CHAPTER 15: PUMA
IN 1924, SITUATED in a small town called Herzogenaurach in Germany, two brothers named Adolf and Rudolf Dassler founded Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik (Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory). Adolf (“Adi”) Dassler was the skilled craftsman who designed and manufactured the shoes, and the older brother, Rudolph (“Rudi”), was the extroverted salesman. The company’s visibility skyrocketed when Jesse Owens won four gold medals wearing Dassler shoes in the 1936 Olympics. However, the brothers did not see eye to eye, and many disagreements started to surface. Tension between the brothers was such that they eventually decided to split up the business in 1948. Rudolf moved to the other side of the Aurach River to start his own firm, initially called “Ruda,” from “Ru” in Rudolf and “Da” in Dassler, before eventually renaming it to Puma. Adolf also started his own company called Adidas using his nickname, Adi, and the first three letters of his last name. Thus the rivalry between Puma and Adidas was born.
This rivalry was not a simple case of business competitiveness, but rather a bitter battle between two brothers who seriously disliked each other. The small town of Herzogenaurach was split in half by the feud, earning the nickname of “the town of bent necks,” as people constantly looked down to see which shoes were worn as a sign of allegiance to either Puma or Adidas. Local storytellers recall that handymen working at Rudolf's home would deliberately wear their ...