Adidas, Puma and sibling rivalry

In 1924, in the German town of Herzogenaurach, brothers Adolf (Adi) and Rudolf Dassler formed the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory. They specialised in sports shoes which were initially produced in the laundry of their parents’ home. The company prospered after Jesse Owens competed in their shoes at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

The relationship between the brothers became acrimonious. During an Allied bombing raid in the second world war, Adi and his wife went to their bomb shelter and found Rudolf and his family already there. Rudolf mistook Adi’s comment on the Allies (“The dirty bastards are back again”) as referring to him and his family.

In 1947, the brother parted ways with Adi renaming the company adidas AG (from Adi Dassler). Rudolf left to start his own company, initially called Ruda (from Rudolf Dassler) and later, Puma.

Adidas and Puma became two of the biggest sportswear manufacturers in the world and for the next sixty years, the town of Herzogenaurach, where both companies are based, became a divided town. The rivalry was so intense that it became known as ‘the town of bent necks’ in reference to the habit of checking the brand of shoes a stranger was wearing before deciding to speak to them. In 2009, with both Rudolf and Adi long dead, a truce was called between the two factions.

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