Adidas, in full Adidas AG, German manufacturer of athletic shoes and apparel and sporting goods.
In the early 21st century it was the largest sportswear manufacturer in Europe and the second largest (after Nike) in the world.
Adidas products are traditionally marked with a three-stripe trademark, which remains an element in the company’s newer “trefoil” and “mountain” logos. Headquarters are in Herzogenaurach, Germany.
The name “Adidas” is an abbreviation of the name of founder Adolf (“Adi”) Dassler.
The company was founded by Adolf “Adi” Dassler who made sports shoes in his mother’s scullery or laundry room in Herzogenaurach, Germany after his return from World War I. In July 1924, his older brother Rudolf joined the business, which became “Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory” (Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik). The electricity supply in Herzogenaurach was unreliable, so the brothers sometimes had to use pedal power from a stationary bicycle to run their equipment.
Both Dassler brothers joined the NSDAP in May 1933 and became also members of the National Socialist Motor Corps. Furthermore, Adolf took the rank of Sportwart in the Hitler Youth from 1935 until the end of the war.
At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the American track-and-field star Jesse Owens wore shoes that were reportedly a gift from Adi Dassler. Owens’s medal-winning performances increased awareness of the Dassler brand around the world.
During the war, the company was running the last sport shoe factory in the country and predominantly supplied the Wehrmacht with shoes. In 1943 the shoe production was forced to cease operations and the company’s facilities and workforce was used to manufacture anti-tank weapons. From 1942 to 1945 at least nine forced labourers were working at both sites of the company.
After the disruptions of World War II, Adi and his brother Rudolf (“Rudi”) strove to rebuild the Dassler firm.
After increasingly different views of how to run the business, the brothers split the business in 1948. Rudolf moved to the other side of the Aurach River to start his own company. Adolf started his own company using a name he formed using his nickname—Adi—and the first three letters of his last name—Das—to establish Adidas. Rudolf created a new firm that he called “Ruda”, from “Ru” in Rudolf and “Da” in Dassler. A few months later, Rudolf’s company changed its name to Puma Schuhfabrik Rudolf Dassler in 1948.
Once the 3-Stripes became official in 1949, the ‘50s became a boom of technology, with innovations to equipment for world-class athletes. adidas’ first decade delivered the Samba, which soccer players still use today for agility and speed on the indoor soccer field and style in the streets. The ‘50s also marked the development of a world-record-holding sprint shoe, and the first soccer cleat designed with a nylon sole, which had an immediate impact on fit and feel.
At the time of his death in 1959, Dassler held over 700 patents related to sports shoes and other athletic equipment.
The ‘70s brought us iconic music, culture, and fashion, as well as prominent moments in sports history. From the Telstar, the World Cup’s first official soccer ball, to the first edition of the cult favorite adidas Superstar, the ‘70s proved to be an influential period for today’s culture. This decade laid the foundation for streetwear staples we still love today.
In the 1970s, Adidas was the top athletic shoe brand sold in the US. Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier were both wearing Adidas boxing shoes in their “Fight of the Century” in 1971. Adidas was named the official supplier for the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.
The Trefoil logo was designed in 1971 and launched in 1972, just in time for the 1972 Summer Olympics held in Munich. This logo lasted until 1997, when the company introduced the “three bars” logo (that had been designed by then Creative Director Peter Moore), initially used on the Equipment range of products.
When US-based hip hop group Run-D.M.C. released ‘My Adidas’ it was about setting the record straight about hard working people in troubled neighborhoods and pure enthusiasm about their sneakers. adidas itself only found out about this love story when the band held up the 3-Stripes shoes during a concert in front of 40,000 fans – one of these concertgoers was an adidas employee. The song became a hit and Run-D.M.C. and adidas unexpected and unique partners. This merge of art and sports not only set the everlasting street fashion trend off but also marked the birth of non-athletic promotions in the sporting goods industry.
Between 1990 and 1993 Adidas was owned by the scandal-tainted French business executive Bernard Tapie, who failed to revive it. The company was sold to investors who brought in another Frenchman, Robert Louis-Dreyfus, as chief executive officer and chairman. Under his leadership, Adidas acquired the Salomon Group in 1997.
In 2005 Adidas sold Salomon but held on to the TaylorMade brand. The following year the corporate name was changed back to Adidas AG.Adidas’s later acquisitions included the Reebok company (2006), which owned the Rockport brand of shoes, and Five Ten (2011), maker of outdoor-sports shoes. Adidas sold TaylorMade in 2017.
Adi Dassler was inducted into the American Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame as one of the founders of the modern sporting goods industry.