Not in the sense of who makes the best trainers – they’re both great – but in the sense of sibling rivalry. You may not know this, but the brothers behind both giant sports brands were engaged in a feud of Cain and Abel – or even Thor and Loki – proportions. Their rivalry went a long way beyond corporate competition, to become an intense family feud that not only divided the family, but the inhabitants of their hometown, fora period of 60 years.
The Dassler brothers – Adi and Rudi
Adolf (“Adi”) and Rudolph (“Rudi”) Dassler had operated their company, Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik, from their mother’s washroom after World War I. With skllls learnt from his shoemaker father, Adi designed and crafted the shoes, with the older, more extrovert Rudi doing the sales. While they joined the Nazi Party – like many Germans – on Hitler’s election in 1933, Party ideology didn’t blind them to the opportunities of sponsorship offered by legendary African-American athlete Jesse Owens, who would be wearing the brothers’ shoes when he triumphed at the 1936 Munich Olympics, making Hitler’s trumped-up claims of Aryan superiority look as empty as they obviously were. However, the brothers would have fallen out by the 1950s.
Adolf Dassler as a young man
The reason – no one knows exactly why. Did Rudi have an affair with Adi’s wife? Rudi thought that when he was sent to the front to fight, Adi and his wife conspired to get him out of the road. Deserting his post, then being caught by the allies and accused of working for the Gestapo, he was convinced that Adi was supplying them with information, Certainly, he was
When Rudi got called up for service, he suspected Adi and his wife had schemed to get him sent to the front so they could have him out of the way at work. Later, Rudi was arrested first for deserting his post and then by the Allies on suspicion of working for the Gestapo. On both occasions, Rudi was convinced that Adi was supplying information on him. What’s for certain is that while Rudi was stuck in a P.O.W. camp, Adi could rebuild the business with American G.I.s as his clientele.
This situation would undoubtedly drive a wedge between the two brothers, which may have been bad for them, but good for us, in that it would lead to the formation of two of the greatest sportswear companies in the world.