Peter Mastrostefano – PUMA Group
When his parents bought him his first pair of white and blue PUMA suede sneakers with the trademark leaping cat logo on the tongue and heel of the shoes, Peter Mastrostefano was just eight years old.
He never imagined that he’d one day become the senior vice president and general counsel for the North American region of the iconic brand that designs, markets and sells sport footwear, apparel and accessories globally—but that’s exactly what happened.
With 20 years at the company, one of his most memorable projects was his involvement in PUMA’s acquisition of California-based Cobra Golf. More recently, he’s been immersed in technological upgrades and logistics projects, along with marketing initiatives and licensing opportunities.
“We’re building the future of the brand,” Mastrostefano says. “It’s about designing innovative and relevant product, ensuring brand desirability in the eyes of the consumer.”
Currently headquartered in Herzogenaurach, Germany, the PUMA brand was born in 1948 as the result of a split between two brothers—Adolf Dassler went on to form Adidas, and Rudolf, PUMA.
Now the company sports more than 13,000 employees distributing its active lifestyle products in more than 120 countries, including categories such as soccer, running and training, basketball, golf and motorsports. As a newly minted attorney graduating from New England Law, Boston in 1997, Mastrostefano became the company’s first in-house general counsel.
“I knew the brand well,” he says, recalling that his favorite goal-scoring cleats in high school were PUMAs. “The PUMA brand has a history of collaborating with renowned designers and ambassadors to bring sport influences into street culture and fashion. There is an emotional connection with our consumers. I always remembered that.”
Demonstrating his enthusiasm and love of sports and music, Mastrostefano joined the PUMA ranks in 2000, helping to promote its products for competitive teams, athletes and fans. He loved the fact that the brand wove creative influences into its designs, connecting music, art and pop culture to create one of the world’s top brands.
“I could easily identify with that,” Mastrostefano says.
One of Mastrostefano’s most memorable undertakings was the acquisition of Cobra Golf. While PUMA supplied footwear and apparel for golfers, the move meant the company could now supply golf clubs, bags and accessories, too.
Fast-forward more than a decade and Mastrostefano’s been immersed in numerous major projects to support its North American operations.
In June, PUMA completed a new 630,000-square-foot distribution center just outside Indianapolis. Heavily automated with a robotic material handling system, this will be the second major U.S. distribution facility, allowing PUMA to better serve its customers and significantly reduce delivery timelines.
“We are always looking to improve the customer experience,” Mastrostefano says.
PUMA is also working to complete its new U.S. headquarters just outside of Boston at Assembly Row in Somerville, Massachusetts. Scheduled to open in 2021, the location—which will occupy half of a new, 300,000 square-foot, 13-story office building—will combine Boston and Westford offices, bringing employees into one location.
“It was important to be in the heart of a vibrant area and have the pulse of the consumer,” says Mastrostefano.
Having headquarters close to a transportation hub also means that PUMA can further expand its workforce and internship programs, largely due to its proximity to the city and several universities.
“These projects are part of numerous initiatives that keep the brand flexible and relevant over the years,” Mastrostefano explains. “Product innovation, focused marketing investments and empowering others within the company to be pragmatic, decisive, creative and positive is key.”
Covid’s silver lining
That forward-thinking mindset is what helped Mastrostefano as a business strategist in the wake of COVID-19. The initial task, he says, was to ensure the health and safety of more than 2,200 North American employees, developing work-from-home policies and integrating safety protocols such as routine temperature checks, symptom awareness surveys, mandatory social distancing, mask requirements and enhanced cleaning procedures.
Next, he says, PUMA was poised to pounce on opportunities during the pandemic, thanks to its earlier work.
“PUMA’s ecommerce channel has always been a critical component of the business. Ensuring that PUMA possesses the tools necessary to grow our ecommerce platform while supporting the company’s wholesale partners is of utmost importance,” Mastrostefano says. “Much was already in the works before the pandemic but made the difference in these unprecedented times.”
With people working from home and engaging in more physical fitness, PUMA is well-positioned for the future as consumers focus on performance and sport lifestyle products. That’s so people like him—fascinated by and loyal to the brand—can get their favorite pair of sneakers or a cool soccer jersey as quickly as possible during a pandemic.
But not everyone will get the greatest PUMA accessory of all—a longstanding career on the frontlines of its creative culture. He’s only too happy safeguarding the brand, using his law degree to support and protect PUMA as it strives to accomplish its goals. By doing that, he’ll protect the PUMA pride and keep the constant creative ideas that he’s loved since childhood, flowing.
“You have to be passionate about something to be successful, and if you don’t feel that it won’t work,” he adds. “That was never in question. It’s my intrinsic love of the brand that keeps me and my colleagues engaged and driven towards success.”
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