There are those who assure that there is no love equal to which two brothers can express. However, the German brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler staged a fierce and relentless fight due to the great competition they felt to take their brands, Puma and Adidas, to the top.
The Dutch journalist Barbara Smit in the book ” Sneaker Wars ” discovers the origin of two of the most important brands in the sports shoe industry.
It was the year 1926 when the brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler made slippers and slippers in their factory called “Gerbüder Dassler Schuhfabrik”. Although their shoes were unbranded, the quality of the brothers’ products reached the ears of Josef Waitzer, coach of the German track and field team.
The brothers complemented each other very well: Adolf – whose nickname was Adi – was the introverted artist, while Rudolf was an expert in public relations. Thanks to this, the couple did not take long to place their products in the Olympic village of the Berlin Games in 1936. Their business was strengthened with the establishment of Nazism in Germany, since sport was seen as an ideal method to achieve the so desired “Aryan perfection.”
The Second World War confronted the ideologies of the brothers since, on Hitler’s orders, the Dassler factory became a workshop for spare parts for tanks and missile launchers. While Adi resisted joining the army, Rudolf decided to defend the Nazi cause with troops from Saxony. From there, he wrote a letter to his brother warning him that he would request the closure of the factory so that he could carry a weapon.
At the end of the war, and after a trial by the Allies to analyze his level of attachment to Nazi ideology, Adi was able to retain control of his company. For his part, Rudolf had to move to another part of town with his family to open a small factory after being denounced by his own brother as a Hitler sympathizer.
Half of the workers, the salespeople, left with Rudolf, while the other half, the designers, stayed at the Adi factory. From this schism two great brands were born: Puma founded in 1948 by Rudolf and Adidas, born from the hand of Adi in 1949.
From that moment both brands would face each other at all times.
Adi and Rudolf Dassler.
The first victory of this battle was taken by Adi at the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland. Rudolf had looked down on German coach Sepp Herberger, so Adidas was awarded the contract to make adjustable cleats for the national team, specially designed to prevent slipping on case of rain. During the game against the Hungarian team, a storm tested the effectiveness of tennis and led to the German 3-2 victory over the Magyars.
The rivalry continued with the children of the brothers. Horst, Adi’s eldest son and heir to Adidas, managed to block shipments from Puma and to exclusively sell his shoes at the Olympic Village in Mexico 68.
On the other hand, Armin, son of Rudolf Dassler, made a big name for himself when a Brazilian boy known as Pelé wore one of his models at the Mexico 70 World Cup.
On September 6, 1976, Rudolf Dassler passed away. The hatred between the families was so great that Adidas published a note saying “For reasons of human pity, the Adolf Dassler family will not comment on the death of Rudolf Dassler.”
Four years later, Adi passed away and his grave was placed as far away as possible from his brother’s. By 1990, his Adidas company was owned by French businessman Bernard Tapie and two years later he declared bankruptcy. Later, Puma was bought by PPR, a French multinational. Both brands would later be relaunched for new generations and would become a symbol of sport and brand loyalty.
Ironically, the only member of the Dassler family still involved with the brands is Frank Dassler, grandson of Puma’s founder… and who worked for Adidas.