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The Adidas-Puma Rivalry – How Did It Begin

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Have you had a fight with your sibling lately? If yes, read this before you resolve it. If no, go punch their face right now. Seriously, do it. Am I not making any sense? Well, I will, once you learn about the historic rivalry between these two brothers from Germany, Adolf (not Hitler) Dassler and Rudolf Dassler, the founders of Adidas and Puma, and thus, the founders of the biggest rivalry in the industry: the Adidas-Puma rivalry.

This is How Big Are They and today, we go back in time to see how a fight between two brothers led to a rivalry that has lasted more than 6 decades, the Adidas-Puma rivalry.

It’s not often that two brothers have a fight, never sort it out again, and go on to establish their own multi-billion dollar companies. That’s exactly what these two brothers, Adolf and Rudolf, did.

Adi and Rudi came from a small German town called Herzogenaurach and were partners in their sports shoe company, called the Dassler Brothers Sports Shoe Company.


The factory of Dassler Brothers Sports Shoe Company – established in 1924.

Adolf was the more reserved of the two brothers. He was the thinker, the designer, the architect – the guy who would actually make the shoes. Rudolf was more of an extrovert, the talker, the salesman, the marketer – the guy who would actually go out to sell the shoes.

In other words, Adolf was the sole of the company (no pun intended) while Rudolf was the body – they both completed each other – they both had no purpose without each other. Well, not really.

While they did not enjoy the happiest of bonds on a personal level, they managed to grow their company with each passing year despite their troubles. In 1936, they convinced the legendary track and field athlete, Jesse Owens, to wear their shoes in all his events. He did just that and won FOUR gold medals during his stint at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. This was, in fact, the highlight of the Berlin Olympics.

Suddenly, the Dassler Brothers Sports Shoe Company came into the sight of the entire world. It catapulted their company into the stratosphere and beyond. But, this newfound success created great friction in the two brothers’ relationship – which already wasn’t any good by this point – due to the strong animosity between their wives and the fact that they, still, shared the same villa.

Their dislike for each other reached its peak during the World War II. It was another war day and the Allies were bombing Herzogenaurach. The bomb shelter was already occupied by Rudi and his wife. As Adolf and his wife jumped inside the shelter, Rudi shouted, “The dirty bastards are back again.” While Rudi was referring to the Allies, Adolf assumed that it was directed towards him and his wife.

Adolf wasn’t particularly pleased and stood there with a “wtf bro, you really wanna do this right now?” face while Rudi stood there like, “It wasn’t for you ffs!” I don’t really have a proof for this but c’mon, how could it not be true?

Jokes apart, as time progressed, their relationship only got worse and finally, in 1948, the Dassler Brothers Sports Shoe Company was finally split into two. “Adidas”, a combination of “Adi” and “Das” (from Dassler), was created by Adolf. Rudi also tried the same nomenclature and named his new company “Ruda” but it just did not sound right. Eventually, he renamed it to “Puma” which had a much better ring to it.

Adolf Dassler and Rudolf Dassler

Adolf Dassler (Adidas) and Rudolf Dassler (Puma)

Thus, the Adidas-Puma rivalry was born.

Adidas and Puma had their competing factories on either side of the ‘Aurach’ river. The hatred between the two brothers was fierce and this made both of them work day and night to do one better than the other. Eventually, this high-intensity competition led to the point where almost everyone in the town was either working for Adidas or Puma. The family feud had now become a town-wide rivalry. Adidas and Puma were no longer just footwear companies, they had become the new ‘racism’ and ‘sexism’ in Herzogenaurach.

The entire town was divided into two sects: those who wore Adidas and those who wore Puma. Why do I make such a big claim? Well, here’s a question. When you see an unknown girl (or guy) coming towards you, what do you notice first? Surely not their shoes? Well, if you were living in that era in that town, you better look at the shoes first because dating somebody who wore shoes of the enemy-brand was almost a crime. It didn’t matter if the hearts were compatible if the preferred brand of shoes wasn’t.

A pro-Puma business wouldn’t even attend you if you entered wearing Adidas shoes and vice-versa. In fact, Herzogenaurach quickly earned the tag of “the town of bent necks” as people, during that time, first looked at the company of your shoes before talking to you.

Fast forward to 2016, today, Adidas is worth over $7 billion and had revenue of over $19 billion. In comparison, Puma’s yearly revenue stands at $3.4 billion, not even 1/5th of that of Adidas. Looks like Adidas has had the last laugh. Safe to say, Adolf Dassler must be a happy dead man within his grave.

Speaking of his grave, the rivalry of the two brothers stretched till their final breaths. They both were buried in the same cemetery, but, at the opposite ends, as far away from each other as possible.

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