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Storytelling in the Sports Industry – The Hero’s Journey of Brand Giant Adidas
Brands Lifestyle & Health 4 July 2017

Storytelling in the Sports Industry – The Hero’s Journey of Brand Giant Adidas

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From distant dream to empire – The adidas hero’s journey

Adidas is one of the world market leaders in sportswear. But how did the dream of producing perfect sports shoes turn into this incredible company, which generates sales of almost 20 billion euros a year? A development that, like so many others, can be well explained and illustrated using the hero’s journey.

Heldenreise - Storytelling in the Sports Industry - The Hero's Journey of Brand Giant Adidas

In safety – The familiar world

After returning from the First World War, the young Adolf Dassler feels safe again in his familiar surroundings. In his home country. He sits contentedly in his mother’s laundry room and examines the canvas sneakers he has just finished making. Somehow he was given the footwear in the cradle. It was actually strange that, despite his father’s business specializing in the production of felt slippers, he decided to do an apprenticeship as a baker.

A distant dream – The call

The making of the sports shoes is slowly but surely taking shape. Adolf Dassler takes over his father’s company, bringing him one step closer to his ultimate goal. Sneakers that are perfectly adapted to  every athlete’s foot – that is the vision of the rather shy but highly motivated and talented Adolf Dassler.

The sports shoe temple in Herzogenaurach – Mentors for the ambitious young entrepreneur

In 1933, Adolf Dassler moves to Herzogenaurach, the stronghold of the shoe industry. The start of a new life is not only characterized by the newly acquired knowledge of the shoe trade. A new love and his marriage go hand in hand with the start of a new life.

The 1936 Olympic Games, a sporting adventure – Crossing the first threshold

The new father of a young son has a successful track record with Dassler shoes. Several athletes, including Jesse Owens, rely on the ideas made of leather. The American track and field athlete wins four gold medals with the footwear. The start of a new era in sports shoes has begun.

Blood thicker than water? – The relationship with Rudolf Dassler, how brothers became enemies

Everyone knows them. These friendships or acquaintances, where the saying “Those who have such friends no longer need enemies” comes in handy. It becomes even more complicated when your brother joins the company. As an experienced businessman, Rudolf Dassler keeps a particularly close eye on finances and accounting. There is friction and disagreement between the extroverted older brother and the young, more introverted visionary right from the start. At that time, however, nobody could have guessed that the allied brothers would one day become rival enemies who would not exchange a word with each other for decades until their deaths.

From convincing footwear to anti-tank weapons – Advancing to the deepest hell

It is not only personal and professional differences that drive the family feud between the two brothers. The Second World War drives a wedge between the two. Further problems arise. Both are drafted into the military again. To make matters worse, their shoe factory is converted into a production facility for anti-tank weapons. After the end of the war, the brothers are taken prisoner by the US. Involved statements to the American armed forces ultimately lead to the final cut in the relationship. The basic needs for security and social connectedness are once again violated. Adolf Dassler, the founder of today’s Adidas company, went through an emotional hell as a result of war and conflict.

Separation and competitive pressure – The crucial test

Anyone interested in the sporting goods industry will know that the two largest German sporting goods manufacturers in Germany have their headquarters in Herzogenaurach just a few hundred meters apart. What could be a bigger test for Adolf Dassler from a business perspective? After many disputes and finally a unanimous separation, Rudolf Dassler founds the company Puma (later ‘Puma Schuhfabrik – Rudolf Dassler’). Friction arises time and again, particularly due to the conclusion of contracts with athletes.

Adidas AG – Reward through success

In 1949, Adolf Dassler founds today’s Adidas AG. The acronym is made up of his nickname Adi and the first three letters of his surname. The company has made a name for itself and nothing stands in its way from an economic point of view. The founding of the AG is a decisive milestone in the history of the brand giant.

Creation of an empire – The way back to the original dream and a secure life

Over the years, Adolf Dassler registers 700 globally recognized patents and utility models. The gigantic life’s work is built up through diligence and tenacity. The work at Adidas AG and the realization of his dream can be symbolically interpreted as a way back. Another return from war and captivity, back to his passion – making sports shoes.

Adidas sw - Storytelling in the Sports Industry - The Hero's Journey of Brand Giant AdidasThe Miracle of Bern – An elixir of footballing success

Soccer is polarizing as a socially popular sport in Central Europe. The German national soccer team wears Adidas sports shoes during the 1954 World Cup in Bern. After their victory, Adidas’ previously unknown screw-in studs are adopted by the soccer world. What other sport could have achieved this rapid success in one fell swoop?

A family business until 1995 – The familiar world in a new dimension

Adolf Dassler dies at the age of 78. The family continues to run the company – including the usual disputes. From dreams in her mother’s laundry room, which she initially rather disgruntledly allowed to be misappropriated, Adidas has developed into the world market leader for sporting goods. Despite friction among those left behind by Adolf Dassler and the economic difficulties of the mid-1980s, the familiar world is restored and remains so to this day. Adidas takes over companies such as Salomon and Reebok or the Runtastic app and thus becomes a mentor itself.

Are you interested in more Heroes stories? Then read the story of Haribo’s 100th anniversary or LEGO’s hero’s journey to Storytelling Olympus.


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