The early years
Every great story has a beginning. This one started in a small town in Bavaria, Germany. After first steps in his mother’s wash kitchen, Adi Dassler registered the “Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik” in 1924 and embarked on his mission to provide athletes with the best possible equipment. Gold medals in Amsterdam (1928, Lina Radke) and Berlin (1936, Jesse Owens) were first rewards and milestones – and only the start of our story.
On August 18, 1949, Adi Dassler started over again at the age of 49, registered the “Adi Dassler adidas Sportschuhfabrik” and set to work with 47 employees in the small town of Herzogenaurach. On the same day, he registered a shoe that included the registration of the soon-to-become-famous adidas 3-Stripes. From humble beginnings to a global success story – which was accelerated by a miracle …
A miracle in Bern
Who would have thought that screw-in-studs on lightweight football boots would help write history? When the German national football team faced the unbeatable Hungarians in the 1954 World Cup final, they won so much more than just a trophy. Their unbelievable victory would be heard around the world for decades to come. And it made adidas and its founder a household name on football pitches everywhere.
Reebok: A brother-to-be, still miles away
Two brothers working together for the best of the athlete. Sounds familiar? Well this story started across the channel, miles away from Herzogenaurach. While adidas continued to grow after its own 1954 miracle, two British men by the names of Joe and Jeff Foster gave their grandfather’s company “J.W. Foster and Sons” (founded in 1895) a new name: Reebok. Keep it in mind for now, we will get back to this later.
Fine feathers make fine birds
What’s in a name? Everything, when you name it after a “Kaiser”. When the Franz Beckenbauer tracksuit model celebrated its debut, it became the first piece of apparel for adidas and opened a whole new business to a company that, so far, was famous for shoes.
The athletes’ trust
How do you consistently earn the trust of world-class athletes through the decades? Produce innovative products that make them better for once. Adi Dassler’s secret to success had an additional personal ingredient: he met with athletes (some of them even as visitors in Herzogenaurach), listened carefully to what they said and constantly observed what can be improved or even invented to support their needs. The best of the best trusted adidas and its founder from the beginning. And that would not change throughout the decades to come.
One ball for all
Footwear for gold medal winners? Check. Apparel for record breakers? Check. Now, how about something to kick with? Consider it done. In 1970, adidas conquered yet another branch of the sporting goods industry, delivering the official ball, TELSTAR, for the 1970 FIFA World Cup™. As the name TELSTAR already tells, the ball was designed to improve visibility on Black and White TV. It was the beginning of a wonderful partnership, with adidas providing the Official Match Ball to every FIFA World Cup™ that followed.
Out of the trunk, into the world – the birth of Rockport
The best businesses seem to come out of family. Across the pond, a father and son hit the US roads to sell shoes out of their trunk. Saul and Bruce Katz started the first company to ever combine advanced materials and technologies in casual footwear: Rockport. Again, this will be important later on.
The Trefoil and the Olympic Idea
In 1972, the world turned to Germany when the Olympic Games opened in Munich. Just in time for the event, adidas presented a new logo that was here to stay: the Trefoil. Then, symbolising performance. Today, the adidas Originals collection stands for lifestyle and street. Times may change, but trefoiled quality will always remain
Becoming a true multi-sports specialist
From Herzogenaurach to the world: the 3-Stripes kept expanding to more and more sports throughout the years. This is reflected in the broad range of athletes who trust adidas to make them better: besides the usual suspects such as the world’s best football players, like the Argentinean national team, outdoor icon Reinhold Messner climbed mountains in adidas shoes and gymnast Nadia Comaneci scored a perfect 10, repeatedly.
Death of a shoemaker
Adi Dassler died on September 6, shortly before his 78th birthday. The man who almost single-handedly redefined the sporting goods industry and lifted the benchmark by a mile left behind a flourishing company. The end of one Dassler era became the start of another: Adi’s son Horst, with support from his mother Käthe, took over and – among many other things – continued to master his invention, the modern sports marketing.
Three is not a crowd – TaylorMade’s first steps
What can you do with just three employees? Lay the foundation for a future market leader, for example. While adidas continued its flourishing ways, Gary Adams and two colleagues started a company in California that will produce metalwoods tailored to make players better. TaylorMade will eventually become market leader, proving that three is not always a crowd.
A brother-to-be finding its way – Reebok on the move
30 years after Joe and Jeff Foster renamed their grandfather’s company, Reebok was fit to lead. Literally. Following the booming fitness trend, women around the world work out in the Reebok Freestyle while fitness professional Gin Miller became the face of Step Reebok. And that’s not all: THE PUMP innovation hits markets in 1989, making Reebok a household name in other categories as well.
A computer for your feet
It sounds quite common today, but back in the ‘80s, a computer did not belong, much less fit, in your shoe. Didn’t stop adidas from putting it in there. An innovation ahead of its time, the Micropacer featured a system – known today as miCoach – providing performance statistics to athletes.
The merge of arts and sports
When US-based hip hop group Run DMC released “my adidas” it was about setting the record straight about hard working people in troubled neighbourhoods and about 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 DMC 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.
End of the family business
Horst Dassler’s sudden death in 1987, two years after his mother Käthe passed away, meant troubled waters for adidas. After the Dassler family exited the company, it is changing leadership and questionable strategic decisions that caused a record loss in 1992 and brought the company near bankruptcy. But who does not love a comeback story?
A sleeping giant’s new master
Robert Louis-Dreyfus. The new CEO made an almost impossible job seem easy. Together with his partner Christian Tourres, he understood that the almost bankrupt adidas did not need to be reinvented, it simply needed a new direction. He turned the sleeping giant from a sales- to a marketing-driven company and steers adidas back on the growth path. In 1995, six years after becoming a corporation, adidas went public and its new marketing slogan could not sum it up better: “We knew then, we know now”.
Innovation never sleeps
While the company was still dealing with financial challenges, a new marketing team refocused adidas on what it has been known for years: making athletes better. Some of the most famous adidas innovations, such as Torsion (1989), the Equipment concept (1991), the Streetball campaign (1992) and the Predator football boot (1994), were born in this era.
A new team member – Salomon joined the gang
Back on the right track, adidas added a new member to its team. With the acquisition of the Salomon Group and its brands Salomon, TaylorMade, Mavic and Bonfire, the company changed its name to adidas-Salomon AG.
Home sweet home
The year the company’s share is admitted to the DAX, comprising Germany’s 30 largest quoted companies, adidas-Salomon AG committed itself to its roots and moved into new headquarters just outside Herzogenaurach. The “World of Sports”, a former US military base turned campus, is constantly renewed, extended and modernised over the following years to house the growing company and its employees. As of 2013, the World of Sports is home to more than 3,000 adidas employees, offers outdoor sports facilities, a cafeteria, a kindergarten and a gym.
To learn more about the 'World of Sports' visit the 'Herzogenaurach location-site'.
An innovative leader
Herbert Hainer became the new CEO of adidas-Salomon AG and, with him, the company’s focus went even more to innovation. ClimaCool (2002), adizero (2004) and the F50 football boot, launched just in time for the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ in Germany, became market hits – as did the new CEO. Herbert Hainer will lead the adidas Group from one record to the next and will become the longest-standing CEO of all DAX companies in 2011. Herbert Hainer is surrounded by a very international team of Executive Board members. It currently consists of Robin J. Stalker from New Zealand (Finance), Eric Liedtke (Global Brands) and Glenn Bennett (Global Operations), both from the USA, as well as Roland Auschel from Germany (Global Sales).
New century, new divisions
As the new century started, the adidas Group reinvented the game again. In addition to its sport performance offering, adidas is the first in the industry to introduce a new lifestyle segment, focusing on sports-inspired streetwear. In the years to come, new partnerships with Yohji Yamamoto (2002) and Stella McCartney (2004) were born along with exciting labels such as Y-3 (2003) and Porsche Design Sport (2007).
Impossible? Just a big word.
In one of its most memorable marketing campaigns, adidas lets its biggest athletes including David Beckham, Haile Gebrselassie and Muhammad and Laila Ali face their fears, defeats and challenges only to prove that, indeed, impossible is nothing. The slogan became the synonym for reaching one’s goals.
Salomon leaves the team, Reebok joined the family
One year after adidas and Salomon go their separate ways, when the latter and its brands (excluding TaylorMade) were sold to Amer Sports, adidas acquired Reebok, including the brands Rockport and Reebok-CCM Hockey, and brought together two of the world’s most respected and best-known companies in the sporting goods industry. In June, the company was re-named adidas AG.
Finding new teammates
When you are already great, how do you become even better? You keep on training. Or join forces with someone who complements you and your strengths.
In 2011, the adidas Group acquired the outdoor specialist Five Ten, and TaylorMade first the golf company Ashworth in 2009 and then, three years later, the golf equipment company Adams Golf – making the Group even stronger for the road ahead.
On route to new heights
At the end of 2010, the adidas Group presented the most comprehensive strategic business plans in its history. “Route 2015” incorporates special targets for all brands, sales channels and Group functions globally. That same year, TaylorMade reached market leadership and became the biggest golf company worldwide.
What belongs together comes together
From the court to the catwalk and the stadium to the street. The adidas brand offers apparel and footwear for every sport, every fashion, every style, whether you are an athlete or fashionista. And in 2011, adidas brought together sport, street and style for the first time in one campaign to tell the world what it means to go all in, heart over head, inclusion over ego. “all in” (featured by Lionel Messi, David Beckham, Katy Perry and Derrick Rose) lived from the idea that, no matter your goals or challenges, you have to go all in for the ultimate success.
Reebok focuses on its fitness roots
If it is already in your DNA, why reinvent the wheel? After Reebok dominated the fitness and aerobics wave / movement in the 1980s with groundbreaking products and marketing, the company signs a long-term partnership with CrossFit, a core strength and conditioning program, in 2011. Two years later, the studio categories Yoga, Dance and Aerobics followed, and Reebok has been back on track to become THE fitness brand with the goal to empower consumers to be fit for life. Or should we say REEbecome?
Running changed forever. Big words. History will tell us if it is true. adidas introduced the Energy Boost running shoe which featured a completely new cushioning material. Created in cooperation with the German chemical company BASF, the material combines former contradictory benefits of soft and responsive cushioning for a running experience unlike any other.
Creating the New
In March 2015, we presented the next five-year strategic business plan for the adidas Group. 'Creating the New' is the attitude that leads us into the future. We believe that sport has the power to change lives. We work every day to inspire and enable people to harness the power of sport in their lives. We also translate our competence in sports into streetwear and fashion because sport is an attitude and a lifestyle. Everything we do is rooted in sports. At the very heart of 'creating the new' are our brands. Our brands are what connect us with our consumers; therefore, the success of our brands defines the success of our business. With 'Creating the New', we will get closer to them than ever before. To achieve that, our plan is based on three strategic choices:
- Speed: We will become the first true fast sports company: Fast in satisfying consumer needs, fast in internal decision-making.
- Cities: We have identified six key cities in which we want to grow share of mind, share of market and share of trend: New York, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Tokyo, London and Paris.
- Open source: We will be the first sports company that invites athletes, consumers and partners to be part of our brands.