How A Family Feud Led To The Creation Of Puma And Adidas

Every family encounters some degree of conflict. Consider your own; perhaps you and your parents don’t always agree on everything. Or perhaps you have an aunt or uncle who uses Facebook a little too frequently.

Even while those disputes could cause some difficult situations, it’s unlikely that they have ever escalated into a major family dispute.

Puma CEO Jochen Seitz (L) and Adidas CEO Herbert Hainer (R) in 2007. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

A Shoe Empire Is Born In A Laundry Room

They got along well as a team. Adi crafted the shoes, and the more charismatic Rudi sold them.

Over time, the shoes in Germany started to sell like hotcakes. Then Adi created something that would propel the company to international fame: spikes that screwed into the bottom of the shoe.

The brothers made friends with Josef Waitzer, a German track and field coach, who started introducing them to German athletes.

The brothers traveled to Berlin for the 1936 Summer Olympics. Adi approached several athletes, including American sprinter Jesse Owens, with a suitcase full of those spiked shoes. All of those athletes were persuaded to compete with them by him. In Dassler shoes, Owens took home four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics. Seven gold, five silver, and one bronze medals were won by athletes using Dassler footwear in total.

World War II

After the Olympics, the duo were selling nearly 200,000 pairs a year. Up until World War II, they appeared to be headed for immense success.

After the war, American soldiers who were still looking for anyone who had backed the Nazi party imprisoned Rudolf. Rudolf believed Adi set him up for this, as well, despite having no real evidence to support the claim. In relation to the payment of taxes, Adi was also labeled as a “belasteter” (someone who was implicated of a crime). He was potentially facing jail time because of this categorization. Rudolf took this opportunity to try and regain control of the company, devising a scheme to make him look innocent while implicating his brother, but ultimately failed to do so.

Splitting The Empire

When conflict reached its peak in 1948, the brothers agreed to divide the business in half. One brother was placed on opposite side of the Aurach River, and all possessions and personnel were separated. The brothers didn’t speak to one another again after those negotiations.

Two-thirds of the workforce at the Dassler shoe factory were retained by Adi. Rudolf moved his new business south of the river. Both companies sought to rebrand and change their names.

The name came naturally to Adi. “Adidas” was a combination of his first and last names: Adolf and Dassler.

Legacy

However, by 2009, the two sides had begun to mend their relations and played a soccer match to finally put the past behind them. Today, they’re both celebrated in the same town, though you still may find an occasional butcher or barber that won’t allow customers to wear the other brand in their shop.

Additionally, both of them continue to sell a lot of goods. In 2021, Adidas brought in $22.7 billion. The company has strong sponsorship deals with players like Aaron Rodgers and Alvin Kamara and produces kits for multiple soccer leagues. The business offers shoe lines for non-athletes as well. Its “Yeezy” line with Kanye West generates billions in revenue.

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