Adidas: Sneakers, Olympics, and Bazookas?

Adidas: Sneakers, Olympics, and Bazookas?


Ah, Adidas, the brand of choice for slavs
across the world. It’s kind of ironic once you realize that
the brand was started by a German guy named Adolf, but hey, that’s life. What’ll surprise you even more is the fact
that Puma was started by the same family. That’s why, this week on Behind the Business,
we’ll be looking at the dramatic history of Germany’s premiere sportswear brand,
Adidas. Our story starts in the early 1920’s, in
the quiet Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach. The town was a shoemaker’s delight, and
many of its former textile mills had been converted into shoe workshops. In fact, out of the town’s 3500 residents,
there were 112 cobblers. One of them was 20-year-old Adolf “Adi”
Dassler, the poor son of a shoemaker and a laundry worker. His family was too poor to give him a formal
education and so he had to follow in his father’s footsteps by making shoes. The years after World War 1, however, were
some of the harshest in recent memory, and it was hard to make a living as a cobbler. Adi couldn’t even afford a dedicated working
area, and so had to do his business from the back of his mother’s laundry. Electricity was so unreliable that Adi had
to power his machines by hooking them up to his bike and pedalling. The materials for the shoes themselves were
also expensive. To make ends meet, Adi had to scavenge leftover
military equipment from the war. He repurposed everything he could get his
hands on, from military uniforms to sacks and vehicle tires. Adi’s first products were bedroom slippers,
with rubber soles made from tires. As an ardent sports fan, however, Adi had
always wanted to make sporting shoes. He experimented by adding small metal cleats
and spikes to his footwear in the hopes of creating something sports-worthy. Just as Adi was starting to making a name
for himself, he was joined by his brother Rudolf in 1924. Rudolf was two years older and had formal
education, which made him the star of the family. He was also more experienced, having previously
worked at a porcelain factory and a leather enterprise in Nuremberg. Rudolf was a charismatic, extroverted salesperson
who was very successful in making good deals and getting customers. The two Dassler brothers made great partners
and together they started a joint enterprise called “die Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik”. With Adi handling production and Rudi doing
the marketing, their business became very efficient. By 1926, their sports shoes had become popular
enough to allow the Dasslers to finally move out of their mother’s laundry and to build
an actual workshop. Adi and Rudolf’s father joined them at this
new location and together with about a dozen other employees, the brothers were now capable
of producing up to 100 pairs of shoes every day. Adi was eager to expand beyond Bavaria, and
to this end he took it upon himself to visit every major sporting event he could find to
get athletes to try out his footwear. His efforts paid off and in the 1928 Olympics
in Amsterdam, Dassler shoes graced the feet of many top German athletes. Adi’s shoes appeared again in the 1932 Olympics
in Los Angeles, this time worn by sprinter Arthur Jonath. Arthur managed to win several medals, proving
that the Dassler’s shoes were worthy of even the best athletes. This Olympic success gave the brand great
recognition, and so Adi decided that, for the 1936 Olympics, he’d want to sponsor
nothing less than a gold-medalist. Adi packed his best shoes and personally drove
to the Olympic Village in Berlin, where he talked to the American runner Jesse Owens
a few days before the Olympics. It’s a mystery how, but Adi managed to convince
Owens to wear his shoes in the competition. When Owens ended up winning four gold medals,
Adi was beyond ecstatic. The Dassler brand continued its stellar performance
in the 1930s, and to gain the government’s support Adi and Rudolf ended up joining the
Nazi Party. Unfortunately for them though, that other
Adolf decided to invade Poland, and once the war got underway demand for civilian goods
plummeted. By December 1943 Germany was starting to lose
on the Eastern Front and in desperation it began repurposing the few civilian enterprises
left, among which was the Dassler business. Their shoe factory ended up producing anti-tank
weapons – the much feared “panzerschrecks”. In April 1945, however, Herzogenaurach received
a healthy dose of liberty in the form of the advancing American troops. The Americans initially wanted to destroy
the Dassler factory, but Adi’s wife somehow managed to convince the soldiers that they
actually just wanted to make shoes. Eventually, the Americans stationed near the
town became one of the company’s first international clients, especially once they heard of Dassler’s
link to Jesse Owens. Despite their business surviving relatively
intact, World War 2 devastated the German economy and the Dasslers had to go back to
scavenging old war materials. Sometimes workers didn’t even get paid in
currency, but rather through barter with items like firewood or yarn. Most serious of all, however, was the immense
personal schism that ocurred between Adi and Rudolf. While the exact reason for their falling out
remains a mystery, the most prominent theory is that Rudolf thought Adi had informed on
him during the war, which eventually landed Rudolf in an Allied POW camp for several years. Whatever the cause, World War 2 ended up causing
irreversible damage to the Dasslers’ relationship and in 1948 Rudolf left the family business. He took a large part of the workforce with
him, and assumed control of what was supposed to be a new factory building. Thus, he founded Puma and vowed to never speak
to Adi again. The rivalry spread to the town itself, and
to this day citizens of Herzogenaurach are known as “Bent Necks” for their tendency
to crane their necks to look at what shoes other people are wearing. The supporters of the two brands became very
territorial, since each enterprise was situated on opposite sides of the river. Depending on their allegiance, workers claimed
various bars, restaurants, and even schools. Adi renamed his share of the enterprise to
Adidas and focused on technical innovations and sponsorships. He would end up revolutionizing shoe designs
for a variety of sports while giving away his best creations to star athletes and Olympians. Adidas made their big break in the US during
the 1950’s, and over time their fame trickled down from professional sports into everyday
life. Puma was also doing well, but the Dassler
brothers continued to hate each other with a passion. Their feud would haunt them to their graves,
and today each brother is buried at an opposite side of the Herzogenaurach cemetery. Adi died in 1978, and that’s when Adidas
finally started to lose some of its steam. They lost ground in North America to upstarts
like Nike and Reebok, and in 1989 they were forced into bankruptcy after losing nearly
$80 million. Ownership of the company passed through several
French businessmen until 1993, when Robert Louis-Dreyfus managed to restore the brand
by moving production to Asia. Under his guidance, Adidas staged a dramatic
reappearance in the US in the late 1990’s, despite stiff competition. Since then, their sales have been steadily
rising and they’ve acquired several other brands, most notably Reebok in 2005. Recently they’ve taken notice of the growing
role of technology in sports and in 2015 they made a landmark acquisition by buying the
fitness tech company Runtastic for $240 million. Despite the fair amount of twists and turns
in their rise to fortune, Adidas has definitely secured its place as one of the great German
enterprises of the modern age. Thanks for watching and a big thank you to
all our supporters on Patreon. If you want to vote on which company we do
next or if you’d like early access to our future videos, do check out our Patreon page,
where your support will be more than welcome. You should also check out our subreddit, where
we hang out quite frequently to talk to you guys. Of course, we’ve also got a Facebook page
you can like and a Twitter profile you can follow. In case you missed it it, do check out our
previous video on the history of the Trump family business, from its origin in rural
Germany to its rise as a billion dollar real estate empire. You can also check out the full Behind the
Business playlist, in case you’d like to see some of our older videos. Once again, thanks a lot for watching, and
as always: stay smart.

100 Replies to “Adidas: Sneakers, Olympics, and Bazookas?”

  1. Adidas products were being made in former Yugoslavija,more precisely in republic of Slovenia.
    Puma was probably being made there as well.Some German friends couldn't believe how affordable those products were,comparing to same products being sold in Germany.
    Kids loved Puma and Adidas,back in those days.
    When Nike shoes started to appear,everybody wanted Nike.I couldn't understand,what was a big deal about Nike?I think just because it was American brand,nothing else.
    Was there a single pair of Nike shoes ever made in U.S.A.?
    I live in North America since 1985.,and I don't know one person,(other than couple of Europeans),who can make a shoes. Some traditional trades just don't exist in North America. You don't know even how to bake a bread,fix mechanical watch,and so on!
    Somehow Americans think that they are authority for everything.Just take a look at Evangelical Christians.

  2. I hate all these big company's like Nike puma and Adidas because their shit is over priced shit quality and made by 5 year Olds in asia

  3. What about when adidas bought the three stripes trade mark from the finnish shoe company Karhu? They bought it for the equivalent of 1600€ and two bottles of whiskey

  4. A Finnish sports brand Karhu Sports sold the three stripe trademark to Adidas for (the equivalent of) €1,600 euros and two bottles of Whiskey. I felt that was something important you left out.

  5. PUMA used to sponsor me for skateboarding. I rode for a company founded by a Nazi who clearly did some bad shit if he ended up behind bars for years. Super. Loved the shoes though, haha. The Travis Pastrana was my favourite to skate in. That or the Donger's shoe.

  6. Its because of Run dmc that Adidas became popular! First time a saw Adidas was when run dmc had them en they were f cool!! Everybody wanted the 3 stripes shoes.

  7. So bissed from adidas for canceling ac milan contract and still sponsoring mazrit fuckin queer nurses … so a huge dislike and not even completing the damn video… and the fuckin english subtitles not working…

  8. The Panzer Faust, was the "much feared weapon"…the PanzerShrek, was a mere copy of the American Bazooka and overly complicated, it also needed a 2 man crew, compared to the Panzerfaust wich was a one shot disposable weapon a child could use…and many a 12-14 year old killed tanks with them.

  9. I always would have thought that "My Adidas" was one of the main things that put them back in the limelight in the 80s – it's the first thing I think of when I think of the brand … was surprised it wasn't in the video … didn't like the opening gag either much if I'm honest either

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