [Puma], they saw who I was as a per­son and knew what they wanted to high­light. I wouldn’t work with some­one who wouldn’t work with my char­ity of choice and that was mean­ing­ful. I’m pas­sion­ate about find­ing a cure or work­ing with peo­ple who don’t have the re­sources to find out what kind of lu­pus they have — it can be scary if you don’t know.”

Puma ap­plauds Gomez’s abil­ity to fo­cus on busi­ness and do it with heart. “She’s also a strong young woman who stands up for what she be­lieves in and works to find bet­ter so­lu­tions when she sees that things are not right in our cul­ture, and in the world,” said Pet­rick. “In many ways we feel that we have learned a lot from her in the course of our time work­ing to­gether.”

Por­tions of pro­ceeds from Gomez’s Phe­nom Lux shoe raised $100,000 for the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

The Al­liance for Lu­pus Re­search named Puma its Cor­po­rate Vi­sion­ary Part­ner in May at its 9th an­nual Lu­pus Hand­bag Lun­cheon & Silent Auc­tion. The honor rec­og­nized the com­pany’s “in­no­va­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion with lu­pus cham­pion Se­lena Gomez that brings much­needed re­sources to ac­cel­er­ate the drive for new treat­ments and a cure,” said Pres­i­dent and CEO Ken­neth Far­ber.

Gomez’s sig­na­ture col­lec­tion in De­cem­ber should yield more re­sources for the fight against lu­pus, a cause that is near and dear to her heart.

“I’m not re­ally wor­ried about what’s go­ing to hap­pen in the fu­ture,” said Gomez. “But I’m mak­ing use of my time now to make the fu­ture more mean­ing­ful, more pur­pose­ful.”

Se­lena Gomez (L) and Puma CEO Björn Gulden, shot ex­clu­sively in Ger­many for FN.

Gomez joins Puma CEO Björn Gulden on stage in front of roughly 1,000 global em­ploy­ees in Ger­many

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