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A tale of two sportswear champions. Herzogenaurach. Germany

my slow trip adidas puma herzogenaurach streest sign (5 von 1)

In the heart of Bavaria, a couple of miles to the north of Nuremberg, there is a small town called Herzogenaurach, that I have heard of since the beginning of my investing career. That is where in 1924 the Dassler brothers founded a small shoemaker workshop.

In 1948, after falling out with his elder brother, Adolf Dassler founded his own shoe company. As the new company name he chose a combination of his first nickname “ADI” and his family name “DASsler” – so “Adidas” was born. His older brother Rudolf also founded his own shoe company less than a mile away – but on that one later.

Adi and his son Horst were very acute businessmen. They invented the sponsorship principle for top athletes / teams in big sports events: Starting with the Football World cup in 1954 and the summer Olympics in Melbourne in 1956. By 1980 the “Three stripes” have became a global brand and adidas a sportswear powerhouse. After Horst’s early death in 1987 his sisters sold their stakes in the company.

adidas became a joint stock company and was listed on the stockmarket. Today, adidas is with annual sales of more than 20 billion US$ together with Nike the leading sportswear player in the world (albeit somewhat smaller than its american counterpart). It is a major sponsor of super athletes and mega sports events. Its Headquarter is still located in Herzogenaurach with a sci-fi like main building on an extensive campus.

The “brand store” is the exclusive part of the factory outlet complex showcasing the high end products that one can buy at regular prices.

The latest shoe models are displayed in interactive multi-media installations. The top running shoe is extremely light-weight, super softly cushioned and sells for  €300.- a pair.

Not being a big shopper, I still could not resist the opportunity to buy some stuff right “from the source”. I few T-shirts, polos, and socks did their job as travel memorabilia so to say.

The main outlet store has the dimensions of a sports megastore and offers a wide range of products at (steep) discounts. Fascinating to see the broad variety of sports clothing, including the latest new materials.

Plastic recycling is an important part on the ecological sustainability agenda. From waste plastic via cleansing / flaking and peletizing to new yarn and final products.

Football has always been at the core of adidas’ strategic DNA. Some of the biggest clubs in the world – amongst them Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, FC Liverpool – are sponsored by adidas.

After the brothers parted their ways, Rudolf Dassler set up his own shoe company just less than a mile away from adidas. He named his company “Puma”.

Although with annual sales of around €7 billion it is siginificantly smaller than adidas, PUMA has still evolved to be a global sportswear brand. It also sponsors football giants such as Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund.

PUMA’s factory outlet brand store is in size obviously not comparable to its counterpart adidas, but it nevertheless offers a good range of products. Unfortunately, my shopping budget has already been consumed after my visit to adidas.

Adidas’ and PUMA’s friend from across the Atlantic obviously could not resist to run its own factory outlet on the formers home turf. I very much enjoyed my trip to Herzogenaurach, where sportswear history has and is being made.