The Adidas Logo & Brand: A Story Of Heritage And Rivalry

January 30, 2023

By: Ryan Lau

The Adidas Logo & Brand: A Story Of Heritage And Rivalry

The Adidas logo is recognizable around the world, regardless of language or culture. As an iconic brand with deep historical roots, it deserves its reputation. Adidas has grown from a small local sportswear provider in rural Germany into one of the world's top sneaker and athletic wear providers.

As Adidas continues to expand and challenge Nike's position as the industry leader, it's beneficial to look at the origins, development, and branding of the company.

The Adidas logo evolution through the years

Let’s take a look at how far the Adidas logo has come in all these years since 1924.

1924 to 1949: Family matters

1924-1949
1924-1949

Adidas' first logo was created by the company's founders, Adolf "Adi" Dassler and Rudolf “Rudi” Dassler. The logo, which features a bird carrying a sneaker, was inspired by the Dassler family crest, symbolizing the challenges that athletes face and conquer. The company was originally called Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik (Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory).

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1949 to 1950: A fresh start

1949-1950
1949-1950

After Adi split from his brother, he needed a new brand name and logo design; thus, Adidas was born. Rudolf, on the other hand, founded Puma and focused on the production of soccer shoes.

The original Adidas logo featured both his name and the distinctive track spikes for which he became famous. This logo was used briefly while the company was getting its feet under it.

1950 to 1971: The name we know today

1950-1971
1950-1971

The simpler logo, which shares the same name, was widely accepted. The logo was simplified by removing the shoe and the term "sportschuhe," and a slight change in the font was also implemented.

There would be no deviation from the previously used monochrome color scheme for this logo, and it would be used for all future logos as well.

1967 to today: A compilation of designs

Adidas' logos have remained largely unchanged over the years. On the other hand, as the company expanded and unveiled new product lines and branding, it kept adding new logos. That being said, they are all instantly recognizable and accomplish their intended tasks admirably.

Let's go through these in order of their occurrence in history.

The wordmark (1967)

Originated in 1967
Originated in 1967

The original version of the Adidas logo debuted in 1967 and is still in use today. This new logo is essentially the same as the old one except for the changed font and inverted brand colors of black and white. This logo is used across all of their current retail locations and promotional materials because of its simplicity and effectiveness.

The trefoil logo (1971)

Originated in 1971
Originated in 1971

Alternate Adidas logos first appeared in 1971. In addition to the wordmark, the three stripes that have become a symbol of the brand are still visible near the bottom. It's a plant with three intertwined leaves, symbolizing the variety of products available from Adidas.

Their trefoil logo can be seen predominantly in their lifestyle and casual wear. Popularized by celebrities such as musicians and social media influencers, this range is more expensive without offering any functional benefits.

The likes of Kanye West, Run DMC, Pharrell Williams, and many more celebrities have helped promote this line.

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The mountain logo (1991)

Originated in 1991
Originated in 1991

Numerous people believe that this logo, which debuted in 1991, is the most widespread. The traditional watermark of three parallel lines remains intact, but now the lines are at an angle. This logo conveys strength and cleanliness at the same time.

The Adidas EQT line, the company's athletic line, features this logo. This is the Adidas logo that has become widely recognized as the brand's signature look, and it can be seen on everything from pants and shirts to, of course, shoes.

Likened to a mountain, Adidas says it represents “the challenge to be faced and the goals to be achieved.” With Stars like James Harden and Lionel Messi, this line has the goal of making products to help athletes be better than their competition.

Circle logo (2002)

Originated in 2002
Originated in 2002

The circle emblem comes next. It's one of the most up-to-date logos, having debuted in 2002. This logo maintains the refined monochromatic style and the classic three-stripe motif. This logo is only allowed on NEO and collaborative items that are primarily concerned with streetwear and fashion.

Horizontal lines logo (2005)

Originated in 2005
Originated in 2005

Here we have the latest Adidas logo. They debuted in 2005 and can be identified by their horizontal, straight stripes that run from left to right. As a result of its minimalistic style, it can be quickly identified.

The LOGO.com versions of the Adidas logo design

Even if you're a die-hard admirer of rival brands Nike or Puma, you can't help but recognize Adidas' iconic three-stripe emblem. But could the famous design be reimagined?

Design similar versions of the Adidas logo below and take them home for free!

Adidas logo variation
Click the image to customize this logo
Adidas logo variation
Click the image to customize this logo

Thanks to a few subtle tweaks, we now have not one but two Adidas logo variations to take inspiration from.

Design elements of the Adidas logo

For almost all of its nearly century-long existence, the Adidas logo has consisted only of black and white stripes. This has been kept around in part because of its historical significance, but there are other advantages as well.

Tags and emblems can be printed with the logo much more easily, and if desired, the logo can take on any color for holidays or alternate color schemes.

Having four logos on the page at once isn't as straightforward as having them all be black and white. Some may question the rationale behind Adidas's use of multiple logo variations. Well, they make collections of clothes with a particular message in mind.

Adidas wordmark

Found on various products such as clothing, shoes, and accessories. It represents the brand's commitment to creating high-quality athletic products that enhance the performance of athletes.

Adidas mountain logo

Found primarily on outdoor and sportswear products. The logo features a stylized mountain with three parallel stripes running through it. It represents the brand's focus on creating products that help people tackle any obstacle, whether it be in sports or outdoor activities.

Adidas trefoil logo

Found in its classic and heritage-style clothing and footwear products. The trefoil represents the brand's heritage and its connection to its roots in sports. The three leaves symbolize the brand's focus on diversity, inclusiveness, and global reach.

Adidas circular logo

Found primarily on their street fashion line and products under brand collaborations. The circle represents unity between different mindsets and the determination to break boundaries.

Adidas ‘three lines’ logo

Found on its athletic footwear, clothing, and accessories. The three stripes represent the brand's ambition to challenge the status quo, push boundaries and strive for progress, both in the world of sports and beyond.

All of their logos feature the same legible sans-serif font. This trademark is used exclusively in lowercase letters to emphasize the label's laid-back approach to fashion.

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5 jaw-dropping fun facts about Adidas you won’t believe

Here are five interesting tidbits about Adidas that any self-respecting sneakerhead should be aware of.

1. There was a park known as Adidas Park in Boston

In Dorchester in the 1980s, there was a park where you must wear Adidas. If you didn’t, you would have your sneakers taken and thrown in a tree! You could find a tree in the park full of Nikes, Pumas, and anything other than Adidas. The trend didn’t last long, though.

2. Puma signed an athlete to spite Adidas

Boris Becker | Source: Daily Mail
Boris Becker | Source: Daily Mail

A rivalry between two brothers can pave the way to lifelong competition, and Puma and Adidas are perfect examples of this.

Back in 1984, Tennis star Boris Becker’s contract with Adidas expired. The rivalry between the two brands was so fierce that Puma picked up the star just so that Adidas couldn't have him.

3. The Stan Smith sneaker was almost named something else

The ‘Stan Smith,’ Adidas’s most iconic sneaker, was originally intended to be named after Robert Haillet, the iconic French tennis star, and not Stanley Smith.

4. Adidas paved the way for fitness technology

The Adidas Micropacer | Source: Sole Collector
The Adidas Micropacer | Source: Sole Collector

Adidas was the first to introduce a microchip into the design of their sneakers. The Adidas Micropacer featured a computer display that allowed athletes to check their heart rate and the number of calories they burned, among other things.

5. Adidas once sued Payless

Adidas sued Payless ShoeSource in 2008 for releasing a pair of sneakers featuring four stripes instead of 3. They eventually settled for the sum of $305 million.

A brief history of Adidas

The shoe company's origins can be traced back to just after World War 1. Started by Adolf “Adi '' Dassler and his brother in the 1920s, the Dassler Brothers Shoe Company would eventually give birth to Adidas.

Adolf “Adi '' Dassler | Source: GamePlan A
Adolf “Adi '' Dassler | Source: GamePlan A

Adi was born in Herzogenaurach, a small town in Germany known for shoemaking. However, as a teen, he was pushed into a baking apprenticeship by his father and was on course to join the industry. But he was soon drafted into the military to fight in the First World War.

After the war, he started an athletic shoe business, even creating a bike-powered leather milling machine. He provided samples of his shoes to sports clubs in the area as a way of marketing. The athletes could try out the shoes, and often, they loved them. Adi’s brother Rudi joined the company in 1923, and a year later, they registered their company as the Dassler Brothers Shoe Company.

Adi and Rudi Dassler | Source: PTAMA.net
Adi and Rudi Dassler | Source: PTAMA.net

They made an amazing team. Adi was the mastermind behind the shoes, constantly adjusting and improving the product, while Rudi was at the front of the company and an incredible salesman.

By 1928, their shoes could be found in the Olympics, and they began filing patents for their shoes. Shortly after came the 1936 Olympic games, one of the biggest moments for the brand.‍

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In these games, Jesse Owens embarrassed the Nazi party by winning four gold medals and breaking nine Olympic records while wearing the Dassler brothers’ shoes!

The brothers didn’t only provide shoes for Owens. Ultimately, seven gold and five silver or bronze medals were won by athletes wearing their shoes. Many believe that these games were the event that made the company a major player in the shoe market.

Jesse Owens | Source: Sports Illustrated
Jesse Owens | Source: Sports Illustrated

However, things would soon turn sour. The relationship between the two brothers deteriorated throughout the second world war, with Rudi deserting the Army and allegedly being arrested due to a denunciation from Adi.

This created a rift between the brothers. This rift only deepened when Rudi testified against his brother during a hearing about Adi’s association with the Nazi party after the war.

In 1949, the brothers decided to go their separate ways, with Rudi moving to a small factory across town. All of the other assets were divided, including patents and even workers. The workers were allowed to choose which brother they joined. Most of the sales and admin sided with Rudi, while those who worked with the shoes sided with Adi.

In March of 1949, Adi would form Adidas, a combination of his first and last name, while his brother would go on to create Puma. Yes, today, the founders of both Adidas and Puma are brothers.

The rivalry between brother founders of Adidas and Puma | Source: Failure Before Success
The rivalry between brother founders of Adidas and Puma | Source: Failure Before Success

Over the years, Adidas would continue to grow. They would become famous in both soccer and track and field, with another significant branding moment coming from the 1954 world cup, where they sponsored the winning West German team.

Unfortunately, in the second half of the 20th century, Adidas struggled to stay near the top of the shoe and sports goods market. With companies like Nike, Under Armor, and Puma growing quickly and the company having a few difficult managerial moments, Adidas had to continue to make changes and grow.

Going public in 1995, they returned to their original goal of making athletes better. The next few years produced some of Adidas’s best products.

Nike's most successful product, the Adidas Superstar | Source: Tatler Asia
Nike's most successful product, the Adidas Superstar | Source: Tatler Asia

Today with over 1000 stores and a 20% share of the sneaker market, Adidas has been and continues to be, one of the largest businesses in the space.

Frequently asked questions about the Adidas logo

What are some commonly asked questions about the Adidas logo and brand? Get your questions answered with these three FAQs.

1. Where did Adidas get the 3 stripes from?

From the two stripes sewn onto the sides of the Dassler brothers' cleats came the now-iconic three stripes found on all Adidas footwear. The shoe's identifying stripes served a dual purpose: they helped build the shoe and represented the brothers' teamwork.

2. Who owns Adidas now?

Horst Dassler, Adolf's son, passed away in 1987, so the company was sold and is no longer in the Dassler family. The original Adidas brand has been replaced by Adidas AG, a multinational corporation with multiple shareholders. Bayern Munich, a football team, and Runtastic, an Austrian fitness company, are the two primary shareholders.

3. What was Adidas’ original name?

Adidas’ original name was Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik. Adi Dassler, having begun his business in his mother's wash kitchen, formally established the 'Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik' in 1924 and set out to supply athletes with the finest gear available.

Bottom line

Over the years, Adidas has built a solid reputation for producing reliable products. The Adidas logo and brand have become synonymous with high-quality athletic performance thanks to extensive marketing and endorsements from prominent figures across a wide range of fields.

Despite facing challenges and failures along the way, the company has become a household name, proving that a symbol can represent an entire company.

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