With more citation needed than there is peace in the Sudan, here is my, albeit slightly biased, little narrative of why Adidas has, and always will continue to outrun the Swoosh. Entirely my opinion, but it’s fact.
In The Beginning
It all started in 1920 in a little town in Germany in their Mother’s kitchen. Adi along with his older brother Rudi, after having learnt much from their father Christoph Dassler, created their first running shoe using tools left abandoned by WW1 soldiers. Inspired by shoemaking pedigree Joseph William Foster (which much later became Reebok, now a subsidiary company of Adidas and has been since 2005) they set up the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory in 1924. It’s safe to say it was in their blood. Their big break came in 1936 when, I guess you could call it the very first “celebrity endorsement”, in which they provided Jesse Owens with a pair of Dassler running spikes. To cut a long family feud short, Rudi supposedly went on to sleep with Adi’s wife Kathe in 1943, (thus started a bitter division so deep it would continue after their death), the Dassler Brothers, split not long after.
In 1947 (with almost a quarter of a century head start on the swoosh), Adi founded Adidas and would go forth to almost single-handedly redefine the sporting goods industry, raising the (cross)bar a mile. His brother Rudi founded Puma a year later in 1948. Never mind Rudi lad, the Puma Clyde was cool.
On Your Marks, Get Set, Endorse!
The 1970’s gave way to the new brand on the block. Originally Blue Ribbon Sports founded by Bill Bowerman, it officially became Nike, (named after the Greek Goddess of Victory) in 1971 and quickly encroached on Adidas’ territory. Bill took a pair of flip flops, ripped the sole off, (yes, that’s right, ripped the sole off a flip flop), grafted it on to running shoe and et voila, the Cortez was born. The first official running shoe from Nike. Lacking just a little finery there, in my opinion.
Now then, the Superstar. There’s a classic. Made just before Nike came on the scene in 1969. Catching the attention of some of the best NBA players, it was the first all leather low top basketball shoe. Precise, clean and timeless. Idolised by Run DMC, who dedicated a song to it no less, worshipped by B-Boys, Adidas was fast becoming stitched in to the very consciousness of dedicated hip hop sneaker heads everywhere. It’s more than a trainer, it represents a glorious moment in time impossible to replicate. It’s a lifestyle.
Sure Nike has a cool 30 year history. The Nike Air Force (1982), the Nike Air Jordan (1984), the Nike Air Max (1987). Cool celebrity collaboration after celebrity collaboration that any amount of money could buy. Nike supply shirts to 26 football clubs as opposed to Adidas’ 18. We could compare an analysis of marketing strategies and I’m sure Nike would come out on top. Nike has more song mentions than Adidas, but then Nike is easier to rhyme with. Ask any 18 year old and they’re sure to choose Nike, they just haven’t popped their sneaker cherry yet.
Adidas has a culture no amount of clever marketing could ever buy. It’s less gaudy and more affordable. Much less snobby and you can wear it head to toe. You can’t do that with the tick. Well, you can, but you’ll look a tick.
Nike just does not have the same connection with music and sub-culture that Adidas has, never will.
“Impossible is Nothing”, or “Just do It”, which is your philosophy?