When you see Three Stripes, you think Adidas. From performance sneakers to tracksuits to slides, those three simple stripes signal Adidas-level quality to consumers worldwide. Adidas is without a doubt one of the most successful modern athletic brands. And part of that success is due to the brand recognition Adidas’ trio of stripes—and accompanying logos—provides.
But how much are the Adidas stripes and logos actually worth alone? Turns out, it’s not an easy question to answer.
A Brief History of the Adidas Brand
To take a closer look at the Adidas logos, it’s important to know the history of the brand. Founded in 1947, the Adidas brand first came about after two brothers had a falling out, dissolving their then-20-year-old running shoe brand. Picking up the pieces, one of the brothers, Adi Dassler, went on to found Adidas, which he named after himself. While the shoes he previously made with his brother featured two stripes as a design element, Dassler couldn’t use the same design for his new company without legal ramifications—so he simply added another stripe.
The Original Adidas Logo Was a Bargain
There was only one problem: Finnish sportswear brand Karhu had already trademarked a three-stripe logo. Lucky for Dassler, Karhu agreed to sell the trademark to Adidas for roughly 1,600 euros in today’s money—or about $1,800—and two bottles of whiskey. From there, the Three-Stripes logo went on to emblazon almost all Adidas products and became integrated into other brand logos. And Adidas has a lot of logos.
How Many Logos Does Adidas Have?
In a somewhat rare branding move, Adidas has a trio of logos—not to mention the iconic Three Stripes—affiliated with the brand. There’s the trefoil logo (first introduced in 1971), the mountain logo (introduced in 1991), and the circle or badge emblem (introduced in 2000). Each represents a different pillar of the brand: the trefoil for Adidas Originals products, the mountain logo for the Performance line, and the badge emblem for collaborations with designers.
According to footwear expert and equity analyst at Williams Trading Sam Poser, Adidas only recently began using all three logos consistently to differentiate products, likely in attempts to compete with other iconic logos like the Nike Swoosh. As Poser points out, these compact logos have more “flexibility” design-wise than three stripes, allowing Adidas to place the logos in any size on products. But having several logos instead of just one obviously leads each individual logo to lose relative value.
Adidas Has Sued to Protect Its Logo
With that said, Adidas may have accidentally let the legal system value its Three-Stripes logo, thanks to the brand’s affinity for lawsuits. In 2008, Adidas sued Payless Shoesource for copyright infringement on its Three-Stripes trademark. At the time of that court filing, Adidas had pursued “over 325 infringement matters involving the Three-Stripe mark in the United States” since 1995. Many of these disputes are settled out of court for undisclosed amounts of money—but not this 2008 matter.
Though it wasn’t settled outside of court, Adidas won the lawsuit against Payless and was awarded a whopping $305 million (the amount was later reduced to $65.3 million), which is about $394 million today.
How Much Is the Adidas Logo Worth?
But when it comes to valuing all four logos together, it depends on your personal philosophy regarding branding. Some experts say logos are worth the net worth of a brand, as the brand would be nothing without a visual representation of its prestige; in 2019, Adidas was valued at $16.7 billion. Other experts, like entrepreneur John Warrillow, say that brand logos are relatively worthless without the “years and billions the company invested to make the logo so meaningful to its audience that customers demonstrate a willingness to buy—often at a premium over similar non-branded gear—products with the…logo emblazoned on them.”
And then there’s those that say the Three Stripes will always be worth 1,600 euros and two bottles of whiskey. In that case, bottom’s up.