Adidas – success against the odds

Adidas – success against the odds

Almost every person at least once in his life purchased things from Adidas. This company began its activity with the production of sports shoes.

Today it is one of the most famous brands in the world, which, in addition to the production of shoes, is engaged in the manufacture of high-quality stylish clothes and accessories.

Over the years of its existence, Adidas has acquired the status of trendsetter.

It should be noted that the path to its success has an intriguing and ambiguous history, which is filled with many conflicting events and turns.

It is worth understanding in more detail the general principles of the formation of a recognizable Adidas corporate identity.

Company overview

Adidas Group (AG) is a German concern for the production of sports shoes, accessories and clothing.
Adidas headquarters
Adidas headquarters. Picture:

It is the largest European company producing this type of goods. It includes Runtastic and Reebok corporations.

On a global scale, the Adidas Group holding is considered the main competitor of the giant Nike, a concern with a similar specialization.

The company was registered in Germany (1949). Its first founder was the German shoemaker Adolf Dassler. Today, the company’s headquarters is located in the Bavarian city of Herzogenaurach. Its market assets as of March 2022 amounted to EUR 34.77 billion.

History of the creation of the Adidas brand

In 1898 Rudolf Dassler was born, and in 1900 his brother Adolf was born. At that time, no one could have imagined that this dynasty would become the founder of the world’s largest holdings Puma and Adidas in the future. However, both brothers will remain enemies for life.

The childhood years of the Dasslers were spent in the Bavarian city of Herzogenaurach. This province at that time was considered the “city of shoemakers”, since according to statistics, every thirtieth inhabitant in it was engaged in the manufacture of shoes.

The large Dassler family lived rather modestly and not richly. His father was a shoemaker and his mother was a laundress. The family budget had to be spent sparingly.

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Children from an early age were already accustomed to shoemaking. The brothers not only helped their father in the manufacture of custom-made shoes. They were also tasked with delivering washed items from the mother’s laundry to customers.

During the First World War, older brothers were drafted into the army. At the same time, Adolf remained at home, as he was not suitable for service by age.

Despite the difficult times, the Dassler family decided to establish their own shoe factory.

Establishment of the Gebruder Dassler Sport Schuhfabrik

In 1920, the Dassler dynasty opened a small shoe shop in their mother’s laundry. At first, they began to manufacture only home slippers.
Gebruder Dassler Sport Schuhfabrik
Gebruder Dassler Sport Schuhfabrik. Picture:

Father and Adolf independently assembled a sewing machine from an old bicycle, on which all sewing processes were carried out. Mother and sisters were engaged in the preparation of patterns.

After some time, the Dasslers began to produce special orthopedic boots, which were intended for the disabled of the First World War. At the same time, they used worn-out uniforms and old car tires as raw materials.

Just a few years later, their small workforce expanded to 12 people, whose combined efforts produced up to 50 pairs of shoes per day.

Rudolph joined the family business in 1923 after returning from the war. Because of his young age and sociability, he was trusted by people. Therefore, he was appointed to deal with the sale of manufactured products.

The family business developed so quickly and successfully that the brothers decided to open the “Gebruder Dassler Sport Schuhfabrik” factory. At the same time, the younger brother was responsible for the manufacture of shoes, and the older brother was responsible for its sale.

The Importance of Sports in Business Development

By the beginning of 1926, the Dassler company was already producing one hundred pairs of sports sneakers per day. The brothers decide to expand production by increasing the staff of workers.


In 1928, the Dassler firm was entrusted with the equipment of athletes for the Olympic Games, which were held in Amsterdam. To do this, the brothers have developed the latest studded boot designed for sprinters.

Such shoes were distinguished by a high level of adhesion to the surfaces of sports tracks, significantly reduced the risk of injury and contributed to the most accelerated overcoming of any distances.

The first athlete to test spiked shoes in races over various distances was the German track and field athlete Josef Weitzer.

Wearing Dassler spiked boots, Caroline Radke sprinter won Germany’s first gold medal in the 800m race. Moreover, this world record was not broken until 1944. This factor has become the main argument for the importance of suitable equipment for athletes.

By supporting athletes in 1929, Dassler began to specialize in the mass production of football boots, and already in 1931 it organized the presentation of the first tennis shoes.

The activity of the company developed efficiently and quickly. She was able not only to weather the crisis in Germany well, but also to start building a new shoe factory. This manufactory after the opening became the second major enterprise of the Dassler dynasty. However, Adolf, realizing that their existing experience is not enough for the production of competitive products, goes to Pirmasens to study innovative technologies for the manufacture of shoes.

Arthur Jonath – modell waitzer 1932 sprint shoe worn at the olympic games in LA. Picture:
During the 1932 Olympics, Arthur Jonath, a German track and field athlete, won a bronze medal in the Dassler spikes in the 100m race.

By 1936, sports shoes from Dassler were officially considered the equipment of the German national team.

Company during World War II

On the eve of the war, the Dassler business was in full bloom. They were able to organize the production of 30 serial lines of shoes for 11 varieties of sports.

In 1938, through the addition of a second manufactory, production capacity increased to 1,000 pairs of shoes per day. The annual income was 400 thousand marks.

However, with the advent of the war, all of the company’s assets were confiscated. Rudolph was taken to the front. Only Adolf remained in charge of the business.

For some time, the factory was under the control of the Americans. According to the contributor agreement, the company was obliged to manufacture and ship ice skates to America. Jackets, baseball caps, and tents were sent as payment. From this material, Adolf began to produce spikes and boots.

Siblings are enemies (Adidas – Puma)

Between the brothers Rudolf and Adolf in 1948 there was a conflict, as a result of which they remained enemies for life. They decided to end the joint cooperation. The reasons for this circumstance are still unknown.

Adidas VS PUMA
Adidas VS PUMA. Picture:

Each of them got a manufactory. At the same time, they swore they would never use the logo of their common family concern.

As a result of this conflict situation:

Rudolf Dassler founded Sportschuhfabrik Rudolf Dassler (RUDA). After it will be renamed to its own company PUMA.

Adolf Dassler founded the production of Addas. The letter character “i” will be added to the company name later. This is due to the fact that when registering the company, Addas was already registered. Therefore, Adolf had to add the letter “i” at the last moment. The registration document is in the company’s museum.

After these events, the confrontation between the brothers was not completed. Their conflict took on a hereditary character and was transmitted not only between relatives, but also among workers.

But this situation also has its advantages – constant competition has become an excellent stimulating catalyst for the promotion and development of the Adidas and Puma brands.

The appearance of the logo of the “three stripes”

Adidas has its own unique three stripes logo that has been seen by generations. At present, it not only symbolizes victories in sports, but is also a guarantor of the highest quality of the brand.
Adolf Dassler
Adolf Dassler. Picture:

This symbolism has been used as the logo of the Adolf Dassler company since 1952. However, its development was wholly owned by a manufacturer from Finland.

Until the moment they split up, the Dassler dynasty’s manufacturing plants used only two stripes as their logo on sports shoes. They were sewn in in the form of inserts from two sides at the top of the sneakers, due to which they ensured a tight fixation of the legs in them.

Adolf subsequently violated the agreement not to use the common logo. According to legend, the stripes were invented by him. He decided to use contrasting white inserts as a distinctive detail of his studs from other manufacturers. In addition, Adolf decided to use not two, but three stripes. This was a formal observance of the contract with brother Rudolf.

What role did the Finnish manufacturer play in this?

In 1952, at the Olympics in Helsinki, 15 gold prizes were won by the Finns. At the same time, most Finnish athletes were equipped with sneakers of the local company Karhu, which at that time already produced sports shoes with a logo in the form of three stripes.


Adolf begins to realize that his decision is a copy of someone else’s brand and is considered illegal. He invites Finnish manufacturers to an exhibition of sports products in Germany and invites them to conclude a deal to sell the rights to use the famous “three stripes”.

According to some reports, the cost of this agreement cost in modern money equivalent approximately 1,600 euros (in cash).

Global recognition

The 60s are marked by high growth and development of the company:

  • A new collection of sneakers is being developed.
  • The product line is replenished with sports equipment and bags.
  • The German national team wins the World Cup in Adidas sneakers.
  • The Olympic International Committee officially authorizes Adidas to carry out promotions in all its sporting events.
  • The German concern opens foreign enterprises – in Norway and France.
  • In the 1960 Olympics, approximately 75% of sprinters compete in Adidas sports shoes.
  • In the 1962 football championship, boots with the logo of the three stripes were seen in 32 matches played.
  • For the Olympic Games in Tokyo (1964), the company specially develops spikes in the ultra-light category – Tokio 64. Their specific gravity was only 270 grams. This model was in some way ahead of the times, and today it may well compete with modern similar shoes.
  • In 1967, the first presentation of sports products with a three-stripe logo on the world market took place.
  • In the 1968 Olympics, the latest model of running shoes was introduced with a sole made of several layers, each of which was made of a different material.
Since the 1970s, Adidas has become the world’s largest manufacturer of sports and competition equipment.

Violation of the Pele Pact

The quarrel between the brothers especially escalated on the eve of the championship Mundial-1970. They agreed before this great event that each of them would not use Pele as their brand ambassador.

The life of the legendary Pele
The life of the legendary Pele

Based on this, an agreement was even concluded and signed under the name “Pele Pact“. At the same time, Adidas signed a contract agreement with the international sports association FIFA – the Adidas brand ball was chosen as the official sports attribute at the world football championship.

The Adidas Telstar ball was specially designed for this event. It got its name in honor of the world’s first space satellite “Telstar”. Such a ball was similar in appearance to a satellite, as it was sheathed with white hexagonal and black pentagonal inserts. Monochrome color technique was perfectly visible on black and white monitors.

Adidas Telstar
Adidas Telstar. Picture:

However, Telstar most successful time was in 1980 during the Mexican Football Championship. For this sporting event, 20 balls were specially sewn from natural leather material. The monochrome ball was perfectly visible to the spectators in the stands during television broadcasts.

Therefore, FIFA decided to enter into an agreement with the Adidas brand to supply their balls for all world football championships. This contract is valid until 2030.

The “Pele Pact” between the Dassler brothers was broken by Rudolf. In the very first match, Pele took part in the game with PUMA boots. The viewers perfectly examined the brand’s inscription on the football player’s shoes from the TV screens when the cameras were directed at it, when Pele asked the referee to lace up the boots. It was specially conceived as an advertisement for the company.

Adidas brand is a timeless classic

In the 60-80s, Adidas presented several dozen lines of sports shoes that belong to the category of classic models – ZX500, Spezial Torsion, Gazelle, Campus, Superstar.

In 1965, the company developed the Stan Smith, a white tennis shoe. Moreover, they were specially intended for the French tennis player Haye and had the first name Robert Haillet. This athlete wore this model of sneakers to all the tournaments in which he took part until 1971.

Stan Smith
Stan Smith. Picture:

After that, the Adidas brand began to supply their shoes to the more promising player Stan Smith under the name Stan Smith. This model was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the most sold shoe in the history of sports. On the day of registration, the number of its sales was recorded – 22 million pairs.

Main events of the 60-80s


  • Representing the Gazelle.
  • Presentation of Adidas Superstar basketball shoes. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was chosen as the Ambassador.
  • Release of Tournamtnt basketball shoes.
  • Presentation of a new company symbol in the form of a shamrock, specially designed for the Olympics in Germany.
  • Sneakers SL 72.


  • Nizza sneakers are on sale.
  • The new iconic Adidas Tobacco sneakers are released.
  • Adolf Dassler dies (September 6, 1978), his son Horst takes over the company
  • Production of Forest Hills tennis shoes starts.
  • Launch of the Campus athletic shoe line.
  • Development of the ZX500 sports shoe collection.
  • Presentation of the first sneaker collection featuring Torsion technology (with foot support).

In addition, during these years, the presence of the Adidas brand in the global market has significantly expanded, thanks to the advertising of products by famous athletes and artists.

In the 80s, the brand was introduced to the USA. The well-known group Dtfstie Boys was used as an influencer. The musicians of this group often performed daring rap in models of Adidas Campus sneakers.

Adidas Campus
Adidas Campus. Picture:

The musical group Run-DMC in 1986 specially wrote the hit “My Adidas”, which became the anthem of all fans of the brand. Artists often took to the stage in Superstar sneakers, which became their signature style.

However, after the death of Horst Dassler in 1987, the company began to rapidly lose profits and global prestige. She passed to the daughters of a businessman who did not fully understand the specifics of doing business in this activity. A decision was made to sell 80% of the company’s shares.

They were acquired by the Frenchman Bernard Tapie (owner of the Olympique Marseille football club). But he also could not bring the company out of the crisis and resold it to businessman Robert Louis-Dreyfus.

90s: Adidas Original is born

The new owner of the company managed to revive it. He lured the best managers from competing firms into his team and moved the product manufacturing enterprises to Asian countries. Through the use of cheap labor, Louis-Dreyfus saved significant finances on opening new outlets and holding promotional events.
Adidas Original
Adidas Original. Picture:

In addition, new successful projects have appeared:

  • In 1991, the EQUIPMENT model is presented. The singer Madonna was used as her ambassador.
  • We supply equipment for 35 sports teams from different countries that took part in the Atlantic Olympic Games.
  • The European Football Championship is being held with five teams wearing Adidas uniforms.
  • Kobe Bryant (basketball player) becomes official brand ambassador for the latest Traxion sneaker.
  • In 1997, the concern took over the Salomon shoe factory in France and completely controlled the supply of cycling products by Mavic.

In addition, the brand was chosen as the main sponsor of Euro 2000. By this time, the holding’s management decided to divide the business into several categories:

  • Classic models – “Original” range.
  • Sports products – “Forever Sport” collection.
  • Casual wear made in a sporty style – the collection line “EQUIPMENT“.
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In 2000, Louis-Dreyfus leaves the post of head. Gerber Heiner takes his place.

In this period:

  • Adidas Original line launches.
  • Shops open in Tokyo, Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin.
  • The presentation of the shoe collection is taking place in conjunction with the clothing line Y-3 Yohji Yamamoto, a famous world designer from Japan.
  • Starting production with Stella McCartney in 2004
  • Presentation of Respect M collection in progress with singer Missy Elliott.

Adidas today

In the 2000s, the German brand was present in literally all sports tournaments and competitions as athletes’ equipment.

In 2005, the holding sells the Salomon line, and in 2006 it buys its main competitor, the Reebok brand.

The period 2012-2017 is the most powerful in the history of Adidas.

Adidas Futurecraft 4D
Adidas Futurecraft 4D. Picture:

At this time, the following important events take place:

  • Collaboration with Puch-T, introduction of the BOOST shock absorber system.
  • Involvement of musician Kanye West as an ambassador.
  • The arrival of world-famous designers Rick Owens and Raf Simons to the team of the company.
  • Presentation of unique Primeknit technology.
  • Development of a sports sneaker with a sole that was printed on a 3D printer – Futurecraft 4D model.

Adidas Code of Conduct

The firm has created its own code of conduct called Fair Play. It contains the following principles:

  • No corruption or bribery.
  • Protect your brand through gentle product handling.
  • Non-disclosure of confidential information about the brand and internal developments.
  • Fair competition and no antitrust violations.
  • Strict compliance with the laws of the countries where the brand has a presence.
  • Respectful treatment of all company employees by creating an exclusive environment.
  • No discrimination in the team.
  • Personal confidentiality guarantee for partners, staff and consumers.
  • The company’s priority is the health and safety of each employee.
The motto of the company is to make all decisions only in the interests of the company, and not in their own interests.

Adidas business


  • Management department – it includes 6 people.
  • Special Council of Observers – consists of 16 people.
  • The CEO is Bjorn Gulden (since 1 January 2023).
  • Chairman of the Board of Supervisors – Igor Landau.

Major shareholders of the company:

  • Segolene Gallienne Holding
  • The Desmarais Family Residuary Trust.
  • Concern “Gerald Frere”.
  • BlackRock, Inc.
  • Elian Corporate Trustee (Cayman) Limited.

The Adidas Group holding owns 2 own enterprises – in America and Germany.

A significant proportion of goods are produced by 130 partner companies with 289 factories in European (5%), African (6%), American (18%) and Asian (71%) regions.

97% of the total volume of Adidas brand sneakers are made in Asian countries:

  • China – 18%.
  • Indonesia – 28%.
  • Vietnam – 42%.

A large amount of clothing is produced in Asia:

  • Vietnam – 18%.
  • China – 19%.
  • Cambodia – 24%.
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Equipment, bags and balls are mainly produced:

  • In Turkey.
  • In Pakistan.
  • China.

About 57,000 people work for Adidas. Their number by sector:

  • Technologies in the field of information – 1 thousand
  • Production of goods – 1 thousand
  • Statistical activity – 1k
  • Wholesale sales of products – 1 thousand
  • Administrative workers – 5,300.
  • Marketing service – 6k
  • Logistics department – 6 thousand
  • Retail sales – 32k

There are several options for the symbolic designation of this brand:

  1. Three stripes. This emblem was designed in 1949. It depicts a sneaker with three stripes on the side. Above it is the name of the founder in a semicircle, and below it is the name of the company.
  2. Shamrock – each individual leaf represents the area where the brand is present: North America, Asia and Europe. This logo is currently used to brand the Adidas Original collection.
  3. The sign in the form of a mountain of three stripes (Mountain) – symbolizes the difficulties on the way to achieving your goals.
Adidas Logo
Adidas Logo. Picture:

All three variants of the logo are currently used on Adidas product labels. Their minimalism indicates continuous excellence and brand leadership.

The main competitors of the Adidas brand

Their list includes the following corporations:

  • New Balance (NB) – produces high-quality, but expensive products.
  • Fila – produces a wide range of products: from down jackets to T-shirts.
  • Converse – specializes in making stylish sneakers.
  • Air Jordan – makes basketball shoes.
  • Nike produces accessories, apparel and shoes.
  • Puma SE is a company owned by the brother of Adidas founder Rudolf Dassler.

The most striking collaborations with the Adidas brand

The company is distinguished by a large number of collaborations with world-famous personalities or companies:

  • Line with singer Beynose.
  • adidas Originals Collection with Bad Bunny.
  • Disney Character Items
  • Cooperation with Girls Are Awesome.
  • Presentation of the Human Made line with NIGO.
  • Products for active lifestyle, yoga and running from entrepreneur Karlie Kloss.
  • An adidas Originals collection showcased by celebrity showman Calvin Frost
  • The Lego Group is the building toy maker that brings the silhouette aesthetic to adidas shoes.
  • Tyler Blevins is the first esportsman to take part in the brand presentation.
  • Prada is an original collaboration between a stylish and fashionable house and a sporting goods manufacturer.

Curious facts

  • Zinedine Zidane, Lionel Messi, David Beckham won in Adidas sports shoes.
  • This company may not have existed, since Adolf Dassler had a childhood dream of becoming a baker.
  • In the German city of Ansbach, there is a factory where Adidas products are made only by robots.
  • After the end of the Second World War, for the first time, the Dassler enterprise paid employees with firewood.
  • The Dassler brothers were the first in the world to come up with the idea of ​​making football boots with spikes.
  • In 1984, the company developed the Micropacer electronic system element with a display that showed the pace of the step and calories burned.
  • The brothers Rudolph and Adolf remained enemies until the end of their lives and even asked to be buried away from each other.

Adidas owes its great popularity in the world to the unique advertising of its products with the participation of famous ambassadors and sponsorship of sporting events. In the development of the brand, such factors also played a decisive role – the use of innovative technologies, the exclusivity of products, the relevance of collection lines and the highest possible quality of products.

Adidas is a brand that has evolved against many odds. The successful promotion of this corporation is based on the principle of “doing the impossible and taking risks.”