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Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik

Christoph Von Wilhelm Dassler was a worker in a shoe factory, while his wife Pauline ran a small laundry in the Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach, 20 km from the city of Nuremberg. After leaving school, their son, Rudolf "Rudi" Dassler, joined his father at the shoe factory. When he returned from fighting in World War I, Rudolf received a management position at a porcelain factory, and later in a leather wholesale business in Nuremberg.

Adolf "Adi" Dassler started to produce his own sports shoes in his mother's wash kitchen in Herzogenaurach, Bavaria after his return from World War I. In July 1924, his brother Rudolf returned to Herzogenaurach to join his younger brother's business, which became Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik (Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory) and prospered. The pair started the venture in their mother's laundry, but, at the time, electricity supplies in the town were unreliable, and the brothers sometimes had to use pedal power from a stationary bicycle to run their equipment.

By the 1936 Summer Olympics, Adi Dassler drove from Bavaria on one of the world's first motorways to the Olympic village with a suitcase full of spikes and persuaded U.S. sprinter Jesse Owens to use them, the first sponsorship for an African American. Following Owens's haul of four gold medals, his success cemented the good reputation of Dassler shoes among the world's most famous sportsmen. Letters from around the world landed on the brothers' desks, and the trainers of other national teams were all interested in their shoes. Business boomed and the Dasslers were selling 200,000 pairs of shoes each year before World War II.

World War II and company split

During the war, a growing rift between the pair reached a breaking point after an Allied bomb attack in 1943, when Adi and his wife climbed into a bomb shelter that Rudolf and his family were already in: "The dirty bastards are back again", Adi said, referring to the war planes, but Rudolf was convinced his brother meant him and his family. After Rudolf was later picked up by American soldiers and accused of being a member of the Waffen SS, he was convinced that his brother had turned him in.

The Dassler factory, used for production of anti-tank weapons during the war, was nearly destroyed by US forces in April 1945, but was spared when Adi Dassler's wife, Käthe, convinced the GIs that the company and its employees were only interested in manufacturing sports shoes. American occupying forces subsequently became major buyers of the Dassler brothers' shoes.

The brothers split up in 1947, with Rudi forming a new firm that he called Ruda – from Rudolf Dassler, later rebranded Puma, and Adi forming a company formally registered as Adidas AG from Adi Dassler on 18 August 1949. Although it is popularly claimed that the name is an acronym for All Day I Dream About Sport, that phrase is a backronym; the name is actually a portmanteau formed from "Adi" (a nickname for Adolf) and "Das" (from "Dassler").

Early years and rivalry with Puma

Puma and Adidas entered a fierce and bitter rivalry after the split. The town of Herzogenaurach was divided on the issue, leading to the nickname "the town of bent necks"—people looked down to see which shoes strangers wore. Even the town's two football clubs were divided: ASV Herzogenaurach club supported Adidas, while 1 FC Herzogenaurach endorsed Rudolf's footwear. When handymen were called to Rudolf's home, they would deliberately wear Adidas shoes. Rudolf would tell them to go to the basement and pick out a pair of free Pumas. The two brothers never reconciled, and although both are buried in the same cemetery, they are spaced apart as far as possible.

In 1948, the first football match after World War II, several members of the West German national football team wore Puma boots, including the scorer of West Germany's first post-war goal, Herbert Burdenski. Four years later, at the 1952 Summer Olympics, 1500 metres runner Josy Barthel of Luxembourg won Puma's first Olympic gold in Helsinki, Finland.
At the 1960 Summer Olympics Puma paid German sprinter Armin Hary to wear Pumas in the 100 metre sprint final. Hary had worn Adidas before and asked Adolf for payment, but Adidas rejected this request. The German won gold in Pumas, but then laced up Adidas for the medals ceremony, to the shock of the two Dassler brothers. Hary hoped to cash in from both, but Adi was so enraged he banned the Olympic champion.

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