The two German firms are best known these days for their trainers and sportswear – as well as for sponsoring big-name athletes like Usain Bolt (Puma) and, er, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell (Adidas). But what is not so well known is that way back in the dim and distant days pre-WWII, the two companies were actually one.
However, after a spectacular falling-out between its founders, brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler, the firm split into two and the six-decade long rivalry began. It is to end officially on Monday with a game of football between employees of the two companies (a friendly, presumably, no studs-up) followed by handshakes all round.
So what’s all the fuss about? Like all the best feuds, no-one knows (although it seems likely that wartime political differences between the two played a part). Despite this lack of any good reason to remain at loggerheads, the inter-company animosity continued unabated, outliving both its progenitors by decades – Rudolf died in 1974, Adolf in 1978.
Our story begins way back in 1924 in the sleepy Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach, where the less-than snappily titled shoemaker Gebruder Dassler Schuhfabrik was founded by the Dassler brothers (as German speakers among you may have sussed already). At first they made slippers, but Rudolf and Adi were looking for something a bit racier, so they moved into the fledgling track shoe and football boot market.
This proved to be a smart move and the firm did well, scoring a notable PR coup when US sprinter Jesse Owens won no fewer than four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics wearing a pair of Dassler shoes. Although how this went down with another Adolf who was big in Germany at the time - and no fan of Owens - is not recorded.
The business even managed to survive the turmoil of the war, only to be rent asunder in 1948 by the pair’s mysterious irreconcilable differences. As neither was prepared to run away from the shoe biz, Adi Dassler formed Adidas (geddit?) and Rudolf set up on the other side of the river, calling his firm Puma - presumably because he thought that Rudidas was likely to encounter customer resistance.
Between them the Dasslers pretty much ran Herzogenaurach, so it would have been a brave citizen indeed who tried to keep a trainer-clad foot in both camps.
And so the story goes that the town remained firmly divided along brand loyalty lines – until now. The two rivals have apparently decided that it’s finally time to bury the hatchet, hence the aforementioned football match.
Or maybe they just figured they could use a little cheap publicity. Whatever the reason, we’re hoping they swap boots as well as shirts when the final whistle goes.
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