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The Inspiring Success Story of Adidas

An Adidas football
An Adidas football (Picture credit: stux from pixabay

Welcome to Youth Motivator. I would like to tell you the very interesting success story of the Adidas brand.
This is the story of a poor cobbler who founded a billion dollar sportswear manufacturer, Adidas.

Adidas is a world renowned sportswear company which is well-known for its sportswear and sneakers.
It is the world’s second biggest sports brand only after Nike.

Almost everyone who plays or watches sports knows this brand.
Adidas and Puma brands are the biggest competitors in the sports industry but you will be surprised to know that the founders of these well-known companies are actually brothers.

Adidas was founded by Adolf Dassler.
Puma was founded by Rudolf Dassler, the elder brother of Adolf Dassler.
This article is also the biography of Adolf Dassler.


Adolf "Adi" Dassler was born on 3 November 1900 in Herzogenaurach, German Empire into a poor family.

His father, Christoph Dassler was a shoemaker whereas his mother, Algirdas ran a laundry service.
They also sold homemade slippers to supplement their income.
Adolf Dassler completed his formal education in the year 1913.

He followed his father’s footsteps to become a shoemaker.
By the year 1922, Herzogenaurach town became the hotspot for shoemakers, as many of the town’s textile mills had been converted into shoe workshops.

During that time, there were 112 shoemakers for just 3500 residents of the town.

The beginning of the bad times-

The World War I had a severe impact on the economy and made the lives of the cobblers difficult.
Due to severe poverty, Adolf Dassler could not afford a decent working area, so he produced shoes in the back of his mother’s laundry.

During those times, the supply of the electricity was very undependable, so he often used to power his machines by connecting them with a stationary bike.
Adolf Dassler used to generate electricity by pedalling the stationary bike.

And he used to scavenge the debris of the military equipments employed in the war in the hope of finding materials which can be used for shoe making.

Adolf Dassler used to repurpose anything he could find which included military uniforms, helmets, automobile tyres, parachutes, etc.

Sporting the sportive spirit-

Adolf Dassler always longed to make sport shoes as he himself was a fervent sports fan.
So, he always experimented with the shoes he made in hope of making better sports shoes.

He did many experiments; one of them was adding metal spikes to the shoes.
In July 1924, his elder brother, Rudolf Dassler joined the business.

Rudolf Dassler was two years elder to Adolf Dassler and possessed good work experience as he previously worked in a porcelain factory and in a leather enterprise in Nuremberg, Germany.

Adolf Dassler and Rudolf Dassler joined hands to start a new company, by name Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory (Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik).

Complementing for each other-

These two brothers complemented each other as Adolf Dassler was an excellent shoemaker and a quiet craftsman whereas Rudolf Dassler was an excellent marketer, salesman and an extrovert.

Their business bloomed as they were the perfect partners with Adolf Dassler handling the production part and Rudolf Dassler handling the marketing part.
Eventually, their sports shoes became quite popular.

In the year 1926, they moved out of their mother’s laundry as they were in a position to afford a dedicated workshop to make the shoes.

Their father, Christoph Dassler also joined them and they employed a dozen people in their new factory.
In this factory, they were able to produce a hundred pairs of shoes per day.

Getting associated with the sports-

As their company grew in size, Adolf Dassler decided to expand the business outside the Bavaria.
So, he travelled to almost all the major sporting events and persuaded many athletes to try the shoes.

Thanks to his efforts, in the 1928 Olympics held in Amsterdam, many top German athletes sported the shoes of the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory. 

Adolf Dassler later decided to sponsor a top most athlete in the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin, Nazi Germany.

He selected the best shoes and went to the Olympic Village in Berlin and convinced U.S. sprinter Jesse Owens to wear the shoes of the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory.
Luckily, Jesse Owens agreed with Adolf Dassler and wore the shoes in the Olympic events.

At that time, he was probably the fastest man on the planet.
This was a legendary move as Jesse Owens won four gold medals in the track events in that Olympics and broke many records.

The fame of the company sky-rocketed and the company got international exposure because of his success.

After this success, their shoes were known to be the shoes which Jesse Owens wore to break many records in the Berlin Olympics.

Risky move which payed well-

This was a very risky marketing move as during that time, the Germany was ruled by Adolf Hitler.
Adolf Hitler wanted to prove the supremacy of the Aryan race through the Berlin Olympics.
But when Jesse Owens won many medals, his plan got ruined.

Luckily, the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory, a small business operating in Germany under the rule of Adolf Hitler, escaped his attention, even as they provided shoes to Jesse Owens which was thought to have helped him to win the races thus ruining the Hitler’s plan.

In the year 1930, both Adolf Dassler and Rudolf Dassler joined the Nazi party.

The World War II-

The World War II erupted on 1 September 1939 when Germany invaded Poland.
And by December 1943, Germany was losing the war.
So, Germany needed more weapons to sustain the war.

As a result, the German government repurposed many factories in the country to manufacture weapons.

So, the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory was re-modeled to manufacture weapons for Nazi.
This factory made anti-tank weapons and panzershreks.
In the April of 1945, the American troops started to invade the Herzogenaurach village.

Initially, the American soldiers decided to destruct the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory because they thought that the factory was producing weapons.

Fortunately, the Adolf Dassler’s wife, Käthe Dassler convinced the soldiers that they only make sports shoes.

Gaining the international clients-

After knowing the association of Jesse Owens, an American athlete with the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory, the Americans were glad to become their clients.

So, the American stations established near the town became the international clients for the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory.

Surviving the World War II-

Even as this company was able to survive the World War II, the German economy was badly hit.
So, to survive, the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory initiated many cost-cutting strategies like scavenging the old war materials, etc.

And sometimes, due to lack of funds they were unable to pay their workers, so they provided them barter with items like yarn and firewood.

How Puma was born?

During these difficult times, the brothers parted from each other because of some quarrels between their families.
And eventually, in the year 1948, Rudolf "Rudi" Dassler left the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory.

He took a large portion of the workers with him and started a new company, by name, Ruda.
Rudolf Dassler took the first two letters from his name, Rudolf and Dassler and named his company as Ruda.

Later, he realised that the name Ruda was not so athletic, so he changed it to Puma.
Rudolf Dassler vowed to never speak to Adolf Dassler again in his life.

Slowly, the people of Herzogenaurach took sides with the brothers as most of the town’s citizens were employed by one of the Dassler brothers.
The workers of one company hated to socialise with the workers of the other company.

And the people of the town remained separated for 60 long years.

Becoming the town of bent necks-

Herzogenaurach town was known as the town of bent necks, as the people used to bend their necks to see what shoes the other person was wearing and then decide whether to greet them or to ignore them.

As these two companies were located on the opposite sides of the Aurach River, their admirers became very territorial.

Also, the Adolf Dassler and Rudolf Dassler sued each other many times on various trademark and design issues.

The fighting spirit-

The rivalry between these brothers provided them with the fighting spirit by which they were able to become one of the best players in their fields.

Adolf Dassler renamed the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory to Adidas by combining the first two letters of his name, Adolf with the first three letters of the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory and added a letter i in between them.

And the three stripes became the logo of Adidas.
Some people believe that Adidas stands for All Day I Dream About Sports (or Soccer) but this is completely incorrect.

Adidas focused heavily on the sponsorships and technical innovations, by which it designed specific shoes to a wide variety of athletes.

Adolf Dassler also provided the best shoes of the Adidas to various champion athletes and Olympians.

Moving forward with miracle-

In the year 1954, the World Cup final match is also known as the miracle of Bern.
This World Cup was the second World Cup to be held after the World War II, the first World Cup after the war was held in Europe.

This World Cup was held in Bern, Switzerland, as Switzerland stayed neutral during the war and also this country was mostly unaffected by the war.

During the finals, the very substantial Hungarian team fought with the underdogs, the West German team.

Many thought that Hungary will definitely win the match, as they scored two goals during the initial phase of the match.
But they did not score any goals for the rest of the match.

The match took an unexpected turn, when the German team scored three goals and thus winning the match.

So, the newly formed frail German team won the match against the much stronger Hungary team 3-2.
This German team wore the Adidas shoes, also called as the Dassler boots.
It was believed that these superior boots facilitated the German team to score victory.

So, Adidas became very famous because it got associated with the victory of the Germany in the World Cup.

The victory of Jesse Owens popularised the old Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory, whereas this World Cup victory popularised the new Adidas shoe company and many people noticed the signature three stripes of the Adidas.

Gaining rapport with the rappers-

In the 1980s, Run-DMC was a very popular American hip-hop (rap) group.
They were the first ones in the genre to have an album certified gold and they were also nominated for a Grammy Award.

Their song, My Adidas became very popular and in that song they mentioned that they loved the Adidas brand and they wore the Adidas from the head to toe.
As a result, the fans of Run-DMC were motivated to buy the Adidas goods.

Unlike, in the case of Jesse Owens and the German football team, this rap group was not contracted by Adidas to market their products but they independently marketed the Adidas brand.

Once, the Run-DMC team invited an Adidas executive to one of their concerts and before singing, the team requested the people to rise their Adidas shoes in the air.

The Adidas executive was very impressed as he saw thousands of Adidas shoes and as a result Adidas signed a $1,600,000 endorsement deal with the Run-DMC and this became the first ever endorsement deal in the rap.

Marketing did the miracles-

So, the marketing strategy of Adidas payed off very well as this brand was associated with the successful athletes and rappers.
The other notable marketing campaign run by Adidas is Impossible Is Nothing.

Football icon David Beckham and boxing legend Muhammad Ali were involved in this campaign.

Now, Adidas has endorsement deals with numerous top athletes in the popular sports like in soccer they have Lionel Messi, in basketball they have James Harden and in baseball they have Kris Bryant.

Adidas spends almost half of their marketing budget on the athletes to endorse their products by wearing them.
They entered the U.S. market in the 1950s.

Initially, Adidas was known to be involved with the professional sports but they eventually succeeded to become a part of the every day’s lives of the people.

They never reconciled-

Even though the Puma was doing great, the brothers never got together.
Adolf Dassler passed away on 6 December 1978 and after his death, the Adidas lost its market share in North America to other companies like Nike and Reebok.

Rudolf Dassler passed away on 27 October 1974.
Even the death failed to cement their ties and they were buried on the opposite sites of the Herzogenaurach cemetery.

In the year 2006, a sculpture of Adolf Dassler was unveiled in Herzogenaurach.
In the year 1989, Adidas went bankrupt after they lost nearly 80 million dollars.

Bernard Tapie, a French industrialist brought Adidas for ₣1.6 billion and he shifted the production to Asia.

Eventually, Adidas re-captured the market share in America in the late 1990s despite facing stiff competition from Nike, Reebok and Puma.

Acquiring Reebok-

Adidas never looked back again from that time and in the year 2006; they also acquired Reebok for 3.8 billion dollars.

Another reason for the success of Adidas can be attributed to its tendency to be up-to-date with the latest trends.

On August 2015, Adidas acquired Runtastic for approximately $240 million as it realised the growing importance of technology in the sports field.

Runtastic is an Austrian mobile fitness company which combines the power of technology with the sports.

So, despite facing countless challenges on its way Adidas became one of the most successful companies in the world.

Now, Adidas is much bigger than Puma, as Adidas employs 57,000 people whereas Puma employs nearly 13,000 people.

According to Forbes, Adidas is the 68th most valuable brand in the world with a brand value of 9.5 billion dollars.

Putting a full stop to the rivalry-

The relations between Adidas and Puma greatly improved when on 21 September 2009, a friendly football match was arranged between the employees of the two factories.
This match healed the decades of enmity between the two brands.

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