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In 1919, Michael and Albrech Ludwig Messmer, originally under the name Messmer and Co., began to manufacture some of the first rubber outsoled footwear for soccer and handball in a backyard in the Hamburg village of Eppendorf. In 1923, the company produced an athletics equipment line named Hummel for a traditional greeting in Hamburg and expanded to include footwear for other athletics, such as cycling. Messmer sent out a 14-page catalog in 1927, offering all sorts of athletic equipment; bathing caps, medicine balls, hiking boots, and of course, soccer shoes. That same year, Messmer and Co.'s lawyer, Hermann Christian Knibbe and two business partners, Jurgensen and Tigges founded the Hummel company in downtown Hamburg. It produced sports equipment and footwear for handball, soccer, and other athletics, and the company prospered until World War II, when the Allied bombing of Hamburg resulted in the destruction of the Hummel factory in 1945. Just one year later, the company reopened the factory on the outskirts of Hamburg, again producing shoes for soccer and handball as well as roller skates.
In 1956, Bernhard Weckenbrock, a business man from Kevelaar, purchased the company and moved it to southern Germany. The company continued to manufacture footwear for soccer and handball athletes. In the 1960s, the company began sponsoring soccer clubs and players. The company's first sponsorship contract in 1964 with Grun Weiss Dankersen did not offer the soccer club money, but promised to provide each player two pairs of cleats. After two years of continued success, the company signed its first deal with a German Bundesliga soccer player; the goalie for Hamburger Sport-Verein who wore Hummel cleats for one-half of a soccer game. Another two years after this modest milestone, the company was able to sign a monetary sponsorship deal with the Duisburg soccer team, paying each player 50 Deutschmarks per game delivered in an envelope by a Hummel representative before each game.
Hummel launched a line of athletics apparel the next year, and continued the now established practice of corporate sponsorship to establish prominence in the market. The company's chevron logo and later the bumblebee trademark became a common sight at sporting events, and by 1972, the brand was available throughout Europe. Interestingly, an Arab emir in Bahrain was so fond of the brand, he bought 250,000 Deutschmarks worth of shoes every day. The new level of success allowed the company to sponsor the Werder Bremen soccer team, providing the club with cleats and uniforms. Two years later, when the West German national handball team participated in the World Championships, Hummel and another German athletics brand, adidas, partnered to outfit the team.
In 1975, Jorgen Vodsgaard and Max Nielsen began marketing Hummel products in Denmark through their company, VN Sport ApS. In the following decades, Hummel would become the biggest sports apparel brand in the country, supplying equipment for several Danish national sports teams and manufacturing everything from leisure wear to wallets. In 1984, Vodsgaard bought the entire company and moved the operations to Denmark. By the 2004 Olympics, the brand was so ingrained in the Danish national identity that the entire national team was outfitted in Hummel shoes and apparel, and was even famously worn by Denmark's royal family. Now that's a promotion better than anything that could be contracted with an envelope full of Deutschmarks.