FRANKFURT German sporting goods maker Puma plans to use a new Formula One partnership to gain consumers in Asia's emerging markets and reassert its sports performance credentials, a Puma executive said on Wednesday.
Puma earlier signed a deal to provide Formula One team Mercedes GP Petronas with fire-proof racewear for drivers and pit teams, and to produce licensed apparel.
The leaping cat logo of the company, which has been involved in motor racing's premier event for more than a decade, will also be displayed on the 2012 Mercedes race car and teamwear.
"The expansion of Formula One is coinciding with some of the key markets that we're targeting," Christian Voigt, head of sports marketing at Puma, told Reuters, highlighting new Grand Prix venue countries such as India and South Korea.
"There's considerable appetite for our licensed ranges in Latin America and Asia, especially China."
Ross Brawn, team principal at Mercedes, told Reuters after the Puma deal was announced there was strong interest from even more countries in joining the Formula One circuit, but that with 20 races next year, the calendar was pretty full.
"What we will see in future is perhaps trading some of the races for other races," Brawn said, adding a core group of long-term venues such as Monaco, Silverstone and Monza would remain.
Voigt said the deal to develop lightweight racewear for drivers such as Mercedes' Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg would highlight Puma's technology prowess.
"We have our positioning as a sports lifestyle brand but we need to continuously reinforce our performance roots," he added.
Puma also has a partnership with Formula One glamour team Ferrari that it extended earlier this year.
Voigt said Puma was happy with having two Formula One teams for now and wanted to focus on building those partnerships.
Friedhelm Lange, a consultant with Sport+Markt, who advises branded goods companies on motorsport sponsoring, said Puma benefited from being the only one of the big three sportswear groups heavily involved in Formula One, referring to rivals Nike and Adidas.
"So from a merchandising point of view, they have somewhat cornered the market," he added.
Puma did not disclose financial details of the Mercedes deal.
(Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by David Hulmes)