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New rules for living a creative life, the Gen-Z way - whatever your age

'Sneaker-head' Hayden Manuel broke the clichéd idea of "Cape Town creative" when he shared how creativity, grit and determination led him to become Puma's sports style marketing manager in the latest Red & Yellow lunchtime lecture.
PUMA’s Sports Style Marketing Manager Hayden Manuel presenting at in the latest Red & Yellow lunchtime lecture.

Puma is doing good business by doing good, having just signed G7 Biarritz Global Sustainability Fashion Pact, committing to achieving practical objectives together in three areas: climate, biodiversity and oceans.

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The brand’s creativity is also breaking ground globally, with Puma Brazil’s ‘The 9’58 Biography’ book having won numerous awards at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

That winning streak continues when we switch focus to our local horizons, as Puma was announced as one of the coolest brands of 2019 overall in the category of shoe/footwear brand, clothing brand and slogan (Forever Faster) at the 15th Sunday Times Generation Next Awards.

This annual survey is conducted by HDI Youth Consultancy, which polls more than 7,000 South African youths between the ages of eight and 23 on what they find on-trend and aspirational.


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But how do you get to work for such a brand? Luckily Manuel was in the house to share his personal carer journey on 9 October.

If you were to check his Instagram profile, you’d instantly get a snapshot of his life – it’s filled with shoes, music, famous people and travel, but Manuel says that’s a bit of a misconception.

While all those are big elements of his life, there’s a lot more to it than that.

View this post on Instagram

Today I ticked off a bucket list destination.

A post shared by Hayden Manuel (@hakesy_vet_ket) on

Manuel said when looking at any career, it’s not just about the end-goal but the process of getting there – most of us have to put in the time answering phones and making coffee to get there, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t trust the process.

He shared his own story as proof of this – as his dad was one of ten kids, he grew up surrounded by healthy family competition, most in the sports sphere.

From his mom’s side of the family, he learned about perseverance in business – his gran had dropped out of school at the age of 15 but rose through the ranks to become a buyer based at a fashion head office, often bringing home samples for the family.

Varisty culture shock

Manuel added that he’d always loved hip-hop, art and fashion but he can’t sing, write or draw so he had to find another way to enter the industry.

When he finished high school he wanted to study at the AAA School but they didn’t offer degrees at the time, which is what his parents insisted on, so he took on a more formal degree elsewhere.

He’s lived a fairly sheltered existence up to then, so says he experienced a bit of a varsity culture shock as that’s the first time he made friends of other races.

Unfortunately he wasn’t applying himself to his studies, so dabbled in doing admin for a bank for a while, then he received a call that he initially felt must be a prank, as Nike wanted to meet with him.

From the blogs to the boardroom...

He became the first non-athlete in South Africa to work with the brand, which was the start of a nine-year relationship. The best part of this was that he got to become part of the Nike Kids team, working with the likes of Riky Rick before the fame set in.

Eventually he finished his degree through correspondence, and went on to complete his post-graduate studies through the AAA School, which really opened his mind to creativity.

It was during this time that his ‘Bitches Must Know/They Know’ blog was started by a few girls in his class, as people always wanted to know where he got hold of his music and sneakers, so in 2011 it started as a way to spread knowledge, and blossomed into the biggest blog in the country, at one stage.

This was because Manuel and friends documented their parties and uploaded their own content shot live at the events, not relying on press releases and reposting.

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This grew to include radio and YouTube and proved so popular that a line of 100 t-shirts sold on the channel sold-out in just two hours. But that lifestyle’s hard to maintain.

From the rockstar life to corporate thugging

Explaining his shift from the ‘rockstar life’ to one of ‘corporate thugging’, Manuel shared that he got tired of the lifestyle at the age of 26, which is when he met Rob Stokes, current chair of Red & Yellow School, and heard about the Quirk graduate programme.
He thought the team was 'awesome' as they were playing beer-pong when he walked in at 11am, but his first six months as an intern were not fun as he had to face the typical millennial anxiety of phone calls – “If it’s not my boss, mom or sister calling, I don’t answer”- yet now he was expected to not just receive but also make calls on a landline.
Looking back now, Manuel says the interning was the best thing that could have happened to him.

He tried the next six months in the strategy department but found his perfect fit working on social media campaigns, where he was fulfilled for the next five years.

When a client moved to Pernod Ricard, Manuel followed, as he felt he’d reached a comfort zone of sorts and that he does his best work when he’s been the underdog for a while. Then, Puma called...

Manuel says that most career paths are long journeys, but as much as you need to move forward, Manuel says not to be afraid of taking detours.

Explaining his current role, Manuel says he is creative director for the brand, which involves driving brand heat, supporting youth culture, identifying key moments, and landing key products in the market.

This involves adapting the global strategy to South Africa without copy-pasting, and while showing sensitivity to the country’s current cultural tone.

But as with most brands, Puma has evolved and is about more than just the product.
How does it make customers feel at every touch point, and what’s their overall brand experience?
Keeping this in mind means you need to constantly innovate and move forward, said Manuel.

Tapping into youth culture

All the events they hold result in content that celebrates the event while also creating Fomo so more people are inspired to attend the next event. The founders of Puma and Adidas are brothers, added Manuel, with healthy competition around the two.

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Explaining how Puma supports youth culture, Manuel said brands need to put their money where their mouth is, it’s about more than latching onto the current trending hashtags. Brands need to give back and empower the tribes they speak to.

Athletes are the new rappers and vice versa, says Manuel. So when it comes to identifying key moment, this is the part of his role that takes up the most time, as you need to be tuned into what’s happening around you.

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Relationships are key to getting this right and often the people you meet as an intern are the ones who respect your career growth and provide that all-important access.

You need to be intuitive to get this right – Manuel says it comes with time.

On the commercial side of things, and launching products in an innovative way, Manuel spoke of how Puma energised the brand with their Ferrari collaboration with La Familia.

He shares that the special pairs of sneakers mentioned in the below Facebook post sold out within the hour.

Then, there's the 'extended family' aspect of the brand, where Puma’s brand ambassadors include the likes of media superstar Nomzamo Mbatha.

This type of relationship goes beyond wearing the product – it’s meant to be a long-term relationship, which Nomzamo has proven as she’s already been with the team for four years.

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Puma has invested in Nomzamo’s passions as a result, such as mentorship and the opportunity for youth to spend a day with her and learn from her. Content was shot to boost the event, which was along the lines of every young woman deserving a place to be herself and find her voice in this big world.

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Another Puma brand ambassador is Nsikayesizwe David Ngcobo AKA Nasty C, who has been rapping since the age of 9 and was signed at the age of 19.

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He has seen his album streamed 60m times, leading Manuel to call him a true African rap superstar, living the Puma lifestyle. It’s not just about saying, “Sponsored by Puma” in your social pics.

View this post on Instagram

Gimmee da Loot

A post shared by Hayden Manuel (@hakesy_vet_ket) on

Rules for living a productive life as a creative

Manuel’s key takeouts:

Hayden Manuel's rules for living your best life as a creative

  • Don’t box yourself in – creativity exists beyond the traditional roles.
  • Go to bed every day smarter than when you woke up – buy a Snapple and read the factoids printed on the cap.
  • The most dangerous place from which to view the world is your desk. You need to understand the temperature of the world you are speaking to.
  • What do you bring to the table that nobody else has? You can’t go to school for experience.
  • You need to add to the world, not just through creating pretty pictures. You’re not a creative if your work isn’t solving a problem.
  • Don’t be afraid to work on something others see as ‘super boring’ – get in there and do it well.
But then again, Manuel concluded that he didn’t need to tell the mainly Gen-Z audience this, as it’s the new way of living as we approach 2020.

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Follow Puma South Africa, Hayden Manuel and Red & Yellow School on Instagram for the latest updates.
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About leigh andrews

Leigh Andrews (@leigh_andrews) AKA the #MilkshakeQueen, is Editor-in-Chief: Marketing & Media at, with a passion for issues of diversity, inclusion and equality. She's also on the Women in Marketing: Africa advisory panel, and can be reached at ...