Construction Projects Building a Rivalry

Despite their historic rivalry, German sporting goods companies Adidas and Puma are moving closer and closer together – at least geographically.
Where would you want to work? The Adidas HQ, left, and its Puma equivalent.

Often the shirts, shorts and shoes made by German sporting goods companies Adidas and Puma are stacked up not far from each other on store shelves. The two firms, both located in the small town of Herzogenaurach in Bavaria, might not be closely allied, but soon their headquarters won’t be more than a couple of hundred yards apart.

The rival firms, set up by two brothers who fell out in the 1940s, are currently separated by a four-lane highway and a large, expansive field. But that will soon be a thing of the past. In the spring, Puma will begin building a new administrative wing on the other side of the road. A so-called Puma bridge is planned to connect the existing building with the new building.

For Adidas employees, this means they will have to pass under their competitor’s bridge – a structure 80 meters (262.5 feet) long – if they want to get to their company’s headquarters.

But Adidas isn’t standing by doing nothing in the battle of the earthmovers. The brand with the three stripes is also planning a new building, but not along the same lines as Puma.

The employees of Adidas and Puma have always been able to visit each other. The companies were situated for decades in the center of Herzogenaurach. Puma is on the north bank of the little Aurach River, and Adidas is on the south bank. The corporate sites are still there, but now most of the employees have moved to other office buildings.

Puma looks very modest in comparison, which also is in line with its market share. Adidas is about five times as large.

At the beginning of the 1990s, the U.S. Army abandoned a large property, known as the Herzo base, on a small hill just outside Herzogenaurach. A couple of years later, Adidas took over the vacant army barracks and gave it a new name, World of Sports.

A few years later, Puma’s leadership also said goodbye to the valley floor and moved into a modern, all-red building complex within eyeshot of their rival.

Europe’s two largest sports shoes producers are growing strongly, so now construction workers are a familiar sight in the little 22,000-strong community not far from Nuremberg. In the coming years, Adidas will be building two new office buildings on its campus for up to 3,600 employees, almost doubling the number of workers. Furthermore, an additional company cafeteria will be built.

Two years ago, Adidas completed its new multi-story parking deck and its own company fitness centers. Shortly before that, a child care center, World of Kids, opened its doors. At the beginning of the decade, Adidas boss Herbert Hainer had opened an innovative office building, the Laces, which was supposed to resemble shoelaces, or at least had been inspired by them.

Adidas has created an honest-to-goodness campus. In the summer, workers gather to play beach volleyball, basketball and tennis beneath the magnificent trees on the rambling grounds. Or they play soccer in a stadium that could easily be the envy of most amateur clubs.

 

 

A residential area with a hotel, the World of Living, sprung up outside the company grounds. In the direction of the A3 highway, there is an Adidas factory outlet store in the World of Commerce, a commercial area selling surplus stock.

Puma looks very modest in comparison, which also is in line with its market share. Adidas is about five times as large. So far, Puma’s chief executive, Björn Gulden, hasn’t been able to offer his 1,000-plus employees at the headquarters more than a small, artificial-turf field. But the former professional soccer player is now trying to catch up. A proper soccer field and a beach volleyball facility will be included with the new building.

The other big company in Herzogenaurach is staying put in its current location. The major automotive supplier Schaeffler is located directly across from the old Adidas headquarters in the heart of the town. There, Schaeffler employs as many workers as Adidas and Puma combined.

 

Joachim Hofer covers the high-tech industry and IT sector for Handelsblatt. To contact the author: [email protected]