Bitter brotherly spat that led to the rise of Adidas and Puma

05:14 PM Dec 22, 2021 | Team Udayavani |

Today Adidas and Puma are two of the world’s most recognizable sports brands. But, did you know they might never exist if not for a bitter feud between two brothers?


Yes, these two top brands were founded 70 years ago after a fallout between the successful shoemaker brothers Adi and Rudi Dassler.

In the 1920s, Adolf (Adi) Dassler, a sports fanatic spent most of his time working on shoe designs in Herzogenaurach. After some time, He along with this brother Rudolf Dassler started a small shoemaking business named the Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik (Dassler Brothers Sports Shoe Company).  Like many Germans, the Dassler brothers joined the Nazi party after Adolph Hitler came to power in 1933.

During the initial years, the business mainly focused on hand-sewn athletic footwear designed by Adi. Their business was modest at best, until 1936, the year when Germany hosted the Olympics. The ironic yet fateful decision to make shoes for legendary American runner Jesse Owens turned the tides for them.  Owens went on to win 4 golds and gave huge visibility to Dassler’s shoes, leading to a boost in sales.

However, a bitter spat between brothers led to them both disbanding the 25-year-old company and setting up two rival companies on the opposite side of the river Aurach. Adi’s company was renamed Adidas, and in 1948 Rudolf registered his new company, Puma. Even today, the headquarters of Adidas and Puma still function there, situated just miles apart.


What started the feud between brothers is still debated. But as the business boomed, the two brothers grew increasingly frustrated with each other. They disagreed on everything from politics, the future of the company, and one another’s choice of wives.

The rivalry between brothers soon trickled down to the population of Herzogenaurach town. Most in the town either worked for Adidas or Puma. Company loyalty soon took center stage — dating or marrying anyone from the rival business was prohibited, some businesses served only customers who wore Adidas or Puma. The rivalry grew to such a level that people would look down to see the shoes before striking up a conversation or friendship.

This bitter feud compelled the brothers to compete with each other and led to the growth and innovations in sporting goods. The rivalry built huge empires.

The hate for each other continued even after their death. When the brothers died in the early 2000s, they were buried at different ends of the same cemetery with as much distance as possible between them.

Even to this day, the bitter rivalry between the two sporting brands continues.


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