Categories: History

Adidas and Puma Were Founded By Two Brothers Who Began As Partners and Ended As Enemies

A fierce sibling rivalry gave birth to the two popular shoe brands.

It looks like the rivalry between major sports brands Adidas and Puma goes beyond the stores. According to history, the competition can be traced to two brothers who furiously hated each other.

The story started in the 1920s in the town of Herzogenaurach in Germany. Rudolph and Adolph Dassler owned a startup they called Dassler Brothers Sports Shoe Company, a business they operated from their mom’s laundry room.

Rudolph, the older brother, was a good salesman while Adolph was the one who designed and crafted the shoes. Like most citizens at the time, Rudi and Adi were recruited to the Nazi party in 1933.

Fast forward to 1936, Dassler Shoes got their big break when popular African-American athlete Jesse Owens agreed to wear their running shoes during the Berlin Olympics in Germany. Owens won four gold medals and his endorsement led to a dramatic increase in sales for the business.

It was, unfortunately, also around this time that animosity grew between Rudi and Adi.

In a Vintage News feature, we learn that the brothers’ wives “did not much like each other from the beginning” and that just further fueled the divide between the two.

And there were other reasons.

As the site tells us:

“The story goes that during an Allied, Rudi and his wife were already sitting in a shelter.

“When Adi and his spouse arrived, Adi made a comment about the town getting bom.bed again. Rudi supposedly mistook Adi’s comment as a personal attack against him.”

Eventually, Rudi served in the army. During his service, he suspected Adi and his wife made plans for him to be sent in the battle’s front as a way to get rid of him. He got arrested twice and even later ended up as a prisoner of war. Through it all, he blamed his misfortunes to his brother.

Adi, on the other hand, was busy selling shoes to American soldiers at the time.

In 1948, the brothers officially split the company into two, assets and employees included, and Adi launched his new business which he called “Adidas”, a combination of his full name. Meanwhile, Rudy established “Ruda” which he later renamed “Puma”. The two built their own factories on “opposite sides of the town,” Vintage News said, and they eventually ruled the economy as “most of the population… was working for either Adidas or Puma.”

The rivalry was truly fierce as there were “businesses that would serve only Adidas or Puma customers” and even among employees, marrying or even dating those from the rival company was strictly prohibited.

Both companies achieved success in different ways. Adidas had more athlete endorsers in their roster while Puma had amazing sales people. Much to their dismay, however, Nike later arrived and dominated the market, leaving both companies behind in terms of financial success.

The competition only ended when the brothers’ eventually passed away around the early 2000s.

“They were buried at opposite ends of the same cemetery in town, with as much distance as possible between them,” wrote Vintage News, and “in a symbolic gesture to end the longstanding feud, members of both companies agreed to play a relatively friendly game of soccer against each other (in 2009).”

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