Dark history of Adidas

Hello, and welcome to another history of a popular brand – Adidas.

According to Wikipedia

Adidas AG (German: [ˈʔadiˌdas]AH-dee-DAHS; stylized as ɑdidɑs since 1949) is a multinational corporation, founded and headquartered in HerzogenaurachGermany, that designs and manufactures shoes, clothing and accessories. It is the largest sportswear manufacturer in Europe, and the second largest in the world, after Nike.[5][6] It is the holding company for the Adidas Group, which consists of the Reebok sportswear company, TaylorMade golf company (including Ashworth), Runtastic, an Austrian fitness technology company and 8.33% of German football club Bayern Munich. Adidas’ revenue for 2016 was listed at 19.29 billion.[3]

Adolf Dassler, founder of Adidas.

The company was started by Adolf Dassler in his mother’s house; he was joined by his elder brother Rudolf in 1924 under the name Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory. Dassler assisted in the development of spiked running shoes (spikes) for multiple athletic events. To enhance the quality of spiked athletic footwear, he transitioned from a previous model of heavy metal spikes to utilising canvas and rubber. Dassler persuaded U.S. sprinter Jesse Owens to use his handmade spikes at the 1936 Summer Olympics. In 1949, following a breakdown in the relationship between the brothers, Adolf created Adidas, and Rudolf established Puma, which became Adidas’ business rival.

Now the breakdown between the two brothers, which lead to the older brother creating “Puma” is what we are going to discuss, their rivalry was never settled till their death.

Adidas was founded by Adolf “Adi” Dasslerwho made sports shoes in his mother’s scullery or laundry room in Herzogenaurach, Germany after his return from World War I. In July 1924, his older brother Rudolf joined the business, which became Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory (Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik).[11] The electricity supply in Herzogenaurach was unreliable, so the brothers sometimes had to use pedal power from a stationary bicycle to run their equipment.[12]

Dassler assisted in the development of spiked running shoes (spikes) for multiple athletic events. To enhance the quality of spiked athletic footwear, he transitioned from a previous model of heavy metal spikes to utilising canvas and rubber.[13] In 1936, Dassler persuaded U.S. sprinter Jesse Owensto use his hand made spikes at the 1936 Summer Olympics. Following Owens’ four gold medals, the name and reputation of Dassler shoes became known to the world’s sportsmen and their trainers. Business was successful and the Dasslers were selling 200,000 pairs of shoes every year before World War II.[14]

The Dolbury factory, used for production of anti-tank weapons during the Second World War, was nearly destroyed in 1945 by US forces, but was spared when Dassler’s wife, convinced the GIs that the company and its employees were only interested in manufacturing sports shoes. American occupying forces subsequently became major buyers of the Dassler brothers’ shoes.[15]

Split and rivalry with Puma

The brothers split up in 1947 after relations between them had broken down,[16] with Rudolf forming a new firm that he called Ruda– from Rudolf Dassler, later rebranded Puma, and Dassler forming a company formally registered as Adidas AG from Adi Dassler on 18 August 1949. Although it is a popular urban myth that the name is an acronym for All Day I Dream About Sports, that phrase is a “backronym“; the name is a portmanteauformed from “Adi” (a nickname for Adolf) and “Das” (from “Dassler”).[1]

Puma SE and Adidas entered into a fierce and bitter business rivalry after the split. Indeed, the town of Herzogenaurach was divided on the issue, leading to the nickname “the town of bent necks”—people looked down to see which shoes strangers wore.[17] Even the town’s two football clubs were divided: ASV Herzogenaurach club was supported by Adidas, while 1 FC Herzogenaurach endorsed Rudolf’s footwear.[12] When handymen were called to Rudolf’s home, they would deliberately wear Adidas shoes. Rudolf would tell them to go to the basement and pick out a pair of free Pumas.[12] The two brothers were never reconciled and although both are now buried in the same cemetery, they are spaced as far apart as possible.[18]

In 1948, the first football match after World War II, several members of the West German national football team wore Puma boots, including the scorer of West Germany’s first post-war goal, Herbert Burdenski. Four years later, at the 1952 Summer Olympics1500 metres runner Josy Barthel of Luxembourgwon Puma’s first Olympic gold in Helsinki, Finland.[citation needed]

At the 1960 Summer Olympics, Puma paid German sprinter Armin Hary to wear Pumas in the 100 meter sprint final. Hary had worn Adidas before and asked Adolf for payment, but Adidas rejected this request. The German won gold in Pumas, but then laced up Adidas for the medals ceremony, to the shock of the two Dassler brothers. Hary hoped to cash in from both, but Adi was so enraged he banned the Olympic champion.

Now its pretty dark that brothers who helped themselves, worked together only to become rivals, and never settled till their death.

Which makes you wonder what happened between the two brothers. And here is some insight to what went wrong.

According to TIME:

“While no one is sure what caused the riff, it’s said to be a result of miscommunication. After an Allied bomb attack, Adolf and his wife took cover in a bomb shelter already occupied by Rudolf and his family. “The dirty bastards are back again,” Adolf said, apparently referring to the planes, but Rudolf thought the comment was an attack against his family.”

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And according to FORTUNE:

“In the 1920s, the brothers were partners in the Dassler Brothers Sports Shoe Company, operating out of their mother’s laundry room in the small German town of Herzogenaurach. Adolf (“Adi”) Dassler was the quiet, thoughtful craftsman who designed and made the shoes, complemented by the older Rudolph (“Rudi”) who was the extroverted salesman. Although the brothers joined the Nazi party when Hitler seized power in 1933, it didn’t stop them getting legendary African-American track star Jesse Owens to wear their shoes as he competed and won four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics. Owens’ victory gave the shoes international exposure, and sales of the Dasslers’ product exploded.

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But the success created new tensions in the brothers’ relationship, already strained by the fact that their families lived in the same villa despite their wives not getting along. There were several incidents that were said to have precipitated their conflict, but the most widely accepted one took place during World War II when the Allies were bombing Herzogenaurach. As Adi and his wife climbed into a bomb shelter already occupied by Rudi and his wife, he exclaimed, “The dirty bastards are back again,” referring to the Allied forces. Rudi was convinced the remark was directed at him and his family. A feud — one of the most epic and, well, Biblical in business history — was born. 

When Rudi got called up for service, he suspected Adi and his wife had schemed to get him sent to the front so they could have him out of the way at work. Later, Rudi was arrested first for deserting his post and then by the Allies on suspicion of working for the Gestapo. On both occasions, Rudi was convinced that Adi was the one ratting him out, his suspicions confirmed by a report filed by an American investigating officer. While Rudi languished in a prisoner of war camp, Adi rebuilt the business, selling shoes to American G.I.s.”

And to end it on this note, according to WIKIPEDIA

“Rudolf’s belief that Adi had denounced him and his conduct during his brother’s appeal made further relations between them impossible. In fact, it irreparably divided the family. Mother Paulina sided with Rudolf and Friedl, who cared for her the rest of her life. Their sister Marie, who never forgave Rudolf for the death of her sons, sided with Adi and Käthe. Rudolf, his wife and two children left the family home and moved across the river, where he would take over the second factory of the Dassler firm. In their separation Adi retained the first factory and the family villa. As for the rest of the firm’s assets, the two divided them one-by-one.[30] Once the brothers divided their businesses they never spoke again.”

Who else noticed how their wives, and association with the NAZIs had a connection with their split, and how they never forgave themselves till they died, their rivalry leading to separation of their hometown?

But after their deaths, Puma and Adidas settled their differences.

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It wasn’t until 2009 when employees of both companies symbolized the end of six decades of feuding by playing a friendly soccer match. By then, the Dassler brothers had both died, within four years of each other. Even in death, the animosity continued as the brothers were buried at opposite ends of the same cemetery, as far away from each other as possible.

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3 Responses

  1. Carlee says:

    I have added this article to my social bookmarks

  2. There are no words to show my appreciation!

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