Evolving from rivalry
The origin of Puma sneakers (BATS EU: PUMD) is an incredible story to tell as it starts with a sibling rivalry that has its roots in 1920s Germany, where brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler started their own shoe factory. Adolf had a talent for craftsmanship and was dedicated to manufacturing sneakers, and Rudolf loved business relations and administration. Their products leaned more towards sports shoe designs, and they managed to have a presence in Germany at the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936.
Soon Nazi Germany appeared, and the Second World War broke out in 1939. In this war situation, Adolf was in charge of supplying shoes to the German soldiers, and Rudolf was sent to fight. This separation affects the company, and political differences begin to affect the affective and business relationships of both brothers. So much so that Rudolf is imprisoned for belonging to the Nazi party and blames his own brother for having betrayed him. This quarrel between the brothers led to separate ventures. Rudolf founded Puma SE (BATS EU: PUMD) in 1948, and Adolf founded Adidas AG (BATS EU: ADS) the following year.
The dispute between Rudolf and Adolf was so intense that each of the workers had to decide which company to work for, and in the village of Herzogenaur, people looked at each other’s shoes to identify which of the two brothers they supported. In other words, the differences between the brothers became an issue of conflict in the society itself. The city was called the city of bent necks. The amazing thing about this story is that this competition between the brothers caused both companies to grow as they sought to stand out from each other, creating two great sports brand emporiums.
After the Second World War, Rudolf, with Puma, made his presence felt at the 1950 Summer Olympics through runner Josy Barthel who won the first Olympic gold in Finland wearing Puma shoes. Puma’s (BATS EU: PUMD) strategy of strengthening its image through its alliance with successful athletes has brought excellent dividends. In 1985, the famous tennis player Boris Becker won the Wimbledon championship wearing Puma-branded clothing, footwear and shoes. On the other hand, other famous sportsmen such as Usain Bolt, Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff, Martina Navratilova, and Michael Schumacher were sponsored by Puma.
This Puma SE (BATS EU: PUMD) strategy was also an Adidas AG (BATS EU: ADS) strategy. Rudolf and his brother, always striving to be the best, took this competition into the realm of advertising. There was no better advertising for them than to put their sneakers on the best athletes in the world and watch them compete in the same competitions with their brands. A major achievement of the Puma brand is to have become the leading producer of footwear and suits for motor racing and the most influential producer of clothing for Formula 1 and Nascar by partnering with BMW, Ducati and Ferrari.
It is noteworthy that the rivalry between these two shoe and sportswear emporiums had a symbolic and official truce with a soccer match held in 2009 in the hometown. Despite the truce, competition continues in the market. Puma continues to dominate in the Olympic games and the purpose is nothing more than to continue to position the brand as a desired commodity without losing that classic style, taking the brand to trendy places, putting shoes next to luxury cars and making people associate the brand with a lifestyle.
Puma SE (BATS EU: PUMD) today has generated revenues of approximately €6.8 billion globally by the close of 2021, having a growth of approximately €1.4 billion over the previous year, making it the third largest sports apparel company in the world. Achieving what Puma has done, from being a company born from a rivalry, and remaining among the best in the world, makes us reflect on the lessons learned by overcoming the obstacles that arise along the way and that promote an environment of competition from its roots.