Did you know that Adidas and Puma founders were brothers? Their names were Adolf (“Adi”) Dassler and Rudolph (“Rudi”) Saddler. But from partners, they ended up being sworn enemies.
Here’s the indeed interesting story.
In the 1920s, the Dassler brothers were partners in the Dassler Brothers Sports Shoe Company, operating out of their mother’s laundry room in the small German town of Herzogenaurach. Adolf (“Adi”) Dassler was the quiet, thoughtful craftsman who designed and made the shoes and Rudolph (“Rudi”) was the extroverted salesman. (the article continues after the ad)
Their huge success came in 1936, when they managed to get the legendary African-American track star Jesse Owens to wear their shoes. Owens won four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics and by the international exposure he gave to their shoes, the brother’s sales skyrocketed.
But the success created tensions in their relationship, already strained by the fact that their families lived in the same villa despite their wives not getting along. There were several incidents that precipitated their conflict, but the most widely accepted one took place during World War II when the Allies were bombing their home town, Herzogenaurach. When Adi and his wife climbed into a bomb shelter already occupied by Rudi and his wife, Adi said, “The dirty bastards are back again.” Of course, he was referring to the Allied forces but Rudi was convinced that the remark was directed at him and his family. A feud — one of the most epic and, well, Biblical in business history — was born.
The conflict escalated as the brothers split the company in 1948, dividing the assets and the employees. 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 levels. For instance, local businesses 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.
It wasn’t until 2009 when employees of both companies symbolized the end of six decades of feuding by playing a friendly soccer (football) match.