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Volume 22 No. 35
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Focusing on trophy, not local marks, works for SB logo

Looking to add distinction to the Super Bowl trophy, the NFL seven years ago abandoned its long-held practice of designing localized logos for its championship game. Accordingly, indicia such as the desert-colored/Native American-themed ones for Super Bowl XXX and Super Bowl XLII in Arizona were supplanted by one which is largely the Vince Lombardi Trophy with a hazy representation of the host stadium in the background.

The iconography of the Vince Lombardi Trophy, conceived by a Tiffany & Co. executive in 1966 and produced by that company since, is a fitting championship trophy. Still, to our eyes, the trophy-centric logo design looks more like a missile silo than something appealing enough to stimulate sales of the consumer products on which it is now inevitably affixed. Yet, this has been the norm since Super Bowl XLV — one nearly identical logo after the next. Some background colors were added to the logo as of Super Bowl 50.

Gone are the floral representations for the games at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and the maritime-themed logos for the championship games in San Diego. Now, we’re not here to tell you this is the most vital issue of our time — note how long it took us to write about it in any detail. Nor are we insisting that every Super Bowl logo prior to 2011 was a masterpiece. Still, the situation we now have ensures every logo will be nearly identical.

Some NFL licensees have been complaining to us about this since the change was made. It’s been suggested by some that TV rights holders were responsible for the change, as the networks televising the game wanted something that quickly said, “We’ve got the Super Bowl.”

Past Super Bowls like SB XLII, in which the Giants spoiled the Patriots’ undefeated season in Arizona, featured logos with local significance.
Photo: getty images

Those at the league involved in the redesign tell us it was more about simplifying the process and raising the profile of a trophy that’s never had the stature befitting America’s pre-eminent sporting event.

“Some fans have an emotional connection to those old [regionally specific] marks, but so much weight was going into the logo as the hardest-working element,” said Jaime Weston, who just left the NFL after 15 years, where she was senior vice president of marketing, brand and creative. “Now, we don’t have to put 70 things into a logo to try and reflect a region.”

Additionally, some NFL business partners wanted to use the trophy but didn’t have those rights. Then there’s the challenge of creating new designs for regular host cities, like New Orleans or Miami, each of which have hosted 10 Super Bowls, and L.A., which has been home to seven. All of those locales are set for yet another Super Bowl within the next six years.

League marketers are working on logos two Super Bowls out, and the mark usually is released around a year in advance. It now takes considerably longer to produce the supporting color palette than to redesign the now standard primary logo from year to year. For the next Super Bowl, Atlanta’s main supporting color is red, along with some silver and blue. There’s also now a 200-page style guide with a plethora of supporting artwork, like secondary logos and custom typography.

“We recognized there was some discontent over the same logo structure every year, so we’ve really ramped up the style guide and the range of supporting elements,” said Shandon Melvin, NFL vice president of brand and creative. “Those can take as long as a year to finish, and we’re talking to local stakeholders, including the host committee and other business leaders, to develop local style. The idea is to have consistency, from what you see at the airport to what you see outside the stadium. And at a time when selfies are so important to people in attendance, we’re happy to provide something on the ground that’s meaningful there also.”

Terry Lefton can be reached at