A Quick History of the Origins of Adidas

Adolph (Adi) Dassler: The Founder of Adidas

Soccer player wearing Adidas
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In 1920, at the age of 20, avid soccer player Adolph (AdiDassler invented spiked shoes for track and field. Four years later Adi and his brother Rudolph (Rudi) founded the German sports shoe company Gebrüder Dassler OHG—later known as Adidas (pronounced AH-dee-DAHS, not ah-DEE-duhs). The brothers' father was a cobbler in Herzogenaurach, Germany, where they were born.

By 1925 the Dasslers were making leather Fußballschuhe with nailed studs and track shoes with hand-forged spikes.

Beginning with the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, Adi's uniquely designed shoes began to gain a worldwide reputation. Jesse Owens was wearing a pair of Dassler's track shoes when he won four gold medals for the US at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. By the time of his death in 1959, Dassler held over 700 patents related to sports shoes and other athletic equipment. In 1978, he was inducted into the American Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame as one of the founders of the modern sporting goods industry.

The Dassler Brothers and World War II

During the war, both Dassler brothers were members of the NSDAP (The National Socialist German Workers' Party)  and eventually even produced a weapon called "Panzerschreck" (~tank-fright) an anti-tank bazooka with the help of forced labor.

Rudolf Dassler assumed that his brother Adolph had turned him into the US as being a member of the Waffen-SS, which contributed to their separation in 1948 when Rudi founded Puma (one of Adidas' biggest competitors in Europe) and Adi renamed his firm by combining elements of his name.

Adidas Today

In the 1970s, Adidas was the top athletic shoe brand sold in the US. Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier were both wearing Adidas boxing shoes in their "Fight of the Century" in 1971. Adidas was named the official supplier for the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Although still a strong, well-known brand today, Adidas' share of the world sports shoe market dropped over the years, and what began as a German family business is now a corporation (Adidas-Salomon AG) combined with the French global concern Salomon.

In 2004 Adidas bought Valley Apparel Company, a U.S. company that held licenses for outfitting more than 140 U.S. college athletic teams. In August 2005 Adidas announced that it was purchasing the American shoemaker Reebok. Currently, Adidas ranks number two in worldwide sales, after first-place Nike and third-ranked Reebok. But the Adidas world headquarters are still located in Adi Dassler's hometown of Herzogenaurach. They also own about 9% of the world-renowned German soccer club 1. FC Bayern München.

Footnote: Adidas and the Power of Branding

An interesting documentary made by German public television, "Der Markencheck" attempts to analyze the power of the brand Adidas. If your German is already intermediate or higher you might want to watch this video but for all others, I will quickly summarize it here.

In a not-necessarily-representative test, it turned out that just thinking that one was wearing Adidas helped the wearer feel better during sports and even believe they were faster. The effect was the same whether the participants were wearing Adidas or non-brand-name sneakers. 

A more technical test, however, indicated that higher quality shoes do in fact require fewer steps than cheaper models, which means one needs less energy to run.

Edited by Michael Schmitz.