Here’s How Adidas and its Logo Climbed Their Way to Success

Recognized by people from across the world, Adidas is the most active sportswear brand on social media, with an average of 6.7M image-shares per month. From the Olympic stage to the celebrity-inspired street wear style, the Adidas logo is a sign of supreme quality and style. The simple and single-color logo design was not what we see today. It has gone through multiple changes and only got better with every redesign

Adidas Logo Meaning and Evolution

The Adidas logo is so popular and celebrated that it’s almost impossible to believe that those famous three stripes were adopted from a completely different company. 

When Adolf Dassler first started making sports shoes in a small laundry room in Herzogenaurach, Germany, he couldn’t even dream that this was the beginning of one of the world’s biggest sportswear brands. His elder brother Rudolf joined hands with him in 1924. As time went by, their products started growing popular. By WWII, the two brothers Adolf and Rudolf sold approximately 200,000 pairs of shoes annually.

Unfortunately, the brothers split their ways in 1947 and each of them established his own company. While Adolf Dassler registered a brand under the name Adidas AG, Rudolf registered a company named Ruda. Even though both the brothers used the same naming mechanism for their companies (using the first letters of their names and surnames), Adolf’s acronym became more popular and successful. Rudolf’s brand was soon renamed Puma, which is now equally popular. Below, we’ll take a tour of Adidas’s history, the evolution of the Adidas logo and its design elements.

Adidas and its History

The brand’s founder, Adolf Dassler, took the side of the Germans in WWI and became a member of the Nazi party in WWII. On returning from the war, Dassler began crafting sports shoes in his mother’s kitchen. As mentioned above, although his younger brother Rudolf joined him initially, they soon had an altercation and Rudolf founded a company that was later named as Puma – one of Adidas’s bitter rivals.

Adidas – then called Dassler Shoes – got its first recognition when Adolf went to the 1936 Summer Olympics with a briefcase full of cleats and asked sprinter Jesse Owens to wear them during the sports. Jesse Owens became the first African-American to obtain sponsorship in the Olympics, and Dassler Shoes became famous overnight.

In 1947, Adolf finally changed the name of his brand to Adidas, similar to his nickname “Adi.” He owned and ran the company until 1987, when he traded it to a French investor named Bernard Tapie. Although Tapie was initially able to run Adidas successfully, he later failed to pay the interest on the loan he secured to buy the company and sold the company to Robert Louis -Dreyfus.

Adidas’ ownership changed a few more times in the following years as it grew more and more successful. Today, Adidas is the chief supplier of apparel for the NBA, NFL, and others, and the brand saw €19.3 billion in sales in 2016. Simultaneously, Adidas also leveraged effective marketing strategies that included a simple yet readily recognizable logo – a unique design they bought for €1,600 and two bottles of whiskey.

Adidas Logo History

There have been a lot of changes to the look and branding of the company over the past century. By the mid 20th century, Adidas’ logo was starting to take shape with an identity similar to the one it has today.

Until 1971

By 1924, the brand was slowly gaining momentum. The duo was selling approximately 200,000 pairs yearly under the Dassler logo. The company’s first logo design featured a bird carrying a lightweight shoe within a shield. In 1947, the brothers split following a rough time in their relationship. While Rudolf started Ruda (later renamed Puma), Adolf launched Adidas. Both the brands were named by combining letters from their first and last names (Adi was Adolf’s nickname).

Adidas’ first logo change took place in 1949 by replacing the name Dassler with Adolf Dassler. The iconic three stripes mark originally belonged to the Finnish footwear manufacturer Karhu Sports. It was purchased by Adolf Dassler in the 1940s after the owner was having financial issues due to WWII. The iconic logo design was reportedly sold for two bottles of whiskey and €1,600. By 1950, the only thing that remained of the previous logo design was the font.

1971: The Trefoil Logo

Here’s How Adidas and its Logo Climbed Their Way to Success

In 1971, the company launched its clothing range and changed the logo design to the now famous trefoil. This revised trefoil logo design consists of three football-shapes arranged in such a way that the bottom looks curved. First used on Adidas products in 1972, the logo later became the company’s corporate symbol. Today, it plays a key role in representing the Adidas Originals collection.

Inspired by the original 3-Stripes, the trefoil logo is a geometric design with a triple intersection, representing the diversity of the Adidas brand.

The three leaf motifs represent Asia, North America, and Europe – the three continents where Adidas shoes were popular. This logo helped Adidas become integrated with pop culture, as it was worn by major bands such as The Sex Pistols, The Doors, David Bowie, and Bob Marley, among others. The horizontal stripes on the trefoil emblem stand for the brand’s focus on variety, whereas the three trefoil leaves represent the three different parts of the world (North America, Europe, and Asia) where its products have the highest demand.

1991: The Mountain Logo

Here’s How Adidas and its Logo Climbed Their Way to Success

Towards the beginning of the 90s, Adidas’ creative director, Peter Moore, helped the logo find its new dimensions. This time, the legendary stripes flipped the way they started to look like a mountain. Here, the bold trio of stripes, positioned in ascending order (inspired by the stripes on a footwear) signify the difficult path of attaining a goal. This theme is particularly meant for athletes, who opt for Adidas apparel and footwear.

One year later, Adidas collaborated with Salomon Sports, and the logo was a combination of blue (Adidas logo) and red (Salomon color). The logotype was designed into a diamond-shaped figure, and the silhouette of a man, raising his arms to celebrate the victory.

2002: Adidas NEO

Here’s How Adidas and its Logo Climbed Their Way to Success

In 2002, a sub-brand emerged under the Adidas group, known as NEO, shifting emphasis from sport to daily fashion and the young style. All the products under this sub-brand were made quite affordable and the brand logo appeared as a sphere with three slightly curved stripes. The stripes take on a stylized format with the ends being tapered as they bend in a light arch toward the right. The logo is flat and the font remained the same for the logotype. Today, this logo represents the Adidas Style product range.

2005: The Adidas Word-Mark Logo

Here’s How Adidas and its Logo Climbed Their Way to Success

The Adidas symbol hasn’t changed much since 2005. The introduced “wordmark” of Adidas is a simple and minimalistic representation of the brand, and its design is in line with the three-stripe design, invented by Adolf Dassler. This logo version is meant to signify leadership, growth, and invention. The design is basic enough to cover diverse areas of the brand, while still retaining the company’s overall aesthetic.

The Current Adidas Logos

Since its inception, the Adidas logo has gone through multiple transformations, no matter how small the changes were. Interestingly, Adidas has been smart about retaining and recycling certain features of its earlier logo versions. All four of the above logos are used for the brand’s different product lines and collections. For instance, the trefoil logo is used for Adidas lifestyle and casual streetwear, whereas the regular logo is used for the brand’s high-performance collection. 

Three Stripes: Sports Line

The performance and sports apparel line uses the three stripes along the sides of pants, shoulders of shirts and sides of shoes. This is the most traditional form of the company’s logo, dating back to the original three-stripes mark that was purchased in the 1940s.

Trefoil: Lifestyle and Casual Wear

The Trefoil logo has become popular with people who aren’t even related to sports. From social influencers and celebrities to famous musicians, the lifestyle Adidas brand is an immensely popular fashion line.

The products in this line are costlier and not designed for athletics, although the designs do have an athleisure touch. Popular celebrities like Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, and many others have made this line more popular and luxurious.

Mountain: The Standard Adidas Logo

As discussed earlier, the standard Adidas logo features a mountain, signifying the challenges athletes face in achieving their goals. Products in this collection range from cleats to simple sports tees and track pants and more. 

Neo-Circle: Lifestyle Collaborations

The neo-circle logo is used for Adidas lifestyle collaborations. This circular logo still features the three stripes but has a different look to represent a daily wear line that’s not entirely focused on practical wear.

The secret of Adidas branding

Despite multiple changes, the Adidas logo stays true to its roots. Such constancy helps us recognize the Adidas logo in all its various forms. The four key factors behind the success of the Adidas brand identity are:

  • Basic design. All Adidas logos are simple and concise. Both the images and the text are easily legible.  
  • Versatility. Although Adidas’s basic corporate shade is black, the brand changes its color choices across its various product lines. Over the course of time, the iconic logo has turned red, white, and even bright green.  
  • Message. Like any professional logo, Adidas is tactfully using its logo to communicate its business values, ethics, and objectives. 
  • Awareness. Trusted and endorsed by many famous sportsperson and celebrities, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Beyonce, Kylie Jenner, and Muhammad Ali, Adidas has gained high social status. By using Adidas products, they’re further helping the brand with their marketing strategy.

Adidas is a living proof that choosing the right brand identity can potentially help you get established within your industry. The logo design of any business will define their aesthetic and help form a strong bond with their target audience. Looking at the Adidas logo evolution might have helped you get valuable tips and tricks for your own custom logo design.

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Here’s How Adidas and its Logo Climbed Their Way to Success
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