The man who holds the key to the illustrious archives, the man dubbed as 'Mr PUMA' and an OG in the sports marketing world. We catch up with Helmut Fischer at the launch of the FC Herzogenaurach launch at Pro:Direct's flagship LDN19 store.

The relationship between PUMA and FC Herzo goes way, way back. Can you tell us where it all started?

"So it all started in 1951 when PUMA was actually supporting FC Herzogenaurach, because a lot of employees were actually playing there as well as working at PUMA factory. It was also the club of our owner and founder, Rudolf Dassler, so it all made sense to sponsor them and over the years it became part of our tradition to have them on board as a club. It means that from the very beginning we have always been with the club."

Some description

It's very much a real club too, what does it mean to the people from the area?

"When you live in Herzo and were born and raised there, you have to choose very early, either you go with HSV Herzogenaurach which was adidas or you go with FC Herzogenaurach which was PUMA so it was like you have to make choice early on. The rivalry was always growing as both companies were also getting bigger too."

You personally have been involved with both the club and PUMA for such an amazing amount of time, have you been designing something like this in your head for a long time?

"To be honest, I never thought that there could be a collaboration and collection such as this that would be launched. Seeing products coming out like this is incredible. When I was taking over the sponsorship activities, a lot was being invested into youth players and players of the future but I never imagined that this close relationship to the club and to PUMA would have brought out something like a collection like this."

What were your feelings when a collaborative launch like this was talked about most recently?

"When our creative director came to me for the first time and asked me about the idea and what I thought about it, he was totally fascinated. For me, I said it would be a dream come true and now I have to say it is one of my personal highlights in my life because I have been with FC Herzogenaurach since 1959 so for me, it means a great deal."

From the start of the creative process to the finished product, how happy are you with the outcome?

"It’s fantastic, I have nothing but a good, good feeling about this."

There's a lot of hidden references, namely the camo print, how important are all the finer details when helping tell the story of FC Herzo?

"That’s something I’m very proud of. In the camouflage you can see in the first line, it’s the outline of Herzo and the second line is actually the outline of Bavaria and then in between is FC Herzogenaurach. So having that in there makes me very proud."

Some description

More broadly, this launch shows how important the history of PUMA is to the brand. They have been able to take something of historical reference and make it contemporary, do you enjoy seeing similar things happen in the boot world for example? The PUMA King being updated et

"For me, something I say regularly is that we have these old products that have helped define PUMA, we should not forget about them. You can always learn from these products and indeed the past. As an example with the PUMA King, I’ve always said it’s a great piece of technology and it is a great product and over time we have evolved it. It’s always become better with new innovation and that is effectively what makes PUMA so great. We appreciate our traditions and I’m happy that we continue with this path as the direction we go in. Especially when you look today and see how boots like the PUMA King are still being worn by players today."

What do you make of the PUMA thirty years ago to the PUMA of today, how would you say the brand has changed?

"When I think back to what has happened in the past thirty years, I’ve seen a lot of ups and a lot of downs and have experienced a lot but it’s important to always learn from the past. We can’t live from that but we should always learn from it. Since our new CEO, Bjorn Gulden has come in we have placed more focus on the performance side again which means automatically that we will keep coming back stronger, especially with all the competitors we have who have come up after PUMA, I think we’re on the right track to come back as one of the biggest competitors in the market."

Some description

You have been described as ‘Mr PUMA’, can you tell us a bit about the products you have in your archive?

"Since 1978, I’ve got more than 1500 archive products which are really, really old. I’m keeping them in the collection as a kind of gatekeeper for the archive. I’ve brought with me the first ever boot to be made with studs, the ‘Atom’, it was made in 1951. You can see elements on the boot like on the FC Herzo collection, the PUMA jumping through the Dassler D. The Dassler brothers, in their original shoe factory, put two stripes on their shoes but when they went in different directions adidas added one more stripe whereas PUMA went to one single stripe.

The Atom boot is marked with the first ever PUMA logo in that respect. I’ve also got a boot from the 1958 World Cup that has been signed by the whole Brazil team at the time as well as the Sweden team. This is my favourite boot. From the World Cup in Mexico, this Pele boot was match worn from the World Cup in 1978. It is like a PUMA King but with a special tongue, only for Pele. It wasn’t even sold, it was just made for Pele. I met Pele two years ago and I showed him the shoe. He kept saying “that’s my shoe, that’s my shoe”. The highest bid for this shoe at the time was $30,000 and that back in 1978. It’s a one of a kind."

In the future, what do you see PUMA's role looking like in the football world?

"If we have a look at the past and PUMAs place in history, we have always faced challenges. Especially today with more brands coming up, like Under Armour as an example. However because we have such a long past and our heritage is in sports, we will always be a sports brand and it means that we can always look back and say, “Ok, these are products we made” so we can refer to that and people trust us for that reason. We will always have a role and help shape the market."

Join the club. Suit up here.

Photography by Joshua Atkins for SoccerBible.