The early years
Every great story has a beginning. This one started in a small town in Bavaria, Germany. After starting out 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 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. In the same year, 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.
“What a Dassler!”
The revolutionary boots got a lot of attention internationally.
Reebok: A brother-to-be, still miles away
Two brothers working together for the best of the athlete. Sound 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.
FRANZ BECKENBAUER TRACKSUIT
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.
A catalogue page showing Franz Beckenbauer in his tracksuit.
The athletes’ trust
How do you consistently earn the trust of world-class athletes through the decades? Produce innovative products that make them even better. 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 around? Consider it done. In 1970, adidas delivered the official ball, TELSTAR, for the 1970 FIFA World Cup™ for the first time. As the name TELSTAR already tells, the ball was designed to improve visibility on black and white television. It was the beginning of a wonderful partnership, with adidas providing the official match ball for every FIFA World Cup™ that followed.
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, symbolizing 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 wife Käthe, with support from her son Horst, took over.
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-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.
End of The DASSLER ERA
Horst Dassler’s sudden death in 1987, two years after his mother Käthe passed away, meant troubled waters for adidas. In 1989, adidas became a stock corporation and Adi Dassler's daughters sold their shares in 1990. After the Dassler daughters exited the company, the change in leadership and questionable strategic decisions caused a record loss in 1992 and brought the company close to bankruptcy. But who doesn’t 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 steered 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 joins the gang
Back on the right track, adidas adds 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.
An innovative leader
Herbert Hainer becomes 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, which 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 company from one record to the next.
New century, new divisions
As the new century started, adidas 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 synonymous with reaching your 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, adidas acquired the outdoor specialist Five Ten and TaylorMade – formerly known as the golf company Ashworth in 2009 and then, three years later, the golf equipment company Adams Golf – making the company even stronger for the road ahead.
What belongs together comes together
From the court to the catwalk, from the stadium to the street. The adidas brand offers apparel and footwear for every sport, every fashion, and every style, whether you are an athlete or fashionista. In 2011, adidas brings 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’, which featurs the likes of Lionel Messi, David Beckham, Katy Perry, and Derrick Rose grew from the idea that whatever your goals or challenges may be, 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 movement in the 1980s with groundbreaking products and marketing, the company signed 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 best fitness brand in the world.
Running has changed forever. Big words. History will tell us if it is true. adidas introduces the Energy Boost running shoe which features 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, the next five-year strategic business plan for the company is presented. 'Creating the New' is the strategy and attitude that leads adidas into the future. The company is working every day to inspire and enable people to harness the power of sport in their lives. The strategy translates that competence in sports into streetwear and fashion because sport is an attitude and a lifestyle. Everything the company does is rooted in sports. As the brown shoe category was not core to this strategy, 2015 saw the divestiture of the Rockport brand. This allowed the company to reduce complexity and focus on the adidas and Reebok brands. These brands connect with consumers; therefore, their success defines the success of the business. With Creating the New, brands are closer to consumers than ever before. To achieve this, the plan is focused on three strategic choices:
- Speed: Become the first true fast sports company – fast in satisfying consumer needs, fast in internal decision-making.
- Cities: Six key cities in which to grow share of mind, share of market and share of trend are identified: New York, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Tokyo, London, and Paris.
- Open Source: Be the first sports company that invites athletes, consumers, and partners to be part of the brands.
LEADER WITH A DIGITAL VISION
After 15 years, Herbert Hainer passes the CEO baton to Kasper Rorsted in October 2016. Transitioning to adidas after leading the German consumer goods company Henkel for eight years, the Dane is well received among employees, media and investors alike. As fashion and sportswear industries continue to revolutionize with health and fitness merging into a lifestyle concept, Rorsted begins to steer the company to new successes in a digital era, building on Creating the New.
FOCUS ON KEY COMPETENCIES
With the divestiture of its hockey brand CCM and its golf brands TaylorMade, Adams Golf, and Ashworth the company further contributed to its strategy Creating the New and focused on its core competencies in footwear and apparel and its major brands adidas and Reebok.
HOME SWEET HOME
adidas celebrates the opening of its new office building ‘Arena’, finalizing the expansion of the company’s headquarters – the ‘World of Sports’ – in Herzogenaurach, Germany. Now, for the first time ever, all 5,400 Herzo-based employees are located on one campus in an environment that fully embraces the company’s unique company culture.
The globally applied ‘MyArena’ workplace concept is fully integrated, offering activity-based working spaces with a focus on flexibility and communication: Assigned desks are a thing of the past and employees can choose from a variety of different rooms and spaces dependent on their needs, from casual encounters to formal meeting rooms and areas for individual focus.
REEBOK RETURNS TO VECTOR LOGO
Reebok brings its performance and lifestyle segments back under one brand logo and wordmark: the Vector and the ‘Drop-R’. In doing so, the entire Reebok product portfolio has come together to give the brand one unified presence and voice. The Vector logo was first introduced in 1992 and has been used in various forms ever since.
OWN THE GAME
2021 marks the release of adidas’ next five-year strategic cycle. ‘Own the Game’ puts the consumer clearly at the center of everything, acknowledging the role they have in shaping industry trends: They strive to live active and healthy lives, they wish to blend sport and lifestyle, they are digital by default and sustainable by conviction. Own the Game will capture these consumer-driven opportunities and carve out new ones for their benefit.
The successful delivery of this strategy will enhance brand credibility, elevate consumer experience and push the boundaries of sustainability.
Closely linked to the launch of Own the Game was the decision to begin the formal process aimed at divesting Reebok. This came after careful consideration and an understanding that both Reebok and adidas would better realize their growth potential independently of one another.