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“Sneaker Wars” by Barbara Smit: A Review

The book Sneaker Wars by Barbara Smit presents an invaluable insight into the origins of the global sportswear brands Adidas and Puma and their impact on the sports industry. It provides an account of how the relations between two brothers Adi and Rudi Dassler shaped the competition between the two companies. Yet, the most notable part of the book is the story of Horst Dassler, who extended his influence as the head of Adidas far beyond his primary area of expertise. His example demonstrates that achieving success in the sports business does not always depend on making a better product but rather on fostering relationships with the right people, often using unethical methods.

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Horst Dassler, in many ways, can be considered a role model for the aspiring sports business professionals who want to make an impact on the world. His ambitious nature is impressive since, despite being sent by his father to France to oversee their company’s local production and sales, he managed to secretly build his own brand (Smit, 2009). It is not unusual that this man became the driving force behind changing the sports events industry forever by developing an ingenious plan. While reading the book, I was surprised to learn about all the restrictions concerning the commercialization of the Olympics and other major competitions. The decision of the governing bodies to limit any involvement of brands in the process was not reasonable since it prevented athletes from legally earning their fair share.

Horst Dassler was absolutely right in his idea to challenge the status quo, and he truly revolutionized sports marketing forever when he started signing different athletes to promote his brand. Yet, his desire to make the company the most influential one led him to enter deals which were morally questionable. He was among the first people to understand the potential of sports events as effective marketing platforms for advancing sales of his company’s products. Bribing sports officials, including the ones who were at the helm of the Olympic committee and FIFA, allowed him to secure exclusive rights for sponsorship and broadcasting of different sports events (Smit, 2009). It was shocking for me to discover that the people who were chosen to embody integrity and honesty could agree to participate in such schemes.

The story of Horst Dassler is full of controversies, but the fact that this man was a visionary of the sports business is undeniable. His decision to promote his company by signing sponsorship contracts with athletes and sports organizations shaped the current marketing practices of the industry. The example of his approach teaches the necessity to be inventive and creative when addressing various business problems. The information presented in the book concerning corruption in different sports governing bodies will help me in my future career since I will be more careful when dealing with their representatives.

Barbara Smit, in her book Sneaker Wars, does more than just lists main events from the history of the competition of Adidas and Puma. She allows the reader to understand the intricacies which accompanied the sports industry during its early days. Horst Dassler can be recognized as one of the most influential people in the sports business. His unusual approach to brand promotion and creative spirit laid the foundation of modern sports marketing and are inspirational for me. Yet his greed and decision to utilize his influence to gain competitive advantages illegally must serve as a reminder of the importance of maintaining strong business ethics.


Smit, B. (2009). Sneaker wars: The enemy brothers who founded Adidas and Puma and the family feud that forever changed the business of sports. Harper Perennial.

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