Home / Resources / Logo Design Case Studies and History

The Complete History Of The Adidas Logo

Have you ever wondered how the Adidas logo came to be? Discover the history behind the Adidas logos and how each design evolution progressed from 1949 until today.

As many brands’ logos have, Adidas’ logo has been through several versions that you can still see scattered throughout the merchandising and promotion. It all started from a love of providing quality sporting goods to consumers, and that ties the brand together today.

Let’s dive into the history of the Adidas logo and the brand itself.

History Complete History of the Adidas Logo and the Brand

About Adidas

Adidas AG is a German multinational corporation. It was founded and is headquartered in Herzogenaurach, Bavaria, where it designs and manufactures athletic shoes, clothing, and accessories. It’s the largest sportswear manufacturer in Europe and the second largest globally, just after Nike.

In the 1920s, shortly after World War I, Adolf “Adi” Dassler started manufacturing sports shoes in his mother’s washroom. Joined by his brother, Rudolf, the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory was born. Rudolf Dassler was born in Germany in 1898, and Adolf was born in 1900. 

In 1936, Adi Dassler convinced U.S. sprinter Jesse Owens to wear his track shoes during the Summer Olympics. His performance was phenomenal, and the athlete walked away with four gold medal wins. In fact, Owens became the first African-American to receive Olympic sponsorship. After that, Dassler’s shoes hit it big.

At first, the Dassler brothers the two brothers worked together well. But it wasn’t to last.

The War began, and during heavy drafts, the German government deemed Adolf a useful shoemaker, allowing him to avoid service and continue to make shoes. The same courtesy wasn’t given to Rudolf.

According to citizens of the time, Rudolf was extremely upset about this, and Rudolf believed that his brother was more than happy to continue making money from their business while his life was on the line.

The tensions caused by the war, the sour relationships between the brothers, and even the hostility between their wives drove the brothers apart, with some saying they couldn’t even be in the same room as each other.

In fact, the Dassler brothers’ rivalry would divide a whole town.

When the Dassler brothers were separating, nearly everyone in the small town of Herzogenaurach was employed by the two companies. Negotiations between the brothers split earnings, equipment, and employees, causing rifts among the townsfolk.

In 1947, the brothers officially split up, with Rudolf forming Ruda (that would later become Puma) and Adolf registering the brand as we know it today, which came from an acronym of his first and last names, as Adi was a nickname for Adolf. Thus, he adopted the “Adidas” signature name fans recognized.

Adolf maintained control over the company until 1987, when he sold it to French investor Bernard Tapie. Tapie increased the production of Adidas shoes dramatically, but he couldn’t afford the interest on the loan he got to purchase the company. So, Tapie sold Adidas to Robert Louis -Dreyfus.

Adidas has changed hands several times, which isn’t uncommon, and they’ve gradually become more and more successful. In today’s market, Adidas supplies apparel for the NBA, NFL, and more professional sports leagues, and in 2016 the company acquired €19.3 billion in sales. 

Along the way, the company has used its clever marketing tactics and the popularity of its designs among top athletes and celebrities to achieve even more success. At the forefront of those designs is the infamous Adidas logo.

Today, Adidas and its logo sit as one of the most popular footwear and apparel companies in the world. The company has recently challenged the industry giant footwear and sportswear brand Nike. Adidas has been able to attract new customers while many of its competitors have struggled. Adidas’s clever marketing, refreshing brand message, dedication to sustainability, and eye for design have allowed the company to find ongoing success.

Adidas’s Logo Over Time

There have been a handful of iterations of the Adidas logo since its inception. However, an interesting note about the brand is that they never retire a logo but instead use all four in different product lines and collections.

The Original Logo for Adidas (1949)

Before it was truly Adidas, the Dassler Brothers sold sports shoes, and in 1924, the sales were taking off, with 200,000 pairs selling annually under the Dassler brand and logo. That original mark featured a bird carrying a lightweight shoe within a shield.

The original 1949 logo for Adidas featured the only thing he sold at the time, a shoe. A track and field spiked shoe with the signature Three-Stripes sat between the two extended tails of the letter Ds in Adidas. “Sportschuhe,” which is “sports shoe” in German, was written under the name Adidas, and the logo frequently appeared in a shade of blue that’s considered a classic color for the brand.

Adidas also chose to show the name of their company in a lower-case font on this logo and all those afterward. This choice showcased the casual, informal nature of the brand. In fact, across the content on their site, the Adidas name is never capitalized. 

This logo, along with the Three-Stripe trademark design that started to show up on every shoe, and eventually on apparel, was and is the foundation of the brand. 

Those signature stripes weren’t an accident or chosen because of their meaning. Dassler ended up choosing them to go on the first pair of Adidas shoes when he tested several versions and found that the three showed up the best in photography. For an up-and-coming sports gear brand hoping to gain attention and brand recognition, that’s essential. Clearly, it worked, as the Three-Stripes design continues to be a world-famous trademark that represents Adidas.

However, it turned out that a similar icon was already being used by Karhu Sports, a major shoe brand, when Dassler decided to launch Adidas. To resolve the dispute, Dassler purchased the trademark from Karhu Sport for just 1,600 euros at today’s rate and two bottles of whiskey because the owner was hard up for cash.

Adidas logo 1980
Image source

Adidas’s Logo from 1980-81 

A new logo was added in 1972 when Adidas branched out from selling shoes to manufacturing sporting apparel for the first time. Enter the Trefoil, which was designed by a small, collaborative team of Adidas leaders and German designers from a creative agency. Inspired by florals, the new logo showed off three leaf-shaped foils. This design remained consistent with Adidas’s notoriety as the brand with the three stripes, and that image itself was present as the Three-Stripes design runs through the leaves.

The three leaves represented North America, Europe, and Asia- the three continents where Adidas shoes were sold at the time. 

Adidas wasn’t just for athletes at this point, either. This particular logo boosted the brand into the pop culture era and was worn by several popular musicians, including The Doors, The Sex Pistols, Bob Marley, and David Bowie.

This Adidas logo was on clothing from 1972 and shoes from 1976 onward. Since 2000, it became reserved for all Originals products, and the company states that it’s designed to “pay homage to the heritage of the brand.”

1990s Adidas logo
Image source

The 1990s Adidas Logo

In 1989, a visionary designer and creative consultant worked with Adidas to create a new logo for the new era in pop culture and fashion. The brand created the unique Adidas Equipment logo inspired by Adidas’ commitment to equipping athletes with the best gear. The designers created this mark when they sketched how the famous three stripes looked when seen from the inside of an Adidas shoe. The new Equipment logo, publicized in 1991, showcased the Three-Stripes design in a three-bar arrangement, with the words “Adidas EQUIPMENT” just below the icon in an Adidas sporting green color.  

This logo is one of the most familiar to consumers because it has since been adapted for use as part of several logo marks for the brand, such as the Badge of Sport, they launched in 1996. In this logo, the Three-Bars design was combined with the Adidas wordmark. You’ll also now see the Three-Bars design shows up alone in their newly created Adidas Performance logo.

The stripes shifted to this new slight angle and created a bold mountain-like icon, which was frequently associated with obstacles to overcome during your work to achieve your athletic goals.

The 2002 (Current) Adidas Logo

In 2002, the brand contained the stripes in a circle. This design created an image that looked like an animal scratch or three paths running across the background. The stripes take on a stylized look, with the ends getting tapered and smaller as they sweep up in a light arch toward the right. The logo remains two-dimensional and on a single plane. The font is also the same as the logotype. This logo represents the Adidas Style product lines.

As you can see, the Adidas logo has taken on many forms, but it has always had a similar theme and vibe. You’ll still see many of its classic logos in use on various lines. It’s an interesting feature of Adidas that they don’t truly retire logos but repurpose them. Whatever logo you’re looking at, you’ll always see the traditional Three-Stripes design in one form or another.

Adidas Logo Key Elements

1.  Тhree parallel stripes

It’s a classic symbol you’ll find across all of their product lines. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that the Three-Stripes logo is at the heart of all Adidas’ branding. 

2. Trefoil

Along with the Three-Stripes design, this logo shape is used for the Originals product line, which includes casual apparel and shoes. It still features the three stripes from the classic design, but this more artistic logo holds a special place among the logo interpretations.

3. Bar

The bar, mountain-like emblem works incredibly well on the Performance line designed for professional athletes because it almost evokes the progress bar on a treadmill and connects to the uphill journey toward athletic achievement.

4. Circle

You’ll see this version of the logo across the Style collections created in collaboration with famous designers. It’s a stylized version of the classic logo and lends itself to the fashionable, trendy feel the collection is about.

A Note About Colors

Like many fashion and apparel brands, Adidas’ choice to maintain a monochromatic color pallet for its official logo allowed the company to recreate the symbol in a range of shades for whatever unique situation they use it in.

Throughout the years, Adidas shoes and apparel have shown off several multi-colored versions of the logo. In fact, for a decent chunk of time, the color blue was often associated with Adidas.

Today, for the sake of branding, a black logo image with a black font on a white background is the official brand coloring.

Lesson from the Adidas Logo

  • Simple: Adidas logos are minimalist and concise. The text and images are easy to read, understand at a glance and straightforward enough for people to recognize in just a few seconds.  

  • Versatility. Although Adidas’s primary corporate color is black, it changes up its color choices across its different product lines. Throughout the logo designs within collections, the iconic emblem has been white, red, and even bright green. However, it never loses its simplicity because the logo is typically always monochromatic.

  • Strong message. Adidas is smartly using its logo to communicate its values. Each logo evokes the brand’s quality, strength, and perseverance.

  • Awareness. Many accomplished athletes and even celebrities trust the Adidas brand. You’ll see the clothing and shoes on various famous individuals, including Beyonce, Kylie Jenner, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Muhammad Ali. Their use of the brand’s products acts as incredible word-of-mouth promotion, raising the brand’s profile among both existing and potential customers.

Popular articles

The History Of The Evolution Of The Instagram Logo
Snip of the logo on Instagram home screen Instagram serves roughly one billion active users globally, and as a photo-sharing app, it’s devoted immense sums of money to creating a ...
The Complete History Of The Taco Bell Logo
Ask most Americans to start listing all the fast-food chains they could think of, and Taco Bell would probably be in the first five. According to the Top 500 Chain ...
The Complete History Of The Chelsea Logo
Long before Ted Lasso first shed light on the inner workings of England’s premier football clubs, football had always been a staple in England – now the rest of the ...
chickinegg.jpg

START YOUR OWN

CREATIVE CONTEST

Let our community of talented logo designers create dozens of gorgeous, completely custom logo designs just for you.

All inclusive design packages start at just $89 for 30 original designs.