The Dassler Brothers and the Rise of Adidas
In the 1920s, two German brothers named Adolf (“Adi”) and Rudolf Dassler launched a modest shoe company in their mother’s laundry room. Adi was the shoemaker while Rudolf handled the business side.
Early on, they gained traction by selling spiked running shoes to Olympic athlete Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals in track & field at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. This high-profile partnership put the Dasslers on the map, establishing their shoes as high-performance athletic gear.
As the brothers’ success grew, so did tensions between them. By the late 1940s, the two could hardly stand to be in the same room together. Some say it was jealousy over who contributed more to the business. Others claim it stemmed from political differences, with Rudolf more sympathetic to the Nazi party.
Whatever the reasons, their relationship deteriorated until the brothers decided to split the business.
In 1948, Rudolf left to start his own company on the other side of town. You probably know it today as Puma.
Meanwhile, Adi rebranded the original company as Adidas (from his nickname Adi + the first three letters of Dassler). The iconic three-stripe logo was born.
From there, an intense sibling rivalry was underway. The “town too small for the both of them” was about to become a global battlefield.
The War Between Brands – Adidas vs. Puma
After the split, the brotherly competition fast became outright war.
Puma and Adidas did everything they could to squeeze each other out. They bid against each other for supply contracts, lobbied athletes aggressively, and tried to sabotage each other’s chances.
When Puma scored deals with soccer legends Pele and Diego Maradona, Adidas countered by sponsoring whole national teams. At the 1968 Olympics, Adidas convinced organizers to ban Puma’s signature brushed spikes, claiming they damaged the track.
Both brands pioneered new technologies and advertising strategies, pushing each other to innovate and expand into new territories.
It wasn’t always pretty, but the rivalry fueled tremendous growth for both companies.
By the 1970s, Adidas and Puma had left their small German town behind. The sneaker war went global.
The World Stage – Taking the Feud International
Over the next decades, Adidas and Puma took their battle worldwide.
Both companies went on an aggressive international expansion, opening stores and factories across Europe, America, and Asia. Sales skyrocketed, making the Dassler brands two of the biggest names in athletic wear.
However, Adidas ultimately claimed the top spot, pulling in over $21 billion annually by 2018. Puma trails at a respectable $5 billion per year.
In the world of sports, Adidas and Puma remain sworn enemies. Athletes become weapons, with both brands offering sponsorships to the hottest prospects. Adidas has long-term deals with NBA all-stars James Harden and Damian Lillard, while Puma has signed rookies Marvin Bagley and Deandre Ayton.
The Dassler legacy lives on through cutting-edge innovations as well. Adidas made waves with their Boost technology and groundbreaking collaborations with Kanye West. Puma has rebounded with a focus on fashion, teaming up with celebrities like Rihanna, Selena Gomez, and The Weekend.
And both are still fiercely trying to one-up each other with flashy concept stores and attention-grabbing marketing stunts. The sneaker war rages on.
The Family Today – Continuing the Legacy
Remarkably, the Dassler feud continues across generations.
Rudolf’s descendants still helm Puma, while Adi’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren occupy leadership positions at Adidas. The strife split not just a business but an entire family.
Relatives on opposite sides hardly speak to this day. Marriages between Adidas and Puma clan members are outright banned.
The rivalry has softened slightly in recent years. The two companies coexist as multibillion dollar brands with nothing left to prove. Upper management has even met cordially on occasion.
But old wounds die hard, and most Dassler descendants remain firmly on Team Adidas or Team Puma. Don’t expect family reunions any time soon.
The Epic Tale Lives On
Nearly a century later, the bitter feud between the Dassler brothers still resonates through their iconic brands and across generations of family.
It’s an epic tale of ambition, drama, and creative vision… with a liberal dose of pettiness. From their laundry room workshop to a worldwide phenomenon, the Dassler brands created history even as they tore a family apart.
So next time you lace up your Adidas or Puma sneakers, remember the nearly century-long grudge behind them. The stripes and leaping cat still carry the unmistakable spirit of competition born from brotherly hate. It’s a sneaker war for the ages.
Whose side are you on?
Shop Adidas and Puma Online
Experience sportswear history for yourself. Browse the latest sneaker styles and apparel from Adidas and Puma online. Grab a pair of classic Stan Smiths or cushioned Boost runners from Adidas.com. Or check out Puma’s fashionable collabs and bold designs at Puma.com. Whichever brand you choose, you’ll be continuing an epic legacy born from family, ambition, and sneakers.