Tour de Herzogenaurach: Peek inside Adidas HQ

Readers of this blog know the Adidas Group, a 46,000-employee juggernaut headquartered in Herzogenaurach, Germany, has taken aim at the U.S. outdoors market and launched a domestic division, Adidas Outdoor U.S.. (See our recent coverage, including a profile, “Adidas Enters the U.S. Outdoor Market,” as well as a story on Adidas’ acquisition of Five Ten USA this fall.) To dig in even more, last month I traveled to Herzogenaurach and the company’s ultra-modern headquarters for an inside look at the athletics giant. I came away with a new perspective on the brand, a glimpse of its history and future plans, and I learned that nearly all Americans mispronounce the Adidas name. Here’s a primer on how to say “Adi-das” right as well as a few other need-to-know facts on the sporting-goods behemoth, which is likely right now shipping its outdoor wares to an independent gear shop near you. —T.C. Worley

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Inside the Adidas Group’s Herzogenaurach, Germany, headquarters

All Americans mispronounce “Adidas.” Named after its founder, Adolph “Adi” Dassler, who registered the company in 1948, the correct pronunciation of Adidas is not A-dee-dis as many Americans say but is simply Adee-das. (Accent is on the “a” at the start, not the “dee” in the middle, as many people incorrectly say.)

Adidas is a “brother brand” of Puma. Adi Dassler and his brother, Rudolf, started a shoe company together in their mother’s laundry room in the 1920s. Their shoes were a huge success in pre-WWII Germany, selling by the hundreds of thousands and adorning the feet of Olympic athletes. The brothers eventually split, with Adi founding Adidas and Rudolf starting the company that today is footwear giant Puma.

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Classic trail shoe: Adidas outdoor footwear from 1978

Adidas has made shoes specifically for dozens of sports. On a tour at the Herzogenaurach campus, I was taken through the company’s “Walk of Fame,” a horseshoe-shape hallway lined with cases that serves as a corporate museum of sorts. In one case stood Muhammad Ali’s boxing boots. In another, Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s basketball shoes. There were Adidas shoes made for Olympic bobsled teams, for pro table-tennis players, and even a special pair of shoes for canoeing. Adidas says it has dipped a toe into nearly every sport that requires footwear, including designing shoes for 26 of the 28 total summer Olympic sports.

Climbing and alpine sports are a part of the Adidas “heritage.” Germany and other central European countries have climbing scenes that span generations. This is thanks to the Alps and the mountain culture that has evolved in and around the range. The influence is not lost on Adidas, and the company’s outdoor line has roots in climbing and mountain sports. Adidas’ recent acquisition of Five Ten, a popular American climbing shoe brand, makes more sense to me now that I have been to Herzogenaurach and seen the pull climbing has on the company’s testing, research, marketing, and design.

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Adidas Group headquarters building

Adidas is coming to an outdoors store near you. Via its Adidas Outdoor U.S. division and focusing on outdoor footwear and outerwear (plus, there is an optics division that makes sports glasses), you may soon see many Adidas products on the shelves of your favorite outdoor shop. So far, the list of outdoor vendors is growing quickly, including distribution for 2012 in REI stores and “dozens of independent shops” around the United States, according to the company. Rolf Reinschmidt, an executive with Adidas Outdoor said the company is “very committed and very focused to go after” the U.S. market and that Adidas wants to “earn its way in” with good product, not just its brand name.

—T.C. Worley is a contributing editor. He reported from Herzogenaurach, Germany, for this post.

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Adidas Terrex boot in testing at Herzogenaurach R&D lab

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