adidas, Puma, Nike: Once upon a time in Sports

Hi all,
I have been talking about adidas, Puma and Nike on this blog for a couple of months. But how well do you know the history of these sports brands? Nike is obviously younger than its major competitors, but did you know that Nike was called different at the beginning? Do you know how adidas and Puma are historically linked? Not too familiar with all of this? here is a chronological catch up.

I will split this article in 3 chapters. Let me call the first one “adidas, Puma, Nike: once upon a time in Sports” . Although sports exist since the Dinosaurs were running the place, I chose to start in 1920 when adidas’ founder made his first sport shoe. I chose to stop the first chapter in 1978. It is indeed a key year, where for example Nike signed John McEnroe and sent a sport message, image and sport philosophy to the world.

Here we go:

“adidas, Puma, Nike: Once upon a time in Sports”

– Adi Dassler makes his first shoe in his workshop in Herzogenaurach near Nurnberg, Germany. The shoe made of canvas was a training shoe for runners.

– Adi Dassler shoe are worn at the Olympic games for the first time. Lina Radke-Batschauer is the first athlete to win an Olympic gold medal in an adidas shoe. She ran the women’s 800m in world record time.

– Berlin Olympic Games made Jesse Owens famous. He won 4 gold medals. Hitler stormed out of the stadium refusing to shake his hand…

– Following a bitter “family fight”, Rudolf Dassler founded his Puma Schuhfabrik.

– August 19, 1949, Adi Dassler first registers the “Adolf Dassler adidas Sportschuhfabrik” in the commercial register of Furth, near Nurnberg.

– Josef Barthel of Luxembourg wins Puma’s first Olympic Gold (1500m) in Helsinki, Finland.

– The German national team wins the World Cup for the first time. Adi Dassler is at the game in Bern and at half time, he adapts the players’ shoes to ground conditions using screw-in studs.

– Heinz Fütterer sets a new 100m world record with Puma shoes.

– Swedish and Brazilian national team football players at the World Cup in Sweden, wore Puma
shoes featuring the Puma’s signature formstrip for the first time.

– The Company is transformed to a limited partnership, registered under Puma Sportschuhfabriken Rudolf Dassler KG.

– At the Rome Olympic Games, 75% of all track & field athletes wear adidas shoes. Wilma Rudolph, who suffered from Polio as a child, wins the gold medal in the 100m and 200m and the 4x100m relay.

– Pelé for the second time in a row wins a World Cup in Puma boots in Chile.

– Nike’s predecessor, Blue Ribbon Sports set sail in Oregon.

-World Cup in England, Eusebio, top scorer of the tournament wore the Puma King shoes.

– Dick Fosbury clears 2.24m in a new high jump technique and takes the gold medal. adidas first jogging shoe “Achill” is launched.

– Pele wears Puma King shoes with Brazil and wins his 3rd World Cup by beating Italy in Mexico.

– Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier face each other in the fight of the century. Both wear special boxing shoes developed by Adi Dassler.
– The Nike “Swoosh” is a design created in 1971 by Carolyn Davidson, a graphic design student at Portland State University.

– The Swoosh first appears on Nike shoes. Ilie Nastase the first athlete to sign an endorsement contract with Blue Ribbon Sports to wear its Nike tennis shoes.

– Death of Rudolf Dassler. His son Armin A. Dassler replaced him.
– At the World Cup in Germany, player of the tournament and Dutch legend Johan Cruyff wear Puma football shoes. At the same time he had one striped unstiched from his adidas Orange jersey.
– The German national team wins a second World Cup with legend Franz Beckenbauer wearing adidas shoes.

– The Waffle trainer is introduced and quickly becomes the best selling training shoe in the US.

– Adi Dassler dies at the age of 78. His son Horst Dassler takes over.
– Tennis bad boy John Mc Enroe is signed by Nike.

I have used various sources (and also my professional knowledge) and believe in the accuracy of the dates and years, but if you spot a mistake, do let me know. Also if you believe I should have added a key event to a year, please shout! Thanks!

Next chapter coming soon: “adidas, Puma, Nike: The game is on!”

Karl Lusbec

Adi Dassler

Lina Radke-Batschauer
Jesse Owens
Dassler family fight
Josef Barthel
The miracle of Bern
Heinz Fütterer
1958 Brazilian with Puma shoes
Wilma Rudolph
1962, Pelé with Puma boots in Chile
Blue Ribbon Sports
Dick Fosbury
Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier
Carolyn Davidson
Ilie Nastase
Johan Cruyff
Franz Beckenbauer
The Waffle trainer
John Mc Enroe

10 thoughts on “adidas, Puma, Nike: Once upon a time in Sports

  1. Hi Karl, thanks for the very well written historical account on the three biggest brands in the world. Look forward to reading the other two chapters in due course!


  2. Interesting to know the history, thank you, and will look forward to next chapters. Looks for now like it pays to be a ‘bad boy’. We’re about to create a sports conditioning programme for footballers using our AudioFuel concept. We are looking to consult with an expert in football to create this. Can I send you some links to download one of our current interval training programmes so you can an idea of the concept?


  3. Hi karl, thanks for your sharing, really look forward to your next chapters, are you going to reveal details about competition between the brands as well? Can’t wait! Herman.


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