The Bitter Shoe Rivalry That Spawned Two Iconic Brands
Adidas and Puma – two giants of the sneaker world, instantly recognizable by their iconic 3-Stripes and Leaping Cat logos. But behind these leading athletic brands lies an intensely bitter rivalry, divided loyalties, and a family feud spanning nearly a century.
From Brothers to Bitter Enemies
It all began with two German brothers with a shared passion for shoes.
In the 1920s, Adolf “Adi” Dassler and his older brother Rudolf Dassler launched a humble shoe company from their mother’s laundry room. They named it ‘Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory’.
Early on, the brothers gained international attention by equipping Olympic hero Jesse Owens with state-of-the-art spiked running shoes. Owens won 4 gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, thrusting the Dasslers into the limelight.
But what the world didn’t see was the growing animosity between the brothers. Rudolf envied Adi’s shoe-making talents, while Adi resented Rudolf’s pushy business tactics. Their political differences also drove a wedge – Rudolf had sympathies towards the Nazi party, while Adi leaned more left.
By the late 1940s, the friction reached breaking point. After a vicious argument, Rudolf left in a rage, determined to create his own shoe company.
In 1949, the ‘Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory’ was split in two. Adi renamed his business ‘Adidas’, combining his nickname with the first three letters of his last name. Rudolf set up shop on the other side of town with ‘Puma’, taking the form of their company’s logo.
The sneaker war had begun.
Bitter Rivals: Adidas vs Puma
What followed was one of the most hostile rivalries in business history.
The brothers went to ruthless lengths to crush each other’s companies. They sabotaged each other’s plans, stole ideas, and waged bidding wars over athletes.
When Puma sponsored legendary soccer player Pele, Adidas signed rival Diego Maradona. Puma made inroads into American basketball with Walt Frazier – then Adidas countered with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Technology and marketing became battlegrounds. Adidas’s iconic 3-Stripes motif was born in this era, as was Puma’s leaping cat logo. Both brands aggressively expanded overseas, racing for global dominance.
The public saw spirited competition – but behind the scenes, the twisted family resentment was petty and ugly. Many dirty tricks were used to gain any small advantage.
Yet ironically, the fierce competition drove both companies to new heights of innovation and marketing savvy. They pushed each other to excel and expand, becoming two of the biggest athletic brands in the world.
Taking the Fight Global
By the 1970s, the brands had outgrown their small Bavarian home town to become multinational giants.
The sneaker war raged across Europe, America and Asia, any place people played or watched sports. Adidas and Puma battled for market share and visibility, one-upping each other with celebrity partnerships, attention-grabbing stunts, and cutting-edge technologies.
Both scored hits: Adidas with game-changing innovations like Boost foam, Puma with stylish fashion collaborations. Adidas dominated soccer; Puma found glory in sprint spikes.
Slowly but surely, fueled by their hatred of each other, the Dassler brothers built global empires that left competitors in the dust. Sports stars became brand ambassadors; logos became status symbols. The feud reshaped the athleticwear industry.
Although Adidas pulled ahead financially, both brands thrived. Last year, Adidas netted $21 billion; Puma trailed at a very healthy $5 billion. Almost a century after the original split, the rivalry still rages on.
Generations Carry On the Grudge
Bitterness drove both Dassler brothers to their graves without resolving the feud. But their descendants continue to carry the animosity into new generations.
Rudolf’s family still controls Puma, while Adidas leadership includes Adi’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Intermarriage between the families is strictly forbidden, and contact is limited. Each views the other as detested enemies and traitors.
The persisting family schism reflects the evergreen rivalry between the brands they built. Adidas and Puma logos still elicit primal emotions tied to identity, loyalty, and heritage.
To wear the 3-Stripes or the Leaping Cat is to choose sides in a never-ending grudge match. A feud born from brotherly hate created two icons of sneaker culture.
Which Side Are You On?
Nearly a century later, the sneaker war rages on between these bitter shoe rivals.
Their feud tore apart a family but gave the world two of the most recognizable athletic brands ever. This epic tale reminds us how creative vision, ambition, pettiness, and family ties can achieve both greatness and tragedy.
So which sneaker camp do you belong to – the 3-Stripes or the Leaping Cat? Both brands shape sneaker culture, but their feud demands a choice: Adidas or Puma?
Whose side are you on? The choice says something deep about you. Let your sneakers do the talking.
Get Iconic Kicks from Adidas and Puma
Want to experience a piece of sneaker history yourself? Shop online for the latest styles from these iconic athletic brands born from rivalry.
Browse Adidas for classic Stan Smiths, UltraBoost runners, and sports apparel carrying Adi Dassler’s 3-Stripes legacy into the future.
Or check out Puma for fashion-forward collabs, heritage suede sneaks, and innovative performance gear with Rudolf’s leaping cat spirit.
Whichever side you land on, you’ll rep a brand launched from family drama into the sneaker hall of fame. Let your shoes tell their epic tale.