thoughts and decisions for a creative edge

Adidas vs Puma in the European Soccer Finals 2012

If you just saw that painful loss Germany suffered playing against Italy during the semi-finals to the European Cup, you would probably feel the loss the team felt. It’s a long rivalry, not only based on the sport of football but also on the brands who sponsored their jerseys. Germany wears Adidas. Italy wearing Puma. What’s the significance? A plenty actually.

The greatest sports rivalry is not Man U v Liverpool, or Ghana v Nigeria or Kotoko v Heats of Oak or Usain Bolt v Tyson Gay, or any other of those playground “my team can beat your team” fairytales listed on ESPN or Sky sports. No, the greatest sports rivalry revolves around two siblings: the brothers who created the companies Adidas and Puma.

In 1924, in the Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach, two brothers started a shoe business. The older Rudi was a veteran of the Great War. The younger, Adolf or Adi, as his family called him had used their mother’s large washroom to start making shoes in 1920, out of whatever materials he could scrounge.
They named their company Gebruder Dassler Schulfabrik. According to Sneakerhead.com, the brothers had 25 employees and were turning out 100 pairs of athletic shoes a day by 1927.

Dassler Brothers logo

Dassler Brothers logo

In the early 1930s, Dassler began designing shoes for specific sports. Dutch athletes in the 1928 Olympics wore Dassler shoes, and sales went up the roof.

In 1936, the brothers hit gold literally: “Competing at the Berlin Olympic Games, American hero Jesse Owens won four Gold medals wearing Dassler shoes. During the Games, almost every member of the German Football team wears Dassler shoes. In total there were seven Gold and five Bronze medal winners wearing Dassler shoes at the competition. Additionally, athletes wearing Dassler shoes shattered two world and three Olympic records.”

Adidas Dassler
Adidas Owen Dassler
Puma Atom

If you know history, then you know what happened next. Company profiles are a bit vague on the brothers’ wartime activities, but sneakerhead.com claims the Nazis seized the factories. Bookrags.com says that while older brother Rudi was drafted into the German army, Adi ran the business and produced footwear for the soldiers. They fell out during World War II, probably over political differences, and founded rival firms. They refused to work together any longer.
Rudi moved across town and across the river to open his own company, and then named it PUMA. That same year he introduced the ATOM, his first soccer or football boot. The West German National team wore it during their first post-war match, and player Herbert Burdenski scored the team’s first goal while wearing the Puma ATOM.
Adi Dassler named his company Adidas, of course. He’d developed the 3-stripe logo in 1941, and registered it as Adidas’ trademark. In the Helsinki Olympics of 1952, Adidas shoes reigned: Czech runner Emil Zátopek won three gold medals wearing Adidas: the 5000 meter, the 10,000 meter, and the marathon. To top it off, his wife Dana Ingrova took the gold in the women’s javelin event also wearing Adidas shoes.

The brothers never reconciled, or even spoke to each other again. As for Herzogenaurach, it split down the middle. Adidas and Puma were the biggest employers around and everyone was loyal to one brother or the other.

In an interview by Frank Dassler, grandson of Rudi, who said, “There was an Adidas butcher and a Puma butcher. If there was a chance to avoid being in the same class as another Adidas person, from the Puma perspective, then we certainly tried to avoid this. Certainly, the restaurants were split, so there was a typical Adidas hotel or Adidas restaurant and the other guys didn’t want to go there.” Frank Dassler also raised some eyebrows in the town by working for both Puma and Adidas.

Rudi succumbed to lung cancer in 1974, leaving Puma to his son. The family sold the company in 1989. Adi died in 1978, and his son took over Adidas till his death in 1987. Even in the Herzogenaurach cemetery, their graves are as far apart as possible.

Since 2007, Puma has been majority-owned by PPR, the French luxury goods maker that also owns Gucci. Adidas Group is much more widely owned, with no individual shareholder having more than 5%.

But in September this year, both Adidas and Puma decided to put their rivalry past behind them and join forces towards peace. The 60-year-old feud was ended when employees from both companies shook hands and then played a football match in the Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach, where both are based. The match was the first joint activity held by the two companies since the brothers left their shared firm in 1948. Don’t ask me who won because there were no actual winners. The match ended 7 – 5 but the teams were not split into Adidas and Puma – with both sides made up of staff from both companies. Adidas boss Herbert Hainer played as a striker for the winning team, which also included Puma chief Jochen Zeitz in goal.

I’m not a keen admirer of Puma designs, so I guess if I lived in the town of Herzogenaurach you would know where my loyalty lies. Unfortunately the closest I come to Herzogenaurach is Stuttgart- Wangen, right in the mist of Mercedes and Porsche.

Not to forget. Spain will be wearing Adidas. Against Puma dorned Italians.

– Original post available from Ghanaweb

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