The German sportswear firm Puma will end its sponsorship of Israel’s national football team next year but ruled out the decision being made because of Israel’s war in Gaza, which began on October 7. The company cited financial reasons as the reasoning. The move was premeditated since last year, a spokesperson said. Puma, which has sponsored the Israeli Federation of Association Football (IFA) since 2018, has been a target of boycott calls from pro-Palestinian groups who say the deal endorses teams in Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank that are illegal under international law. The Israeli government has said the attacks on Gaza were an inevitable result of Hamas militants trying to destroy the Jewish state.
The Israel squad is ranked 70th in the world, reflecting their lack of success in the top competitions such as the World Cup and European Championship. During the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, the national team finished fourth and was one point behind Russia and two points behind second-placed Greece, according to FIFA. In UEFA Euro 2024 qualifiers, Israel won four out of nine games in the group stage to finish with 13 points but failed to make the final tournament.
Puma Chief Executive Officer Arne Freundt, who took over from his predecessor Bjorn Gulden in 2022, is working to reposition the brand as a higher-priced competitor to crosstown rival Adidas. His strategy includes phasing out cheaper products and focusing on the US market. He aims to grow sales in the US and boost profit by concentrating on more premium products.
Freundt’s efforts to reposition the brand are part of his plan to revive Puma, which has recently lost market share. In addition to the rebranding, Puma is cutting costs and restructuring its retail operations. The company has also shifted its marketing focus from digital platforms and social media to traditional TV, radio, and print advertising.
While Puma will continue to sponsor Serbia, Ghana, and Morocco at the national level and Manchester City at the club level, it will drop the contract with Israel. In an internal note seen by the Financial Times, the company says the decision was taken a year ago and is unrelated to ongoing consumer boycott calls against Israel.
The company has been criticized for lacking transparency regarding its corporate practices. The German government and trade unions have pushed the company to be more open about business dealings. In September, the company agreed to publish a detailed report on its finances and how it handles political issues. The report is due to be published in March. A spokeswoman for Puma said on Tuesday that the decision to end its sponsorship of the Israel football team is in line with a new “fewer-bigger-better” strategy the company adopted in 2022 and that the timing is standard for designing and developing new jerseys for national teams.