How Adidas & Puma Started From A Feud Between Two Brothers
In 1924, Adolf and Rudolf Dassler started a shoe company called Gebruder Dassler Schhfabrik (Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory). They started this company in their mother’s laundry room.
Adolf who went by “Adi” was an introverted craftsman who designed and made the shoes. His brother Rudolph who went by “Rudi” was an extrovert with extraordinary sales skills. Their sales were strong as they were the only sole manufacturers of athletic shoes in Germany but things took off to new heights with Adolf’s revolutionary invention of the screw-in spikes.
The Dassler’s brother's big break came in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. Adolf approached American sprinter Jesse Owens, to run with a pair. Jesse Owens wore the spikes and won 4 gold medals.
Other athletes who the brothers provided shoes took home 3 gold medals, 5 silver and a bronze. The brothers became an overnight sensation with sales exploding to 200,000 pairs a year and growing before World War 2.
After World War 2, the relationship between the brothers and their wives began to deteriorate. No one knows what the cause is but rumours have been said it was due to stealing, resentment, and even affairs.
The most popular rumour is that when the 1943 Allied bomb attack took place, Adolf and his wife went into a bomb shelter that Rudolf and his family already occupied. “Here are the bloody bastards again’, Adolf yelled, apparently referring to the Allied war planes. Due to his insecurity, Rudolf thought Adolf was talking about him and his family.
Rudolf got picked up by American soldiers accusing him of being part of the Waffen SS, the military branch of the Nazi Party. With no evidence or way to prove, Rudolf thought that his brother had turned him in.
In 1948, the brothers went their separate ways. The Dassler Shoe Factory got broken up and each brother went to set up their own shop. Their shops were opposite each other on the opposite side of the Aurach river.
Adolf named his new company “Adi-das” which was a combination of his first and last name. Rudolph attempted a similar strategy with his name “Ruda” but after long thought he settled on ‘Puma.’
The brother’s rivalry got deeper as they grew their companies into international brands. Citizens in their own town of Herzogenaurach took their brand loyalty choosing to support one brother and not the other. Loyalty was so deep that even business owners who owned barbershops, butcheries, and even grocery shops wont allow customers to come into their stores if they were wearing shoes of the brother they didn’t support.
Both companies are iconic in their own right. Adidas has overtaken Pumpa through strategic partnerships with athletes and influencers. Kanye West “Yeezy” partnership did $1.3B in sales in 2018, almost a quarter of Puma’s 4.65B euros of global revenue that year.