The company was started by Adolf Dassler in his mother's house; he was joined by his elder brother Rudolf in 1924 under the name Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory. Dassler assisted in the development of spiked running shoes (spikes) for multiple athletic events. To enhance the quality of spiked athletic footwear, he transitioned from a previous model of heavy metal spikes to utilising canvas and rubber. Dassler persuaded U.S. sprinter Jesse Owens to use his handmade spikes at the 1936 Summer Olympics. In 1949, following a breakdown in the relationship between the brothers, Adolf created Adidas, and Rudolf established Puma, which became Adidas' business rival.
Adidas was founded by Adolf "Adi" Dassler who made sports shoes in his mother's scullery or laundry room in Herzogenaurach, Germany after his return from World War I. In July 1924, his older brother Rudolf joined the business, which became Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory (Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik). The electricity supply in Herzogenaurach was unreliable, so the brothers sometimes had to use pedal power from a stationary bicycle to run their equipment.
Both Dassler brothers joined the NSDAP in May 1933 and became also members of the National Socialist Motor Corps. Furthermore, Adolf took the rank of Sportwart in the Hitler Youth from 1935 until the end of the war. During the war, the company was running the last sport shoe factory in the country and predominantly supplied the Wehrmacht with shoes. In 1943 the shoe production was forced to cease operations and the company’s facilities and workforce was used to manufacture anti-tank weapons. From 1942 to 1945 at least nine forced labourers were working at both sites of the company.
Dassler assisted in the development of spiked running shoes (spikes) for multiple athletic events. To enhance the quality of spiked athletic footwear, he transitioned from a previous model of heavy metal spikes to utilising canvas and rubber. In 1936, Dassler persuaded U.S. sprinter Jesse Owens to use his hand made spikes at the 1936 Summer Olympics. Following Owens' four gold medals, the name and reputation of Dassler shoes became known to the world's sportsmen and their trainers. Business was successful and the Dasslers were selling 200,000 pairs of shoes every year before World War II.
The Dassler factory, used for production of anti-tank weapons during the Second World War, was nearly destroyed in 1945 by US forces, but was spared when Adolf Dassler's wife convinced the GIs that the company and its employees were only interested in manufacturing sports shoes. American occupying forces subsequently became major buyers of the Dassler brothers' shoes.
The brothers split up in 1947 after relations between them had broken down, with Rudolf forming a new firm that he called Ruda – from Rudolf Dassler, later rebranded Puma, and Dassler forming a company formally registered as Adidas AG from Adi Dassler on 18 August 1949. An urban myth has promulgated the backronym All Day I Dream About Sports.
In 1948, the first football match after World War II, several members of the West German national football team wore Puma boots, including the scorer of West Germany's first post-war goal, Herbert Burdenski. Four years later, at the 1952 Summer Olympics, 1500 metres runner Josy Barthel of Luxembourg won Puma's first Olympic gold in Helsinki, Finland.
Adidas' logo is three stripes, which is used on the company's clothing and shoe designs as a marketing aid. The branding, which Adidas bought in 1952 from Finnish sports company Karhu Sports, became so successful that Dassler described Adidas as "The three stripes company".
In 1952, following the 1952 Summer Olympics, Adidas acquired its signature 3-stripe logo from the Finnish athletic footwear brand Karhu Sports, for two bottles of whiskey and the equivalent of 1600 euros.
Adilette was the first ever pair of sandals made by Adidas, originally developed in 1963. Adidas claims that a group of athletes approached Adi Dassler requesting a shoe be made for the locker room.
The first Adidas item of apparel was the Franz Beckenbauer tracksuit created in 1967. Adidas AG is the largest manufacturer of sports bras in Europe, and the second largest manufacturer in the world.
Since 1970, FIFA, the world governing body of football, has commissioned specially designed footballs for use in its own World Cup tournaments. The Adidas Telstar was the first ball commissioned for the World Cup in 1970. The balls supplied for the 2006 World Cup, the "Teamgeist", were particularly noteworthy for their ability to travel further than previous types when struck, leading to longer range goals. Goalkeepers were generally believed to be less comfortable with the design of the ball, claiming it was prone to move significantly and unpredictably in flight. Adidas introduced the Jabulani for the 2010 World Cup. The ball was designed and developed by Loughborough University in conjunction with Bayern Munich. The Adidas Brazuca was the match ball of the 2014 World Cup, the first World Cup ball named by the fans.
After a period of trouble following the death of Adolf Dassler's son Horst Dassler in 1987, the company was bought in 1989 by French industrialist Bernard Tapie, for ₣1.6 billion (now €243.9 million), which Tapie borrowed. Tapie was at the time a famous specialist of rescuing bankrupt companies, an expertise on which he built his fortune.
In 1992, unable to pay the loan interest, Tapie mandated the Crédit Lyonnais bank to sell Adidas, and the bank subsequently converted the outstanding debt owed into equity of the enterprise, which was unusual as per the prevalent French banking practice. The state-owned bank had tried to get Tapie out of dire financial straits as a personal favour to Tapie, it is reported, because Tapie was Minister of Urban Affairs (ministre de la Ville) in the French government at the time.
In 1994, combined with FIFA Youth Group, SOS Children's Villages became the main beneficiary.
Robert Louis-Dreyfus, a friend of Bernard Tapie, became the new CEO of the company in 1994. He was also the president of Olympique de Marseille, a team Tapie had owned until 1993. Tapie filed for personal bankruptcy in 1994. He was the object of several lawsuits, notably related to match fixing at the football club. During 1997, he served 6 months of an 18-month prison sentence in La Santé prison in Paris. In February 2000, Crédit Lyonnais sold Adidas to Louis-Dreyfus for a much higher amount of money than Tapie owed, 4.485 billion (€683.514 million) francs rather than 2.85 billion (€434.479 million). They also purposely bankrupted Tapie's company that owned Adidas, because only the company had the right to sue them.
In 1997, Adidas AG acquired the Salomon Group who specialized in ski wear, and its official corporate name was changed to Adidas-Salomon AG. With this acquisition Adidas also acquired the Taylormade Golf company and Maxfli, which allowed them to compete with Nike Golf.
In 1998, Adidas sued the NCAA over their rules limiting the size and number of commercial logos on team uniforms and team clothing. Adidas withdrew the suit, and the two groups established guidelines as to what three-stripe designs would be considered uses of the Adidas trademark.
As CEO of Adidas, Louis-Dreyfus quadrupled revenue to 5.84 billion euros ($7.5 billion) from 1993 through 2000. In 2000, he announced he would resign the following year, due to illness.
On 11 April 2006, Adidas announced an 11-year deal to become the official NBA clothing provider. The company has been making NBA, NBDL, and WNBA jerseys and products as well as team-coloured versions of the "Superstar" basketball shoe. This deal (worth over $400 million) took over the previous Reebok deal that had been put in place in 2001 for 10 years.
Adidas has sponsored numerous basketball players past and present like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Tracy McGrady, as well as Chauncey Billups, Derrick Rose, Brandon Knight, Eric Gordon, Josh Smith, Damian Lillard, Andrew Wiggins, Tim Duncan, Jeremy Lin, Iman Shumpert, John Wall and Nick Young. Adidas endorsed Kobe Bryant with the Adidas Equipment KB8 as his first signature shoe until July 2002. The company also endorsed Kevin Garnett until he opted out of his contract in 2010. Gilbert Arenas was an Adidas endorser until 2010. In August 2015, James Harden left Nike for Adidas by signing a 13-year contract reportedly worth US$200 million.
In 2003, Adidas filed a lawsuit in a British court challenging Fitness World Trading's use of a two-stripe motif similar to Adidas's three stripes. The court ruled that despite the simplicity of the mark, Fitness World 's use was infringing because the public could establish a link between that use and Adidas's mark.
Launched in 2004, "Impossible is Nothing" is one of the company's most memorable campaigns. The campaign was developed by 180/TBWA based in Amsterdam, but significant work was also done by TBWA\Chiat\Day in San Francisco. A few years later, Adidas launched a basketball specific campaign -- "Believe in 5ive"—for the 2006-2007 NBA season.
In September 2004, top English fashion designer Stella McCartney launched a joint-venture line with Adidas, establishing a long-term partnership with the corporation. This line is a sports performance collection for women called "Adidas by Stella McCartney", and it has been critically acclaimed.
Adidas has been criticized for operating sweatshops, particularly in Indonesia. Between 2006 and 2007, Adidas rejected many of its suppliers that supported unions in favour of subcontractors with worse labour rights records. By subcontracting work to different suppliers, it is more difficult for Adidas to ensure company labour standards are enforced. Adidas' policy includes the freedom for workers to take part in collective bargaining and a non-retaliation policy towards workers who express concerns. In practice, however, many of Adidas' suppliers have not upheld these standards. At the Panarub factory in Java, 33 workers were fired after striking for better pay in 2005. PT Kizone is another Indonesian factory where Adidas has been criticized over treatment of workers. They produced products for Adidas as well as Nike and the Dallas Cowboys until they closed in January 2011. 2,686 workers who were laid off are owed $3 million in severance pay and benefits. Nike has contributed $1.5 million but Adidas has not acted. A campaign has been initiated by United Students Against Sweatshops calling for universities to cut contracts with Adidas. On 16 July 2012, War on Want organised activists in London to replace Adidas price tags in sports stores with 34p ones, a reference to the low hourly wage rate paid to the Indonesian workers who make Adidas goods. The campaign group Labour Behind the Label claimed that the basic pay of Indonesian Adidas workers was only £10 a week. William Anderson, head of social and environmental affairs for the Asia Pacific region, posted an entry on the company blog in which he claimed that total wages including bonuses and overtime were often double the hourly wage, and drew attention to purchasing power parity.
In 2005, Adidas introduced the Adidas 1, the first ever production shoe to use a microprocessor. Dubbed by the company "The World's First Intelligent Shoe", it features a microprocessor capable of performing 5 million calculations per second that automatically adjusts the shoe's level of cushioning to suit its environment. The shoe requires a small, user-replaceable battery that lasts for approximately 100 hours of running. On 25 November 2005, Adidas released a new version of the Adidas 1 with an increased range of cushioning, allowing the shoe to become softer or firmer, and a new motor with 153 percent more torque.
Also, on 3 May 2005, Adidas told the public that they sold their partner company Salomon Group for €485m to Amer Sports of Finland. In August 2005, Adidas declared its intention to buy Reebok for $3.8 billion (US$). This takeover was completed with partnership in January 2006 and meant that the company had business sales closer to those of Nike in North America. The acquisition of Reebok also allowed Adidas to compete with Nike worldwide as the number two athletic shoemaker in the world.
Adidas began manufacturing cricket footwear in the mid 1970s, with their initial target market being Australia. Their shoes were a radical departure from traditional leather cricket boots which had remained basically unchanged for decades, being lighter and more flexible but also offering less toe protection, so that it became not uncommon to see batsmen who had been struck by the ball on the foot hopping around in pain. Having continued to manufacture cricket footwear for many years, in 2006 the company finally entered the field of bat manufacture in 2008 and currently their bat range includes the Pellara, Incurza, Libro and M-Blaster models.
From 2000 to 2012, Adidas has provided men's and women's gymnastics wear for Team USA, through USA Gymnastics. USA Gymnastics and Adidas sponsorship concluded at the end of 2012. In 2006, Adidas gymnastics leotards for women and Adidas men's competition shirts, gymnastics pants and gymnastics shorts have been available in the United States, with seasonal leotards offered for Spring, Summer, Fall and Holidays. Adidas previous collaborated with GK Elite, since Spring 2013, Adidas gymnastics products have been available worldwide through Elegant Sports. USA Olympic team members McKayla Maroney, Jordyn Wieber, Jake Dalton and Danell Leyva are all sponsored by Adidas gymnastics.
In 2007, Adidas announced its entering to the lacrosse equipment, also sponsoring the Adidas National Lacrosse Classic in July 2008 for the top 600 high school underclassmen players in the United States. The company made their self into their own brand such as "Adidas Lacrosse", getting several scholarships, Bucknell (men and women), Bryant (men), Delaware (men and women), New Jersey Institute of Technology (men), and D3 powerhouse Lynchburg (men and women in fall of 2016 with soft good only)". Materials that adidas provided were jerseys, shorts, shoes, shafts, heads, gloves, and protective pieces.
In 2008, Adidas made a concerted move into English cricket market by sponsoring English batting star Kevin Pietersen after the cancellation of his lifetime deal with Woodworm, when they ran into financial difficulties. The following year they signed up fellow England player Ian Bell, Pakistan opening batsman Salman Butt and Indian Player Ravindra Jadeja.
In November 2009, World Number 4 tennis player Andy Murray was confirmed as Adidas' highest-paid star with a five-year contract reportedly worth US$24.5 million. In Cincinnati, at the ATP Tennis Tournament in Mason, they have also sponsored the ball-boy and ball-girl uniforms. Adidas is also partners with Malibu Tennis Camp, Green Fitness GmbH and with Schöler & Micke Sportartikel Vertriebs GmbH.
For years, Adidas purchased paper for its packaging from Asia Pulp & Paper, the third largest paper producer in the world, which was labeled as a "forest criminal" for destroying "precious habitat" in Indonesia's rainforest. In 2011, when Adidas cancelled its contract with Asia Pulp & Paper, Greenpeace Executive Director Phil Radford commended Adidas for efforts made towards forest protection, for "taking rainforest conservation seriously."
In 2011, "Adidas is all in" became the global marketing strategy slogan for Adidas. The slogan aimed to tie all brands and labels together, presenting a unified image to consumers interested in sports, fashion, street, music and pop culture. There appears to be connection with the phrase "all-in" meaning "exhausted" in some English speaking nations.
In the Indian Premier League (IPL), Adidas sponsored the team Mumbai Indians from 2008 to 2014 and Delhi Daredevils from 2008 to 2013. They were the official sponsors of Pune Warriors India in 2011 and 2012, however the team was banned from IPL due to payment issues. In 2015 Season, Adidas sponsored Royal Challengers Bangalore.
In November 2011, Adidas announced that it would acquire outdoor action sport performance brand Five Ten through a share purchase agreement. The total purchase price was US$25 million in cash at closing.
On 14 June 2012, Adidas posted on their Facebook page a picture of a pair of Jeremy Scott-designed shoes containing shackles. The picture was of a planned shoe line that Adidas intended to release in July. The photo quickly caused controversy including that of Jesse Jackson who was quoted as saying "The attempt to commercialize and make popular more than 200 years of human degradation, where blacks were considered three-fifths human by our Constitution is offensive, appalling and insensitive". Jackson threatened a boycott, and NBA commissioner David Stern was at one point reportedly contacted in hopes that he would intervene. Shortly after the outcry, the company cancelled the product.
Adidas entered Kabaddi which is still a non-Olympic sport but highly popular in the Indian subcontinent and Asian countries. In 2014, with the launch of Pro Kabaddi League a city based franchise league in India, kabaddi took the region with storm. In 2015, they tied up with Mumbai-based franchise U Mumba.
In April 2014, one of the biggest strikes on mainland China took place at the Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings Dongguan shoe factory, producing amongst others for Adidas.
In July 2014, Adidas and Manchester United agreed to a ten-year kit deal, beginning with the 2015–16 Premier League season. This kit deal has a guaranteed minimum value of £750 million (US$1.29 billion), making it the most valuable kit deal in sports history, and replaced rival Nike as the club's global equipment partner.
Adidas announced they would be launching a new $199 Fit Smart wristband in mid-August 2014. The wristband will pair with Adidas's miCoach app, which acts as a personal trainer.
In 2015, Adidas launched "Creating the New" as its new strategic business plan until 2020. This plan has three strategic choices: speed, cities and open source.
India has been a very speculative market for Adidas. Despite this Dave Thomas, managing director of Adidas in India is ambitious of the country's potential. The company hopes to double its revenue from Rs. 805 crores by 2020. In 2015, the company had signed Ranveer Singh a prominent Bollywood actor as a brand ambassador to the company's products. Ranveer then was a budding actor. The company later decided to use the people's almost religious adoration for the game cricket to promote their brand. It soon launched a new cricket campaign in the country. The campaign was called FeelLoveUseHate with prominent Indian cricketer Virat Kohli. However, in 2017, Virat Kohli was removed as the brand ambassador of the company. The cricketer later signed a major deal with Puma India. The company also sells its products online through e-commerce websites such as Myntra, Snapdeal, Jabong and Amazon. Adidas also has a website dedicated to the Indian audience that markets and sells products to its consumers in India.
In January 2015, Adidas launched the footwear industry's first reservation mobile app. The Adidas Confirmed app allows consumers to get access to and reserve the brand's limited edition sneakers by using geo targeting technology
On 24 March 2015, Adidas and McDonald's unveiled the 2015 McDonald's All-American uniforms. For the third year in a row, players will be wearing short-sleeved jerseys, made with the same lightweight and breathable material as the ones used in the NBA.
In August 2015, Adidas acquired fitness technology firm Runtastic for approximately $240 million.
Adidas currently manufactures several running and lifestyle shoes, including the Energy-boost, and the spring-blade trainers. I The brand has built a strong runners' network within big European capitals, such as Paris' "Boost Energy League". In 2016 the 3rd season launched. In Paris, the Boost Energy League gathers 11 teams representing different districts of Paris.
In 2016, it had filed lawsuits against Skechers, one for making a duplicate Stan Smith design, and another for Adidas replicas such as "Springblade".
Adidas launched two new color ways of the NMD R1 and one new color way of the NMD XR1 in September 2016. adidas EQT is a style of sneakers from adidas. It originated in the early 90s and relaunched in 2017. The latest adidas EQT line released in a "Turo Red" Pack on 26 January 2017, and included models such as the adidas EQT Support 93/17, EQT Support ADV, and EQT Support Ultra. adidas.com is one of the few online retailers.
In November 2016, Adidas teased a sneaker made from ocean plastic. The shoe is created from a fabric called "Biosteel". The shoe is called the "Adidas Futurecraft Biofabric." The material used is 15% lighter than conventional silk fibers, and is 100% biodegradable. The shoe only begin to dissolve when it is put in contact with a high concentration of the digestion enzyme proteinase, which occurs naturally. Once this happens, the shoes can decompose within 36 hours. The shoe was never released.
In 2018 Adidas promoted a line of Soviet themed items, after a social media outcry they were taken off the market.