Bitter Soles: A Comprehensive History of the Adidas and Puma Rivalry

Adidas and Puma, two of the world’s leading sportswear brands, are the offspring of a bitter feud between two brothers, Adolf and Rudolf Dassler. From shared beginnings in a single German household to their divided operations in the small town of Herzogenaurach, their rivalry is a tale filled with personal disagreement, competition, and eventual reconciliation.

The Dassler Brothers: United by Blood, Divided by Ambition

Shared Beginnings

Adolf and Rudolf Dassler’s shared journey began in the 1920s in Herzogenaurach, a small German town, where they established the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory. Adi was the introverted cobbler, crafting shoes by hand, while Rudolf was the charismatic salesperson, selling the shoes made by his brother.

World War II and the Rift

The brotherly bond started to crack during the challenging times of World War II. A series of misunderstandings, fueled by the tense environment, led to a bitter feud. The brothers parted ways in 1948, and the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory ceased to exist.

Birth of Adidas and Puma: A Tale of Two Brands

Adidas: Adi’s Creation

Adi established Adidas in 1949, a portmanteau of his nickname, “Adi,” and the first three letters of his last name, “Das.” One of his significant innovations was the football boots with screw-in studs, worn by the victorious German national football team during the 1954 World Cup. This brought worldwide attention to Adidas, positioning it as a formidable brand in the sports industry.

Rudolf’s Brainchild

On the other side of Herzogenaurach, Rudolf created Puma in 1948. Much like his brother, Rudolf also emphasized innovative design. His ‘Super Atom’ football boot, which also featured screw-in studs, gained attention when launched in 1952.

A Tale of Two Halves: Adidas, Puma, and Herzogenaurach

The brotherly feud didn’t stay within the family but split the entire town of Herzogenaurach. The Aurach River became a dividing line, with Adidas loyalists living on one side and Puma devotees on the other. This division extended to local businesses and even sports clubs, creating a unique social dynamic within the town.

The Sneaker Wars: Endorsements and Innovations

The Dassler brothers’ competition led to the era now known as “Sneaker Wars.” Both Adidas and Puma sought to outdo each other through innovation and high-profile athletic endorsements.

One notable example is the battle for the endorsement of Pele, the Brazilian football legend. In the 1970 World Cup, Puma’s representative supposedly convinced Pele to tie his shoelaces in the middle of a match, ensuring a close-up of the Puma shoes. This moment marked a significant victory for Puma in the ongoing sneaker wars.

Reconciliation and Moving Forward

Despite the competition, both Adidas and Puma have made significant impacts in the sportswear industry, with both brands continuing to innovate and expand globally.

In 2009, marking the International Day of Peace, employees from both brands participated in a friendly football match, a public symbol of reconciliation and a tribute to the companies’ shared origins.


The story of Adidas and Puma provides a compelling narrative about the power of rivalry in spurring innovation and growth. While born out of a family feud, these two companies have made significant contributions to sportswear and continue to shape the industry.