A symbolic failure – the Super Bowl logo

A symbolic failure – the Super Bowl logo
Reading Time: 4 minutes.

There is a symbolic failure hanging over this Sundays Superbowl. It’s the same symbolic failure that has hung over the last few superbowls. I am referring to the tedious repetitive design concept of the modern Superbowl logo.

The Superbowl logo is so boring it’s becoming easy to ignore. I am pretty sure this is not what the NFL has in mind. You are supposed to recognise the corporate homogeneity and instantly know the ‘event’ being referenced.

Except you don’t. You can see a Superbowl logo from 2010 onward and unless your team was involved not have it stir any memories.

When logos could stir memories

Try looking at some of the other logos though. Superbowl 21 with its giant rose in the background instantly brings back pictures of the Giants downing the Broncos in Pasadena. I can even visualise the seat cushions from that game because of that logo!

The memory inducing joy of the logo for Superbowl 21

Would I look at any of the recent offerings & know which game it referenced, let alone which stadium? No. To facilitate a corporate image the NFL is losing a little of its soul.

This is America’s biggest one-off single game sporting occasion. It should be glitz, glamour, a reflection of the zeitgeist of the time.

For example could the logo for Superbowl 7 look any more 70’s? Only if it joined the Jackson 5 whilst riding a space hopper and eating spangles! Which is the way it should be.

The gloriousness of a logo you can instantly place in its decade.

Look at the Post 9/11 logo from Superbowl 36. It reflects instantly the mood of the time, the feel of the nation.

A patriotic look for Superbowl 36


Where it all went wrong

There is no way any of this fits into the new bland corporate landscape. Now the general design of the Super Bowl logo has been the same since Super Bowl 51, with a separate identical design run for Super Bowls 45 to 50.

From 45-50 the only things that changed were the Roman numerals and the shape of the stadium behind the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Even that seemingly wasn’t boring enough for the league.

From Superbowl 51 on we have had monolithic roman numerals around the Vince Lombardi trophy. Hardly something to set the pulses racing or induce memories of the city and the game it hosted.

The incredibly boring Superbowl 52 logo – part of an ongoing trend

Why change?

Prior to Super Bowl 45, the logo had a unique design and colour scheme just about every year, rarely ever even having the same font repeated in consecutive years.

Over time there were developments. From straightforward numeric designs the NFL started proudly partnering with designers creating imagery corresponding to the city hosting the team.

The trend started roughly in 1992, when the Super Bowl was held in Pasadena (home of the Rose Bowl, hence the roses in the design). Following that Super Bowl logos borrowed heavily from their cities. There could be real geographic resonance. Not any more! 

The No Fun League

I feel like I’ve used the phrases corporate and bland quite liberally here. Nor do I feel the need to apologise for that. The league has lost some of its flair, some of its dazzle for this corporate imagery.

This even extends to the trophies it presents. The legendary Larmar Hunt (AFC) and George Halas (NFC) trophies have been ruined. Previously, the designs mimicked each other aside from the conference logo and they had a historic feel.

when the NFL decided to standardise the Super Bowl logo, they did the same with the conference championship trophies. Now they look more like a cheap paperweight than a reward for winning your conference.

The Buffalo Bills may have lost 4 straight Superbowls. In one respect they won big. They did manage to win 4 Hunt trophies though and thankfully for them not of the paperweight variety. No wonder Bill Belichick has been seen to pass that thing away with such disdain in the past!

I’d love to go back. It probably won’t happen on Roger Goodell’s watch. That is not the way his instincts lie. It would be great to see the next commissioner, whoever he or she may be bringing back some of the glamour, pageantry and individualism to this event.

Just don’t hold your breath with the risk averse No Fun League. Oh, and we haven’t seen it yet but I’m guessing we can all make a pretty good guess at what next years logo will look like.

Banner image from USA today.

Smaller images from sportslogos.net

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