For his latest HoR2 blog Brendan ponders the thought process behind Puma’s decision…
Outside Herzogenaurach, there is a little hamlet called Konigschintzel. It is famous for its bratwurst, cooked over birch wood on huge grills in the main square. Last December, there was a whisper of snow on the cobblestones as Dieter Heinrich Von Bankstein ate a modest breakfast of bread and sausage in the Gasthaun Um Himmel.
The Innkeepers daughter, Helga, poured some bitter coffee into his mug. She was smiling as ever. Dieter, who has an MBA from Insead, and a double first in greats from Oxford, would be what is known as 'a good catch' in that part of Franconia.
Dieter, fluent in English ,Spanish, Catalan, French, Occitan, Vietnamese, Cantonese and Dort, wanted to put his arms around helga's bounteous waist and feast on her eyes of Savoy blue, but he had work to do.
As the go-to guy in Puma, he had to drive to Herzogenaurach along the banks of the Aurach for an urgent meeting with the board.
He left the gasthaus and got into his Audi A8. The soft nappa leather on the seat was icy to the touch. It took a number of minutes for the seat to warm up but Dieter had a cold feeling in his heart that no amount of Ingolstadt technology could fix.
Dieter loves Ireland. He loves Doolin, Paddy Casey, Glen Hansard and the other balladeers that peddle the real irish music. He likes nothing more than flying into Dublin for a good old knees-up with the folk kids on Wexford Street. He has been known to kip on Mundy's sofa in the Birr balladeer's gaffe.
With a creamy pint in front of him, he can let the world slip away. All talk of profit margins and keeping up with that other sportswear giant across the Aurach, seems to subside into "ze waters of my beloved liffey" when he lands in Dublin.
Dublin has captured his heart too. A titian-haired programmer from Kells, Ciara, she doesn't really love Dieter. The thing that gets Ciara going is seeing her boys in blue. She never misses a home match and puts on her skinny jeans, ladies fit blue leinster jersey and sequinned blue beanie for 90 minutes of thrills. She got into Leinster "loike in 05 before everybody else did". She burns as many calories trying to catch Fergus McFadden's eye as she would in a Zumba class or 90 minutes of salsa dancing with Ramon at his studio in Trim.
Dieter knows about Ciara's passion and it is what brought him to the oval-ball game.
So in 2009, he and the board decided to commit to the IRFU for an eight-year deal. The only other international rugby team that wears his brand is Namibia, the former German South-West Africa.
The thinking at the time was that "rugby is so sexy".
Dieter told the board: "In Dublin all ze women wear the rugby gear. De vill wear anythiing if it is Leinster. But ve cannot get Leinster, dey are with Canterbury it must be Ireland. Dey have won der grand slam".
"Wot is that", Dr Claus-Maria Von Schonbrunn, Puma's head of R & D had asked at the time.
"It is when vun team wins all der games against de other countries, France, England, Scotland, Wales und Italy".
Three years later and Heinrich’s beloved Ireland were still wearing Puma. Sales were good but they weren’t shipping platinum as his friends in the music industry would say. Maybe it was the black jerseys, or the really horrible materials they use.
He would tell the R & D Department: "Ze players do love the technical aspects of ze jersey but ze fans they do not. Many Irish rugby fans have wot is known as 'ze beer belly'. Ze girls love to drink pints and pints of horrible lager and cider. It is terrible for ze skin. Dey wear lots of make up to cover up. Zey look like oranges. My Ciara is different. She has skin as white as the ze cliffs of Bray Head and her hair is so red. Oh boys, I love her i do."
Ireland have yet to win another Grand Slam, or win anything of note.
Dieter had been in New Zealand in June. He had phoned back the board: "Vee nearly beat the Adidas team. Vee nearly beat ze All Blacks".
Given that the board just about knew who the All Blacks were, they weren't impressed.
Rugby is a global sport but it is a global niche sport. Outside the core IRB countries. It is in reality a university or a private school game and the clubs tend to come from universities. That is how it has developed in Spain, Portugal, Germany, Chile, Uruguay etc. From a sports marketing perspective, it will always attract the abc1 but it will never have traction or volume in those countries compared with Soccer. But the IRB is doing some excellent work from their headquarters in Dublin.
So Dieter finally made it into the boardroom.
Ulf Jagerkampf, Puma's head of International Sales and Morketing, EMEA, made the announcement: "Ve are ending our agreement with the ze IRFU. Ve vill be moving out of rugby for the future. Our Dassler cousins across the Aurach now have france, italy, Stade Francais, New Zeeland and of course, Munster. Vee are going to move into more traditional European sports like Olympic Handball. I hear that Eddie O'Sullivan is doing great work with the Irish Olympic Handball team."
Dieter cried into his bitter coffee. What was he going to tell Ciara and the zumba girls. He was going to be roasted, broiled and grilled alive like one of those bratwursts.
He said to himself: "Ze Irish girls with ze red hair, ze scare me when they get angry".
Brendan Grehan is Journalist
Facebook: Brendan Grehan