Adidas History

Adi Dassler - The Man Who Gave Adidas Its Name

Adolf Dassler was inspired by a single idea when he made his first shoes in 1920, at the age of just 20. His vision was to provide every athlete with the best footwear for his respective discipline. It was this principle that guided him right up until his death in 1978.

700 patents and other industrial property rights worldwide are proof of his permanent quest for perfection.  

His first shoe, made from the few materials available in the difficult post-war period, was produced from canvas. A passionate athlete himself, from the very beginning Adi Dassler was in close contact with sports participants and was always present in person at important sports events. 

Adi Dassler focused his work on the classic disciplines of track and field. Athletes wore special shoes from his workshop for the first time at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam. In the mid 1920s he was already experimenting with spikes. 

In the mid 1930s Adi Dassler was already making 30 different shoes for eleven sports, and he had a workforce of almost 100 employees. In less than two decades adidas advanced to become the world’s leading sports shoe manufacturer.

After the turmoil of the Second World War, Adi Dassler made a fresh start. In 1947, with 47 workers, he began putting into practice the knowledge gained from the pre-war period and also new ideas. Adi Dassler made the first post-war sports shoes using canvas and rubber from American fuel tanks. In 1948 he introduced adidas as the company name, a combination of his own first and last name. One year later he registered the - to this day - unmistakable Three Stripes.

The breakthrough came for Adi Dassler when Germany won the Soccer World Cup in 1954. In the legendary Final against Hungary, the German team wore boots with screw-in studs – by adidas.

Parallel to the rapid developments in sport, Adi Dassler strove to specialize and optimize his products. Adi Dassler was the first entrepreneur to use sports promotion in order to make the public aware of his innovations. He started using well-known athletes as advertising for his products. Many famous athletes such as Jesse Owens, Muhammad Ali, Max Schmeling, Sepp Herberger and Franz Beckenbauer counted themselves among the friends of the Dassler Family. 

Aggressive publicity became one of the cornerstones of his corporate policy. From now on, Adi Dassler came up with a product innovation for every major event, documenting the superiority of adidas footwear. In constant contact with active athletes in a wide variety of disciplines, he developed the optimal shoe for almost every sport. Together with his son Horst, Adi Dassler created an international company that was, and still is, present at all the world’s sporting events.

From the mid 1960s, adidas also started producing apparel for competition and training. Ball production began in 1963, and ever since 1970 the Official Matchball at all major soccer events has been an adidas product. 

Adi Dassler died in 1978, at the age of 78. Carrying on his heritage and his ideas, his name and his developments will continue to help athletes in their efforts to push the limits of performance, on into the new millennium.

Following the death of the company founder, Adi Dassler’s widow Käthe and his son Horst took charge of running the company. Horst Dassler perfected the opportunities offered by sports promotion. Under his guidance, adidas became a global leader in the sector of innovations in sports marketing. He was also responsible for establishing the brand in France. Horst Dassler died unexpectedly in 1987, at the early age of 51.

In 1989, adidas was transformed into a corporation (“Aktiengesellschaft”). At the beginning of the 1990s, after a difficult transition period, adidas returned to its roots and its original objective.

Producing top products in top quality again became the company’s guiding principle. In 1991, adidas launched adidas EQUIPMENT, a line of performance-oriented, functional footwear and apparel.

With streetball in 1992, adidas started specifically addressing a younger target group. In 1993, Robert Louis-Dreyfus took over management of the company. The Frenchman initiated the comeback of the Three Stripes. In 1995, the adidas share was one of the most interesting new introductions on the stock market. In 1997, adidas AG and the Salomon group combined to form adidas-Salomon AG. Since 2001, Herbert Hainer has been leading the Group.

In October 2005, the Salomon business segment, including the related subsidiaries and brands Salomon, Mavic, Bonfire, Arc’Teryx and Cliché, was sold to the Finnish Amer Sports Corporation.

On January 31, 2006, Reebok International Ltd. was acquired providing the new adidas Group with a footprint of around €9.5 billion ($11.8 billion) in the global athletic footwear, apparel and hardware markets.