Today, Puma and Adidas are still two of the most successful active footwear and sports apparel companies. Almost all citizens of the world have some knowledge of both these brands. They’re found on the clothes of both celebrities and the general public as well as on the feet of professional sports players and amateur athletes. What most people don’t know, however, is that these two leading sportswear companies began as a result of an epic family feud.
Brothers, Adolf and Rudolf Dassler, were born and raised in Herzogenaurach, Germany. Together they created Dassler Brothers Sports Shoe. Using their mother’s laundry room as their personal manufacturing space, they worked long nights making their shoe business dreams become a reality. The two were the perfect duo. Everyone who had seen them in action could never have imagined they could develop such hate towards each other.
Unaffected by the Pressures of WWII
Adolf (Adi) Dassler was known for being the master craftsman. He took charge of the design as well as the logistics of the shoe’s manufacturing. Rudolf’s (Rudi’s) extroverted nature made him the perfect salesman. Hitler’s power seizes over Germany had little to no effect on their efforts to make it big in the shoe industry. The Dassler brothers ignored racist criticisms and gave African American track star, Jesse Owens, a pair of Dassler shoes for his Olympic track race.
His win brought, even more, fame to the brothers and business was booming. The newfound attention and success of their shoe company did begin to create tension between the brothers. People reported that Adolf and Rudolf had multiple fights, but one, in particular, pitted the two against each other until the day they died.
How the Feud Began
Adolf and his wife entered a bunker where Rudolf and his wife were already seeking shelter in during an air raid. Adolf reportedly walked in and said, “the bastards are back again.” Rudolf interpreted this statement as being directed towards him and his family. Adolf insisted that his words were referring to the Allies bombing their town.
The real meaning behind Adi’s words was never confirmed, and this argument served as the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” The brothers never spoke to each other again. Adolf began his brand known as Adidas. Rudolf did the same on the opposite side of the river. He first named his shoe brand “Ruda,” but then changed it to Puma.
The Town Took Sides
The feud extended to the people living in their hometown. Much of the towns peoples employment came from either shoe factory. Those who worked for Adidas wanted nothing to do with the employees of Puma. Local businesses took sides and refused serving customers who sported the opposing company.
The townspeople got their name “bent necks” for being the type of people who would look down at a person shoes to decide how to act towards them.
Adidas was always in the lead in terms of success. Adolf’s connections and attention to detail left Puma one step behind.
They Took It to Their Grave
The two companies would have never predicted the introduction of Nike, a successful shoe brand positioning Adidas and Puma at the back of the shoe race. The fall of their success made no difference. The brothers continued to despise each other for decades. The hatred followed the brothers to their graves. They made sure to be buried on the opposite side of the graveyard. They wanted to be as far apart from each other even after their death.
Years after they died, employees of Puma and Adidas played a friendly soccer game. The scrimmage was a way to show that the companies have ended a 60-year rivalry. No matter the PR stunt, the Dassler brother’s rivalry will always be known as one of the biggest rivalries in business history.