The Legendary Pele and the Story of the Adidas-Puma Rivalry

2023-12-31 10:20:06

It is not a coincidence that the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) chose the late Brazilian star Pele as the player of the twentieth century. He was an inspiration for many football legends over the years, and he went beyond that to appear as a tremendous marketing value as well.

There are many wonderful stories of Pele that have emerged throughout his amazing football career, however, perhaps the greatest story of all is the one told by businessman and sports investor Joe Pompliano on the “X” platform (formerly Twitter) about how the brothers who created Adidas and Puma came to be. Bitter rivals, which led to Pelé being paid $120,000 to tie the laces of his sneakers at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.

The story begins with the two brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler, who founded a sports shoe company in the German town of Herzogenaurach, and achieved great success in a short time, but they separated after their relationship became strained, which is why Adolf established the “Adidas” company, while the other launched the “Puma” company.

The two brothers competed with each other in their hometowns, then became famous in Germany and then in Europe and the world. The two companies grew significantly, and each of them owned a huge brand.

When the goods produced by the two companies began to spread and sales flourished, it was necessary to search for means and methods to promote the products and make them global. The fastest way was to sponsor sports stars, especially football players.

Hiring Pele – who is considered the first real world football star – was an effective step for greater sales and greater promotion.

In order to avoid further conflicts between the two brothers, Adolf and Rudolf reached the “Pele Pact”, which stipulated that neither company would sign a sponsorship contract with the Brazilian legend, because the competition between them to win his services was igniting a bidding war between them and could lead to the bankruptcy of both companies.

But Rudolf Dassler did not abide by the agreement, and Puma contracted with Pele and looked for a smart way to announce his contract and that he had become the face of the company.

The method was that it paid Pele $120,000 (the equivalent of about a million dollars these days) if he stopped to tie his shoes in the middle of the field shortly before the start of Brazil’s match against Peru in the quarter-finals of the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.

So much so that Puma paid a photographer that day (June 14) to enlarge the photo of Pele tying his shoes, allowing audiences around the world to see him wearing Puma shoes.

It was a clever way to announce to the world that Pele now preferred Puma, but Adolf and Adidas were angry about his brother sneaking around their agreement and contracting with the Brazilian star, which fueled the rivalry between them.

The deal saw Puma achieve record sales, because Pele was at the time one of the most popular athletes in the world, and his stardom extended beyond the green rectangle.

To this day, no player has succeeded in approaching Pele’s legendary number in the World Cup, as he is still the only player to win the World Cup 3 times in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

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