his month, PUMA released their newest shoe: The Kosmo Rider. The iconic fashion brand turned to virtual influencers across the world to promote the release, using the phrase “Reality Reimagined” as the guiding ethos behind the shoe’s launch.

“The Kosmo Rider is inspired by the blurring of the physical and digital self. It’s made for those who embrace the digital as a new way to play and express who they are.” — PUMA.

Sounds like a perfect fit for a virtual influencer campaign. After all, who can “embrace the digital” more than a virtual being?

PUMA selected two virtual influencers from different parts of the world to amplify the messaging of their new Kosmo Rider shoes. First was Maie, a virtual influencer from Shanghai, China. Similar to Ruby9100M’s campaign with Adidas, Maie featured the Kosmo Rider sneakers in her new music video, “Kosmo.”

Maie was launched by her talent agency, Club Media, in 2020. We spoke directly with Club Media’s founder, Reggie Ba-Pe III, to learn more about why PUMA chose to work with Maie.

“Maie is an interdimensional being that’s learning her place in the world. I think the journey she’s on reflects many of the same struggles that a lot of Chinese Gen-Z are going through. Beyond that, there’s been a huge uptick in the popularity of virtual influencers and the metaverse in China,” Reggie told us.

When asked about where he saw the direction of the virtual influencer industry headed, Reggie explained he “thinks it can go in a multitude of ways. The areas we’ll be exploring are what other mediums can our avatars be seen and utilized on. From virtual merchandise, virtual events, longer form content to interoperability across metaverses. There’s still a lot to discover and that might be the most exciting part of it all.”

The virtual influencer Maie was equally excited to be chosen for this partnership with PUMA, telling us “I think it’s nice to be recognised and given the opportunity to be their first virtual talent collaboration in China. They gave me the freedom to be myself and I think that’s the most important thing a brand can do. Thanks PUMA!”

PUMA also chose virtual influencer Kim Zulu, who hails from South Africa and has an avid local fanbase. For her part in the campaign, she starred in a futuristic photoshoot surrounded by the Kosmo Rider shoes. We spoke with her to learn more.

“So just to put it into context, I'm a huge fan of PUMA sneakers, and I had been secretly wishing to one day collaborate with them for a while now. When PUMA reached out to me, my immediate reaction was ‘YES YES YES!’

"For a global brand like PUMA to partner up with a virtual influencer is a huge deal. What I really love about the collaboration is that they understand streetwear and independent forward-thinking, so our campaign allowed for creative expression,” Kim said.

She also told us about her long-term goals as a virtual being. “My main desire is to bridge the conversational gap around combining the metaverse with reality. Through my campaign with PUMA, I think I've tried to illustrate that the possibilities are endless.”

The Kosmo Rider campaign isn’t PUMA’s first taste of virtual influencer marketing. In 2020, PUMA launched their own in-house virtual influencer, Maya, to promote the Rider Unlocked shoe. Maya starred alongside fellow Southeast Asian influencers in a futuristic commercial. Check it out:

PUMA’s history of working with virtual influencers shows their dedication to being at the forefront of digital culture. When PUMA first launched Maya in 2020, 63 documented virtual influencers were listed on our site directory. Now in 2022, more than 200 are listed on Virtual Humans.

Virtual influencers are a growing future in advertising. How will you use them?

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