The story of Puma is the surprising dispute between two brothers in conflict.
The sportswear brand Puma was founded in 1948 by Rudolf Dassler in Germany. It currently generates 4.1 billion euros in annual sales and its consolidated earnings are 140 million euros. It has more than 12,000 employees and a presence in more than 120 countries, making it the third largest sportswear provider in the world behind Nike and Adidas.
But how was the Puma brand created? What are the origins of the red mark with a black puma? We are going to learn about a story of war between families that goes back to the beginning of the century and how two titanic companies were born from it.
Origin of the Puma brand
To know the origin of the Puma brand we must go back to the beginning of the century and place ourselves in 1924 in a small town in Bavaria. And it is that Germany is the country of the Puma brand and Herzogenaurach, its city. In it we find two brothers named Rudolf and Adi Dassler who grew up in the small shoe factory that their father ran. They were both passionate about sports and began to design and manufacture their own sports shoes in their father’s factory.
Adi Dassler founded a brand called Adidas (“Adi-das”) in 1924 that quickly became popular for its focus on quality and innovative design. In 1927 his brother Rudolf joined, who focused on sponsoring athletes and increasing brand visibility.
The rivalry between the brothers who founded Adidas intensified over time, especially when the Second World War broke out. Rudolf and Adi joined the Nazi Party, although Rudolf was closer to it than Adi. The relationship between the brothers deteriorated and finally broke down during an Allied bombing attack in 1943. Adi and his wife took refuge in a bomb shelter where Rudolf and his family were already staying. At that point, Adi commented “Here are the damned again”, possibly in reference to the Allied warplanes. However, due to Rudolf’s apparent insecurity, she believed that his brother meant him and his family. Later, when Rudolf was arrested by American soldiers and accused of being a member of the Waffen SS, he was convinced that his brother had helped capture him.
The creation of the Puma brand
This rivalry intensified over time, and in 1948 they parted ways. The city of Herzogenaurach became the city of Puma and Adidas, where both shoe factories were located, was divided in two: the eastern part of the city became the home of Adidas, while the western part was occupied by Puma. Rudolf moved to the other bank of the Aurach River to start his own company. For his part, Adolf kept Adidas, while Rudolf created a brand called “Ruda”, combining the first letters of his first and last names, “Ru” and “Da”, respectively. A few months later, Rudolf’s company changed its name to Puma Schuhfabrik.
After their split, Puma and Adidas became involved in an intense and bitter rivalry. The city of Herzogenaurach was divided over which shoe brand to support, leading to the city being nicknamed “the city of folded collars”, due to people looking down to see which shoes each person was wearing. In the first soccer game after World War II in 1948, several members of the West German national soccer team wore PUMA boots, including the player who scored West Germany’s first post-war goal, Herbert Burdenski.
Puma’s expansion from Germany
In the 1950s, with Germany as the starting point for Puma, it began to expand worldwide, thanks to sponsorship agreements with prominent teams and athletes. One of the brand’s first sponsorship deals was with the German national team soccer team, who won the 1954 World Cup wearing Puma shoes. Puma and Adidas became two of the biggest sports brands in the world, and the rivalry between the Dassler brothers led to fierce competition in the marketplace. Both brands focused on sponsorship of athletes and teams, and each sought to innovate in the design and technology of their products.