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Is Puma Italian or German?

Is Puma Italian or German?

Puma is one of the most popular athletic apparel and footwear brands in the world. With its distinctive leaping puma logo and sleek designs, Puma has become a staple brand for athletes, fashionistas, and casual wearers alike. But despite its global recognition, many people are unsure of Puma’s origins – is Puma an Italian brand or a German one? In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into Puma’s history and roots to definitively answer where this iconic sportswear company comes from.

Puma’s Origins in Germany

Puma was founded in 1948 in the small town of Herzogenaurach, Germany by Rudolf Dassler. Rudolf was originally a co-founder of the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory along with his brother Adolf (Adi) Dassler in 1924. But tensions grew between the two brothers and they split in 1948 to form their own rival shoe companies on opposite sides of the Aurach river that ran through the town.

Rudolf Dassler’s new company was initially named Ruda, derived from the first two letters of his first and last name. He soon rebranded it as Puma Schuhfabrik Rudolf Dassler in 1948. Meanwhile, his brother Adi Dassler named his new company Adidas, combining his nickname Adi with the first three letters of his last name. While the brothers were no longer working together, their rivalry fueled innovation and propelled both Puma and Adidas to become two of the biggest names in athletic wear.

So despite its strong association with speed and agility thanks to the puma logo, Puma originated from humble beginnings as a family-run shoe factory in a small rural town in Germany. Rudolf Dassler remained heavily involved in designing and manufacturing Puma’s shoes in Herzogenaurach even as the company grew. Puma’s German roots were strong from the very beginning.

Puma’s Early Years Focused on German Sports

In the first few decades after its founding, Puma remained focused on providing footwear and equipment specifically for German sports. In 1952, Puma made its first big breakthrough as the German national football team wore Puma boots when they won the World Cup.

Year Puma German Sports Milestone
1954 West German national football team wears Puma boots to win World Cup
1960 Armin Hary wins 100m gold in Puma shoes, the first time they were worn to win Olympic gold
1968 Tommie Smith and John Carlos wear Puma shoes while giving Black Power salute on medal podium at Olympics

This early focus on working with German athletes and sports teams helped establish Puma’s reputation for quality within Germany. Rudolf Dassler paid close attention to the feedback from German athletes to constantly improve Puma’s shoe designs. But Puma was still mostly unknown outside of Germany during these early years.

Puma’s Initial Limited International Presence

Though founded in Germany, Puma did make some early attempts at expanding internationally. In the 1950s, Puma tried to establish itself in the United States by setting up an office in New York City and sponsoring American sprinter Jesse Owens, who had won 4 gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Puma also looked to Switzerland and Austria as early international markets given the shared German language. But the majority of Puma’s sales still came from within Germany in the company’s first couple decades. Outside of Europe, Puma gained a foothold in Brazil in the 1960s and 1970s as soccer’s popularity grew. Overall though, Puma’s international presence remained very limited until the 1980s. Puma was still seen as a mostly German sports brand.

Puma Embraces International Expansion in the 1980s

In the 1980s and 1990s, Puma pivoted its strategy to expand aggressively outside of Germany and Europe. Puma opened new offices across the globe and looked to sponsor more high-profile athletes and teams from a wider range of sports.

Some key moments that signaled Puma’s international expansion:

Year Puma International Milestone
1982 Puma sponsors Brazilian national football team’s World Cup victory
1986 Diego Maradona wears Puma boots when Argentina wins World Cup
1990s Puma begins sponsoring Jamaican, Cuban, and Namibian Olympic athletes
1998 Puma acquires American brand Tretorn
1998 Puma sponsors Ferrari Formula One racing team

This global marketing push was led by CEO Carl Puma, Rudolf Dassler’s son, who took over the company in the 1970s. Under his leadership, Puma transformed from a Germany-focused brand to an internationally recognizable name.

Puma’s Foray into Fashion and Lifestyle Branding

A key part of Puma’s global expansion in the late 1990s and 2000s was pivoting to lifestyle branding beyond just performance sportswear. Puma signed deals with celebrities like Madonna and Rihanna to blur the lines between athleisure and fashion. The company also acquired smaller fashion brands like Tretorn and Cobra Golf.

Puma’s deals with creative directors and luxury brands also made the leaping cat logo ubiquitous in fashion:

Year Puma Fashion and Lifestyle Milestone
1996 Puma appoints Jochen Zeitz as CEO, ushering in era of creative collaborations and fashion focus
1998 Puma partners with Alexander McQueen
2003 Puma works with Ferrari designer Sergio Pininfarina on shoe designs
2005 Puma launches collaboration with Mihara Yasuhiro
2018 Puma names Jay-Z as Creative Director

This expanded Puma’s brand recognition and made the company cool and stylish far beyond just Olympic athletes. While performance sportswear was still a key focus, the Puma lifestyle branding reached a much broader audience.

Puma’s Continued Strong Presence in Germany

Even as Puma has grown internationally over the past few decades, Germany remains a core market and central hub for the company. Puma’s global headquarters is still located in Herzogenaurach, the Bavarian town where Rudolf Dassler founded the company in 1948.

Puma maintains close ties with German sports teams as well. Puma is the official supplier for the German national football team, German national women’s football team, and multiple top Bundesliga clubs including Borussia Dortmund and Mainz 05.

Within Germany, Puma also maintains partnerships with German athletes across various sports including sprinting, basketball, and golf. So while no longer exclusively a German brand, Puma’s German roots and connections remain strong.

Puma Ownership Has Shifted Away from Germany

Rudolf Dassler remained in charge of Puma until his death in 1974. Control of the company then passed to his son Armin Dassler before the company was sold in 1989. Since then, ownership and management of Puma has expanded internationally:

Year Puma Ownership Milestone
1989 Puma sold to Swiss business Cosa Liebermann
2007 PPR Group (French luxury group Kering) acquires Puma
2018 Norwegian company Bjørn Gulden appointed CEO

So while Puma maintains its roots and connections to Germany, its global business operations are no longer headquartered in Germany from a corporate perspective. The brand ownership and leadership have shifted to be more international.


In summary, while Puma was originally founded as a German shoe company in the late 1940s, it has evolved tremendously over the past seven decades into an international sportswear and lifestyle brand. But Puma still retains its close associations with German athletes, sports teams, and its headquarters located in the small Bavarian town where it all started. So the verdict on whether Puma is an Italian or German brand is: **Overwhelmingly German in origin, but now a global company**. Puma’s leaping puma logo may originate from Germany, but it has jumped far beyond those borders while still remembering where it came from.