Home Culture Family Roots Run Deep: Adidas vs. Puma

Family Roots Run Deep: Adidas vs. Puma

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Woman wearing a purple adidas sweatshirt

Last Updated on April 27, 2021

The rivalry of the Adidas and Puma brands is legendary. From the Olympics to the catwalks they always seem to be stepping on each other’s toes!

Adidas and Puma are both multinational corporations of German origin that design and manufacture footwear, apparel, and accessories.

Adidas is considered the largest sports brand in Europe, and on a global scale, it is second only to Nike. Puma comes in close behind, as the third-largest sportswear manufacturer in the world. 

Turns out it all began a long time ago, in Herzogenaurach, Germany.

Origin Story: Brothers to rivals

The original brand was founded in 1942, in Herzogenaurach (Bavaria) Germany, by Adolf Dassler and his brother, Rudolf, under the name “Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik”. The rivalry between the two brothers would lead to their split during the 40s and the foundation of rival brand Puma. 

But, in the beginning, they were working together from their mother’s washroom and creating spiked running shoes for athletic events. They improved on spikes by swapping heavy metal for canvas and rubber. They went on to win gold medals in Amsterdam (1928, Lina Radke) and Berlin (1936, Jesse Owens). 

Before World War II, their fame soared and they were selling 200,000 pairs of shoes every year. However, during the war, they went from being the last sports shoe factory in the country to manufacturing anti-tank weapons. They survived being destroyed by the US forces by convincing them that they only wanted to manufacture sports shoes, and thus, the occupying American forces became major buyers of the Dassler shoes.

It all came crashing down when the brothers split in 1947.

Did you know?
Thanks to the family feud between the two founding brothers behind each shoe company (Adolf and Rudolf Dassler), the whole town became divided and was forced to take sides in the sneaker wars.

It is said that townspeople would check which shoe strangers wore to quickly know where their allegiance lay. Another great story says that handymen would wear Adidas on purpose when doing repairs on Rudolf’s house because he would direct them to the basement to pick free Pumas to wear inside his house. Their rivalry was so great that, although they are in the same cemetery, they were buried as far from each other as possible. Talk about taking a grudge to the grave!

Story of Adidas

After the brothers split, Adi (Adolf) Dassler started over on August 18, 1949, at the age of 49. He registered his company as “Adi Dassler Adidas Sportschuhfabrik” and began working with 47 employees. That same day he registered his first shoe with the 3-Stripes that would become famous later on for winning the 1952 World Cup final when the German national football team won over the unbeatable Hungarian team.

The secret to Adidas’ success was listening very closely to what athletes had to say. (Does this remind you of Van’s story or is it just me?) He would invite them over to Herzogenaurach to hear their experiences using shoes and what they hoped to improve. With this in mind, he invented novel ways in which his shoes could meet the athletes’ needs. 

Soon, Adidas had conquered the footwear and apparel field. 

In 1970, they expanded onto a new field by creating the new Telstar ball for the 1970 Fifa World Cup. It was designed so that it would be more visible on black and white television. After that, Adidas provided the official match ball to every Fifa World Cup.

In 1972, Adidas introduced its trefoil logo, symbolizing performance. 

After Adi’s death, his son Horst succeeded him and he continued to expand and improve the company. However, when he died and the company ceased to be in family hands, things went south fast. After many questionable decisions, the company came near bankruptcy in 1992. 

Robert Louis-Dreyfus took over the company as CEO in 1994, and together with Christian Tourres, brought the company around with a new direction. Their new marketing slogan “We knew then, we know now” sums it up pretty well. They went back to making athletes better. During this period, some of their best innovations took place.

Under Herbert Hainer, they continued to improve and in 2000 they invented a new lifestyle segment, focusing on sports-inspired streetwear. They would partner with many designers like Yohji Yamamoto (2002) and Stella McCartney (2004) in the years that followed.

In 2011 it brought together all of its styles in one campaign to showcase to the world what it means to go “all in” (featuring Lionel Messi, David Beckham, Katy Perry, and Derrick Rose). The idea behind it was that no matter your goals or the challenges you face, to achieve the ultimate success, you have to go all in. 

Adidas’ net worth as of 2020 is approximately $16.48 billion.

Story of Puma

In 1948, after the split, Rudolf founded a new firm called Ruda (a play on Rudolf Dassler) but later rebranded it to Puma. The brand’s first logo was a square with beast jumping through a D. The distinctive Puma logo was introduced later on in 1958.

Puma’s first post-war Olympic gold happened in 1952 (Helsinki, Finland) thanks to the 1500 meters runner Josy Barthel of Luxembourg. During the 1960’s Olympics, Puma paid German sprinter Armin Hary to wear their shoes during the trial for the 100-meter sprint.

Hary had originally requested the same deal from Adidas since he had worn Adidas before, but the company had refused to pay him. He won gold wearing Puma but changed into Adidas to receive the medal. Hary might have hoped to cash in from both brands, but Adolf was so enraged he banned him from representing Adidas forever. 

In 1986, Puma introduced the RS computer shoe, with an integrated device that measured the runner’s speed, pace, and caloric use. It was not a hit. Rudolf’s sons sold out their shares during 1989 but the company continued to prosper and grow, reaching the top three in the world in 2003. 

In 2007 it was friendly taken over by Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (the owner of Gucci), which now holds 60% of Puma’s stock. 

Since 2012, Puma is the main producer of Formula One and NASCAR clothing, as well as driving shoes and race suits. They also collaborate with BMW, Ferrari, and Ducati to launch partnered campaigns.

In 2013, the company’s leadership was put in the hands of ex-football player Bjørn Gulden. Rihanna was named creative director of Puma in December 2014, overseeing the womenswear line. Another important partnership was agreed between Arsenal Football Club and Puma in 2014 that lasted until 2019.

In 2018, Puma re-entered the basketball sneaker market with Jay-Z as creative director, after 20 years of absence. They sponsored Vince Carter, Marvin Baglet III, and Deandre Ayton, and finally reintroduced the RS-Computer. It now contained an accelerometer and Bluetooth capacity. In 2020, they also signed a collaboration with Neymar, the Brazilian football star.

ADER x PUMA Campaign ‘Forever Youth’:

Puma’s net worth as of 2021 is approximately $5 billion.

Starring Campaigns & Styles as Made famous by Celebs

Adidas

Run-DMC

Run-DMC and Adidas became unexpected partners when the hip hop group released their “My Adidas” song. It was all about the pure enthusiasm about their sneakers of hard-working people everywhere and it was a hit!

Adidas only found out when Run-DMC held up one of their 3-Stripes shoes during a concert. This marked the first non-athletic promotion in the sportswear industry and the birth of a new era.

Bob Marley

Bob Marley decided to wear Adidas for his downtime, too. 

David Beckham, Hailler Gebrselassie, and Laila Ali

Campaigns with David Beckham, Hailler Gebrselassie, and Muhammad and Laila Ali under the “impossible is nothing” slogan further cemented their reputation as the brand to achieve one’s goals.

Billie Jean King

And a creative collaboration with Pharrell Williams.

They also had a great campaign featuring Billie Jean King with the slogan “here to create change”.

Pharrell Williams

And a creative collaboration with Pharrell Williams.

Puma

Rihanna

in 2015, Rihanna became Puma’s global ambassador and creative director of womenswear and directly influenced product collections, general artistic direction, and customized classic styles. 

Cara Delevigne

Rihanna also directed the 2017 campaign that portrayed Cara Delevigne as the brand’s face and muse.

Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez also showcased Puma apparel in a 2018 campaign.

Kylie Jenner

Last but not least, Puma has been one of Kylie Jenner’s favorite brands and she has been photographed multiple times wearing it.

So…Which brand is best? 

Adidas

  • Retains essence of brand and roots
  • Slick logo
  • On point brand voice and style
  • Positive company culture
  • Strong ad campaigns

Puma

  • Versatile clothing – activewear to high fashion
  • High product quality
  • Coolness factor

As far as sports companies go, it’s a close call but Adidas appears to be the better company to work for and Puma for product quality, pricing and customer service…but only just.

A recent study at Comparably.com has concluded that Puma’s product quality, pricing and customer service is currently superior to Adidas.

However, employees at Adidas have rated their overall culture better than the ones at Puma, with HR and Product as the two departments that rate their experience the highest. They love their brand so much, that their employee promotion rate is almost three times the one at Puma. That is a lot of free marketing!

They are both diverse when it comes to their workforce, but Adidas’ workers feel their gender rate is much better than Puma’s. If you had to choose where to work by evaluating the perks and benefits, it looks like Adidas is taking the lead on that area too (that is probably why they get the free marketing!).

Regarding the company’s logos, both Adidas and Puma have evolved over the years, but the recent streamlined logo of Adidas is, in my opinion, much better. It looks modern, it is instantly recognizable, and it looks great on any type of clothing.

When it comes to the business style of both brands, I can’t help but feel inclined to choose Adidas over Puma due to the family management of their early years. However, they have both been long sold out. 

Still, as far as the slogans and marketing goes… I believe that Adidas has managed to retain the essence of the brand much better. Their primordial message to attain your goals and conquer your dreams remains all-important! 

I think Puma makes considerably cooler clothing, like their tracksuit which is much more stylish than the Adidas tracksuit, and their apparel lines have a high fashion component that is pretty visible on their campaigns. 

Their fit, in my own experience, is pretty varied depending on the products. I still prefer Adidas sneakers in general, both in looks and technical aspects. I find them more comfortable, cushioned, and also less bulky.

Some products are very similar like the Adidas Gazelle and the Puma Suede.

Although Puma has amped its game when it comes to celebrity representation and invested a lot in many star-studded campaigns, I still like the overall feel of Adidas campaigns and products better

Their message simply feels more authentic and less about selling. Plus, their empowerment campaign and use of strong women as their face and muse is pretty much on point!

Adidas and Puma Styling Tips

Adidas Samba

The Adidas Samba is one of the most laid-back shoes you can go for. It’s also one of the most classic and easiest-to-style sneakers ever. It goes well with your pyjamas, it goes well with a pair of sweatpants or it can be rocked with a sporty dress, like Rihanna. 

Of course, all Adidas sneakers look great with any kind of activewear, so when in doubt throw a pair of leggings and an overcoat, and you are covered. And if you feel adventurous, go for an animal print coat for some rock and roll!

Puma Creepers

Puma Creepers are a great style of sneakers because they have a bit more of a rocky feel. They are bulkier and have thick laces that go really well with vintage tees, ripped jeans, and a leather jacket. 

They are the perfect normcore footwear for street styling and they look amazing with athletic leggings because they make your ankles look slim. Pair them up with crop tops and keep your colors monochrome or add a touch of color with a neon print for added effect.

Adidas Superstar

The Adidas Superstar is the direct style competitor of the Creepers. They are equally as bulky but somewhat rounder around the tip and higher on the sneaker’s tongue. They could be considered the chunky cousins of the Samba. 

They are a great option for airport casual wear and they look great styled with a badass yet classy vibe. To achieve this look, go for black denim weathered at the knees and a slick black leather jacket. Keep your accessories neutral, like beige/white, to match them with the sneakers.

Adidas Ultraboost

Adidas’s ultraboost model is on a completely different wavelength. It is as sporty as they come, with full support on the sole, ergonomic design that follows the shape of the foot, and technical aspects that enhance the wearer’s experience. They are colorful, athletic and they feel super bouncy on your feet! 

Of course, you can style them with your favorite pair of leggings and go running on your neon-colored shorts, but you can also use them to go run errands downtown by pairing them with a down jacket or a nylon sweatshirt.

Puma RX-X3

Puma’s RX-X3 would be the athletic counterpart of the Adidas ultra boost. Let’s skip over the part where you can wear them with athletic gear, which of course you can, and let’s focus on the difficult-to-achieve athleisure ensemble. 

To go for that vibe between worlds, pair your super sporty Puma’s with a crispy white shirt and dressy pants, or add a well-constructed jacket over your sweatshirt. Many a celebrity go for this style since it has all the comfort of sportswear but it looks less frumpy!

What’s your favourite brand out of Adidas and Puma? Let me know in the comments below.

Bibliography

Adidas:

https://www.adidas.com/us

https://www.adidas-group.com/en/

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Adidas-AG

https://web.archive.org/web/20150208215436/http://www.adidas-group.com/en/group/history/

https://web.archive.org/web/20080117230846/http://in.rediff.com/sports/2005/nov/08adi.htm

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB120606066903653643

https://approval.studio/adidas-branding-history-of-logos-and-best-ads/

https://en.esloganmagazine.com/best-adidas-commercials/

https://www.comparably.com/competitors/adidas-vs-puma

Puma:

https://www.sportsleisurewear.com/The-Top-3-Brands-in-Sportswear.html

https://about.puma.com/en/this-is-puma

https://annual-report-2017.puma.com/wp-content/uploads/PUMAGB2017_EN_Consolidated_Financial_Statements.pdf

https://www.complex.com/sneakers/2018/06/puma-relaunches-basketball-division-announce-signings-jay-z-president-of-basketball-operations

https://web.archive.org/web/20150905235252/http://about.puma.com/en/this-is-puma/history

https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/23835510/jay-z-named-president-puma-basketball

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Lorena Lombardo is a fashion designer specialized in trend forecasting and fashion journalism. She studied at the UAL (University of London), ORT (Universidad ORT Uruguay), and taken various courses about traditional craftsmanship while living in Tokyo. Some of her favorite memories during the 90s include wearing bucket hats and trying to copy Rachel’s hairstyle. Her absolute favorite show was Buffy: the Vampire Slayer but she was also a huge fan of Clueless because of its amazing fashion choices. Her top track of the decade is currently disputed between How soon is Now? by the Smiths and Here with me by Dido. Both also happen to be the opening songs for two great 90s shows: Charmed and Roswell. Coincidence? I think not!

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