Since it's creation in 1949, Adidas has exerted a large part of it's resources to sponsoring athletes and athletic teams competing at the Olympic Games. Adidas' founder, Adolf Dassler, previously ran a shoe factory with his brother Rudolf: named the Dassler Brothers shoe factory. Operating from 1924-1948, this factory proved hugely successful in the 1930's and 1940's. The most successful way in which the Dassler brothers promoted their running shoes was to sponsor athletes competing at the Olympic Games. The most famous athlete sponsored by the Dassler Brothers was Jessie Owens; who competed at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
The first Olympic Games that Adidas spikes were used was at the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games. Adidas developed the first track shoes with removable spikes for these games, and Emil Zatopek won three long distance running gold medals using Adidas spikes. Emil Zatopek was the star of the Helsinki games, becoming the only man to ever win the marathon, 5000 metres and 10,000 metres at the same Olympic Games.
Due, in part, to Emil Zatopek's success at 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games, Adidas were able to dominate - in terms of endorsement - the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. Over half of all the medallists wore Adidas spiked shoes for track and field events. Horst Dassler, son of Adidas' founder Adolf Dassler, promoted the Adidas brand at the Melbourne Olympic Games, and would become one of the most important global figures in sports sponsorship.
Adidas have courted controversy at the Olympic Games: Horst Dassler persuaded/paid Mark Spitz to wave a pair of Adidas Gazelle sneakers whilst on the medal podium; something that contravened Olympic regulations. Horst Dassler was referred to as the 'puppetmaster', due to his marketing expertise and networking within sports bodies. Horst Dassler created International Sport and Leisure in 1982: a company which sold the broadcast rights to the Olympic Games in the 1980's, and eventually would be accused of bribing FIFA members.
Adidas shoes have been worn by athletes competing at the: 1960 Olympic Games in Rome; 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo; 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City; 1972 Olympic Games in Rome; 1976 Olympic Games in Munich; 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow; 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles; 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul; 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona; 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta; 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney; 2004 Olympic Games in Athens; 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing; and the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Notable athletes who have worn Adidas footwear at the Olympics include: Wilma Rudolph in 1960; Adebe Bikila in 1964; Dick Fosbury in 1968; Alberto Juantorena in 1976; Ulrike Meyfarth in 1984; Edwin Moses in 1984; Javier Sotomayor in 1992; Donovan Bailey in 1996; Ian Thorpe in 2004; and Mo Farah in 2012.
Since 1956, the majority of athletes competing at the Olympic Games have worn Adidas shoes and apparel. The 1996 Atlanta games proved to be Adidas' most successful: with over 6000 athletes wearing Adidas apparel. Adidas' dominance of the Olympic Games has generated envy and anger within the sporting goods industry; Adidas spent over £75 million in sponsorship at the Beijing games, and only Nike have been able to compete at that financial level.