The rivalry between two of the world’s most recognizable brands of Puma and Adidas goes beyond the store. In fact, the competition can be traced from a feud between two brothers from Herzogenaurach, Germany who owns a successful family business they called Dassler Brothers Sports Shoe Company.
In the 1920s, Adolf (“Adi”) Dassler and his older brother Rudolph (“Rudi”) Dasser were partners in the Dassler Brothers Sports Shoe Company, operating out of their mother’s laundry room.
The older brother was the extroverted salesman, while Adi was the quiet, thoughtful craftsman who designed and made the shoes. Like most citizen that time, the brothers joined the Nazi party when Hitler seized power in 1933.
In 1936, Dassler Shoes got their big break after having the legendary African-American track star Jesse Owens to wear their running shoes during the Berlin Olympics competition and won four gold medals, Owen’s endorsement gave their business international exposure, and sales of their product increased.
But this success also resulted in a new tension between Rudi and Adi. According to an article featured in Vintage News, their wives did not much like each other from the beginning, and from there, things got worse.
There were several incidents that were said to have fueled the conflict between the two.
Based on the article:
“The story goes that during an Allied bombing, Rudi and his wife were already sitting in a shelter.
“When Adi and his spouse arrived, Adi made a comment about the town getting bombed again. Rudi supposedly mistook Adi’s comment as a personal attack against him.”
Rudi eventually got called up for service in the army, he then suspected Adi and his wife had planned this to get him sent to the front so they could get rid of him. Later, Rudi was arrested twice for deserting his post and then by the Allies, he ended up as a prisoner of war.
On both occasions, Rudi was convinced that his brother was the one ratting him out.
While Rudi languished in a prisoner of war camp, Adi was busy with his business, selling shoes to American soldiers.
The brothers officially split the company in two, in 1948, dividing the assets and the employees between themselves. Adi launched his new company “Adidas,” a combination of his first and last names. Meanwhile, Rudi attempted the same by first naming his company “Ruda” but eventually changed it to “Puma.” The two built their own competing factories on opposite sides of the town and quickly ruled the Herzogenaurach’s economy, with most almost everyone working for either Adidas or Puma.
The rivalry even reached ridiculous proportions as there were local businesses that would serve only Adidas or Puma customers, and dating or marrying across company lines was also forbidden.
Both companies achieved success, Rudi had the sales staff and was better at moving product, while Adi had better relationships and endorsement with athletes. However, the rival companies were left behind and dominated by the arrival of Nike.
The competition ended in early 2000s, by then, the Dassler brothers had both passed away.
The brothers were buried as far away from each other as possible, they were placed at the opposite ends of the same cemetery
In 2009, employees of both companies agreed to play a relatively friendly soccer game to symbolize the end of the longstanding feud.