Instead of the more common and boring purposes for founding a company (making money, providing a needed service, tax evasion, etc.), Puma was founded on sibling rivalry; a far more interesting and ancient (Cain and Abel, anyone?) cause. In 1924, after several years spent making athletics shoes in their parents' laundry room, Rudolf and Adi Dassler founded the Gebruder Dassler Schuhfabrik (Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory) in the small, virtually unpronounceable town of Herzogenaurach, Germany. The brothers were measurably successful together, creating some of the first spiked athletics shoes in the world. In the 1936 Olympic games held in Berlin, Jesse Owens famously ran for four gold medals in shoes manufactured by the Dassler brothers.
The company seemed on the verge of success before World War II broke out. The brothers were enlisted to fight and the factory was repurposed by the German government. At the war's end, the brothers were unable to work together anymore (various stories blame everyone from the Dassler's wives to the Nazi party for the split), and in 1948, older brother Rudi packed up and moved across the Aurach river to found Puma on the other side of Herzogenaurach, creating a familial and company rivalry that would divide the Dasslers and the town itself into two opposing camps: Puma vs. the Gebruder Dassler Schuhfabrik, now renamed adidas.
Rudi immediately put himself into direct competition with his brother by releasing the Puma Atom, a soccer cleat, and in 1949 he began developing a design for soccer cleats with removable spikes for adjustable traction in varying field conditions. In 1950, several members of the West German soccer team wore Puma cleats in their first game since World War II. Among these players was Herbert Burdenski, scorer of West Germany's first post-war goal. Score one for Rudi. Puma tested and launched the Super Atom in 1952, and considering the hostility between the brothers, we're probably lucky this was only a soccer cleat. In 1954, the Super Atom's successor, the Brasil, featuring the innovative new screw-in studs, was worn by eight out of eleven members of the Hannover 96 soccer club in their successful bid for the German national championship.
In the final game of the 1958 World Cup, members of both the Swedish and Brazilian teams wore Puma cleats, distinguished for the first time with the brand's distinctive formstrip. One of Brazil's players, a 17-year-old phenom named Pele, scored two key goals in his Pumas in the second half on the way to a 5-2 victory. This was the first of three World Cup wins credited to the legendary "King of Soccer" while sporting Puma shoes. Twenty-eight years later, Argentina's Diego Maradona-- named along with Pele as Fifa's "Player of the Century"-- wore Pumas throughout his "Player of the Tournament" winning performance in the 1986 World Cup including his infamous "Hand of God" goal (scored on an uncalled hand ball) and his deservedly famous "Goal of the Century" in which he dribbled past five English defenders to score.
Puma's success wasn't limited to soccer, however. In 1952, Josef Barthel of Luxemborg won Puma's first Olympic gold medal after finishing first in the 1500m, and in 1954 West German Heinz F?ºtterer set a world record in the 100m. In tennis, Boris Becker, 17 years old and wearing Pumas, became both the youngest player at the time and the first and only unseeded player to win Wimbledon. In the past decade, several famous athletes including Serena Williams, Oscar De La Hoya, and Vince Carter have competed in the Puma brand. In a move that would've made Rudi Dassler grin, the company signed a contract with the rock group Korn in 1998. You see, two years before, dressed from head to foot in the triple-stripe brand, the band had scored a hit with the song "A.D.I.D.A.S."