Adidas began using a logo relatively late: the company was founded by Adolf Dassler in 1949, and only by 1972 did the company begin to use a logo. Adolf Dassler purchased the three-stripes design - used by Adidas since the early 1950's - from a Finnish sportswear brand for a 'knock down' price and a bottle of whiskey. However, due to the success of Adidas, many copycat products were being sold that used a design similar to the three stripes. Adidas had began to manufacture clothes in 1967, and these products were easy to copycat. Therefore, Adidas decided to print a logo on it's products: so that consumers could easily identify an Adidas product.
Trefoil Logo: unveiled in 1971, and printed onto Adidas products in 1972.
Performance Logo: unveiled in 1997, and used on the equipment range of products.
Wordmark Logo: used on the NEO fashion label.
Three Stripes Logo: wordmark logo that's been used since 2005.
The first logo used by Adidas was the trefoil logo - it is likened to a flower or a leaf - it was unveiled in 1971, and it was stitched onto Adidas products in 1972. Adidas have always focused heavily on endorsing teams and athletes competing at the Olympic Games, and the trefoil logo was released just in time for Adidas' domestic Olympic Games; held in Munich, Germany. The trefoil logo was an unheralded success - it is still viewed as 'the' Adidas logo by most consumers - and, until 1997, it was used almost exclusively as the only Adidas logo.
In 1997, Adidas recategorised it's products: due to it's new technologically inspired products needing to be marketed differently to Adidas' heritage products. The result of the reorganisation was that older Adidas products - developed before 1997 - would continue to use the trefoil logo in their design and marketing, but that new Adidas products would begin to use a new logo: named the performance logo.
It is generally accepted that the performance logo was developed when Adidas were lacking 'focus' and a clear brand image. Rob Strasser, previously Nike's marketing guru, was employed by Adidas to create a new brand image for it's 'equipment' concept. The development of the performance logo was overseen by Peter Moore: who was Adidas' creative director in 1997. The performance logo is a gradient - some say a mountain - and represents overcoming the goals and challenges that are 'part and parcel' of competitive sports.
Alongside the trefoil and performance logo, Adidas has also used wordmark logo's for select products; wordmark logo's can be viewed in the images shown above.