Herzogenaurach, a town divided due to Puma-Adidas rivalry

Rudolph and Adolph Dassler , two brothers who started companies in their small town of Herzogenaurach, Germany.If the Dassler brothers don’t sound familiar to you, maybe the names of their companies do. How about Puma and Adidas? These two athletic giants were started by Rudolph and Adolph Dassler respectively

In the 1920s, the brothers were partners in the Dassler Brothers Sports Shoe Company, operating out of their mother’s laundry room in the small German town of . Adolf (“Adi”) Dassler was the quiet, thoughtful craftsman who designed and made the shoes, complemented by the older Rudolph (“Rudi”) who was the extroverted salesman
Although the brothers joined the Nazi party when Hitler seized power in 1933, it didn’t stop them getting legendary African-American track star Jesse Owens to wear their shoes as he competed and won four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics. Owens’ victory gave the shoes international exposure, and sales of the Dasslers’ product exploded.

It has never been quite clear what caused Adolf and his older brother Rudolf to fall out in 1948.
But there are some theories — jealousy, interference by the brothers’ wives, extra-marital affairs.

The conflict escalated as the brothers split the company in two in 1948, dividing the assets and the employees between themselves. Adi named his company “Adidas,” a combination of his first and last names. Rudi attempted the same by first naming his company “Ruda” but eventually changed it to the more athletic sounding “Puma”. The two built competing factories on opposite sides of the river Aurach and quickly became responsible for much of Herzogenaurach’s economy, with nearly everyone working for one company or the other.

As the entire town got caught up in the Dassler family feud, the rivalry reached ridiculous proportions. There were local businesses that served only Adidas or only Puma people, dating or marrying across company lines was forbidden, and Herzogenaurach became known as “the town of bent necks” since people first looked at which company’s shoes you were wearing before deciding to talk to you. For years, Adidas and Puma workers would not associate and even when Adolf and Rudi died, they were buried in opposite ends of the town Cemetery

While Rudi had the sales staff and was better at moving product, Adi had the technical know-how and better relationships with athletes who could provide exposure, tipping the scales in favor of Adidas, with Puma constantly playing catch-up. However, in focusing so heavily on each other, both the companies were slow to react to the threat of Nike, which would come to dominate the athletic footwear industry, leaving them far behind.

Source: Adidas vs Puma

Leave a Reply