Silver Bells & Whistles: New Look of the NFL Post Season


The National Football League’s 2010/2011 post season will have a very different look. They have introduced a logo “template” for the Super Bowl, which will only vary slightly each year. The only differences from year to year are the stadium backdrop and the Roman numerals for the game. I would speculate the differences could be font changes and small additions. For example, adding palm trees for a game in Miami.
I don’t mind the fact they are going to a template for the Super Bowl, but I think the NFL has really come up short on the overall design. Its loaded with gradients, has no color, and Im not sure the silhouette shape (which is about as phallic as it gets) fits most applications. The majority of Super Bowl logos have been either horizontal, or balanced or “squared” which fits well on jerseys, balls, and field graphics. Also, as the numerals change every year, which creates some more design issues. The Roman numeral for 50 is “L” and having that placed underneath as is expected at this point, furthers the vertical presentation problem, taking away any visual strength from the bottom of the logo.
The only positive I can see is that the vertical design could force them to put the logo at the 50 yard line where it belongs. I hate when they put the Super Bowl logo at the 25s and the NFL logo at the 50, it looks so stupid. I always think the ball is at the 50 when it's really at the 25” – (fishheatcats) CCSLC forum
The execution isn't something I can look past either. If they said they were going to standardize the Super Bowl logo, and then came out with a great mark, the change would be easier to deal with. As is, though, we got a terrible design”. – Mike Kwitko (Ice Cap) CCSLC forum
Due to the crazy gradients, there are currently 3 official different ways you will see it used which are below. As the logo shrinks in size some of the reflective shapes are made simpler and flat. The logo on the ball is one color of silver/chrome so counting that, it brings the variations to 4.

Why design a logo that looks different everywhere you see it? In other words, the logo embroidered on a hat is going to look different than… the logo painted on the field, etc. For a league trying to maintain a consistent Super Bowl brand, I'm not sure this is the best option. When you create a logo that needs three different options in order for certain people to use it, it's not a well designed logo” – (MeetTheMets) CCSLC forum
The 2 things that are most important in design, especially logos, are color and shape. It’s the first 2 things the human eye recognizes. Silver/chrome/platinum is associated with elite status, wealth, and prestige, which works well for any championship logo, though im of the opinion that it should be used as a trim or secondary color. The lack of color really makes this a bland and dull object no matter how pretty the gradients appear.
"This new system takes away the uniqueness and individualism from the city that is hosting the event… I understand that the NFL wants a change in direction and have a cohesive logo system over the years but this new web 2.0 - gradient logo (and some 3D Depth for a punch) lacks emotion… I'm sure the campaign will look interesting animated and on the T.V but are they all going to be a stadium and the damn Lombardi trophy? To me that just lacks a creative vision.” - Justin Garrand, JG Designs

Below is the criteria to what I believe makes a successful logo. I have added my own rating of the Super Bowl logo to them, to see how well this was executed.
Visibility - moderate
Application - fail
Distinctiveness - fail
Color - fail
Simplicity - fail
Retention - pass
Timelessness - fail
Equity - …
Modularity - moderate
Descriptiveness – pass
If the XLV logo were just a one-off, like all previous Super Bowl logos, I still wouldn't be a fan, but I wouldn't hate it. It's a perfectly appropriate logo for a Super Bowl in the Big D. No local flavor to speak of, but it certainly captures the soulless, corporate identity of the host team, so it's just fine. My only problem with it is the fact that it represents a move toward standardization that will choke off any new, different, or interesting Super Bowl logo design for years to come” – Scott Rogers, (Ballwonk) CCSLC forum

After forty-four years of creating new logos for each Super Bowl game, I can see why the NFL would want to standardize the process, I am sure it is no easy task for client or designer. But it comes at the expense of almost commoditizing the event, as something that the NFL merely produces the same way each year, over and over without giving each year… the individuality it deserves. But let’s assume the strategy is correct… The execution is simply boring and I can’t imagine it getting more exciting as years go by. Celebrating the stadiums in the logos seems to me the strangest thing to do, especially when you get to structures that aren’t as relatively exciting or with iconic features as the Cowboys stadium. Once you remove the Vince Lombardi trophy shiny effect, the logo is just a clunky bundle of elements” – Armin, Brand New blog

The NFL hasn’t stopped there. It would only make sense to “fix” some other logos to create a modern look and establish brand consistency. Their next project was updating the Conference logos and Championship trophies named after Lamar Hunt and George Halas. I do agree that the AFC and NFC logos need and upgrade as do the trophies. But once again im not impressed.
They had the right idea for the Conference logos by changing the font and incorporating 4 stars into each one (representing the 4 divisions). Seeing them both next to each other though looks a bit weird. The row of stars are at different angles and the kerning space is also different. It just leaves me thinking, “there must be a better way”.
The trophy design seems to be an easy cop-out; a shiny football. Though, all we can see from the current pictures is a side shot, Im not sure how that negative space “wire frame” will look at different angles. I will assume it will always read as a football but again we get a really bland and unimaginative design. With the NFC and AFC trophies being identical, why even give them 2 different names? Theres no personality or anything distinguishing between them. Further more, it just reminds me of the BCS trophy.

I really like the idea of the Championship game logos, being illustrations of the trophies, borrowing the concept of the Super Bowl logo using the Lombardi trophy. That dosnt mean the execution is excellent though. You’ll see these on tv, in print, and painted on the field. Surely there will be multiple versions of these logos as well as it poses the same problems with the gradient. At least they have that consistency.
What I can't figure out is why the playoff logos were even changed. I think the old ones coordinate quite well with the new combine, mini camp and draft logos. The shield was a nice little element to base the brand on, if you ask me”. – Andrew Harrington, CCSLC forums

Since the NFL has gone this far in their identity make over, why not do the preseason logos as well? This is where I give them a pat on the back. These logos look good. Theres consistency, color, and they actually work. Unfortunately, its only a slight upgrade from the previous logos (which also reflected the Championship game logos). It leaves you wondering why they didn’t just continue with the style they had and applied these shield/banner designs to the new post-season marks.
My biggest problem I have here is it may be that the series is too consistent and lacking anything unique between the 5. I liked the idea of using a green banner for the camp logos, which implies the players are actually getting on the field for the first time in the season. I can look past that though, the identical shield marks are cool, but whats with the emphasis on “camp” in MINICAMP as apposed to TRAINING CAMP? Sure the way they did it fits the banners best, but again im left thinking “there must be a better way”
My thoughts on the whole NFL re-load is that they had good intentions, some good concepts, but overall took a huge step back with their branding identity. It lacks creativity and in many cases common design sense. I don’t blame Landor Associates though, this is squarely put on the NFL. Theres a saying that goes “you cant create great design if the client wont let you”. Landor has a design brief they must follow which is issued by the NFL. The concepts are created based on said brief, then presented and approved (hopefully) by the client. The North Texas design committee is then left to work with whatever is provided for them.
The NFL is not the victim here; they are the bully. The designer (even Landor) rarely, almost never, is in a position to tell the client, ‘This is the direction we're heading, and this is how it's going to be.’ Especially if the client is paying [this] much. In fact, a lot of this work was taken out of the hands of Landor and done by the NFL's in-house designers, which I'm assuming is why the Playoff logos look like Roger Goodell's secretary did them in Microsoft Word”. – Anonymous member, CCSLC forums
The last thing id like to touch on is how the identity affects the brand. (Identity = combination of logo, type, and tone work together to form a message. Brand = perception formed by the audience. Only audience can make the brand. Designer forms foundation with logos and identity). I believe a lot of NFL fans will not mind the switch to these new marks and it wont affect their perception of the brand. If anything, the introduction to something new and fresh may be very attractive to the younger fan. Still, taking account of what I have discussed in this article, and the NFL’s wider (older) audience this certainly has a lot of potential to be the next Crystal Pepsi.

The Super Bowl is a strong product, one that has a lot of substance underneath their graphic identity. The 2010 Super Bowl was the most watched in history. This isnt like changing the logo of a team, where people have a very strong emotional attachment; a mark of their own “tribe”. This is the Championship series of the game they love. Remember, these logos are a way of communicating the NFL’s message of their product, which has been growing since the 1930s and if this logo system fails, the worst thing (or best thing?) that will happen is they will go back to the one off logos each year.
“It was a tremendous learning experience. I still think it's the best idea I ever had, and the worst executed… People were saying we should stop and address some issues along the way, and they were right… Once you have a great idea and you blow it, you don't get a chance to resurrect it.” - David C. Novak, Yum! Brands Chairman (Crystal Pepsi)

Which leads me into another important part of brand culture: history. The NFL is rich with its history and traditions, even if it sometimes exploits it as a money making gimmick (throwback uniforms) they do a great job in honoring those traditions and catering to their older audience and roots. But now the games’ Championship tradition has been taken away and replaced with blinged-out sham-mockery. There are plenty of successful brands who have terrible identities. One thing is for sure though, the NFL is not going to suffer any huge loses. No fan will stop watching the games because of bad logos. If that were the case, the Browns wouldn’t have any fans. Or the Redskins
Their [NFL] history IS change, their tradition IS that the logo was tailored to each year..…it's how the public reacts that may determine whether or not this sticks. Cities go out of their way, spending millions on infrastructure, to prepare for the Super Bowl being hosted there. You better believe they'll be fights about the branding if they look the same as XYZ city before them.” – Rob Loukotka,, Brand New comments

If there's a long term cost savings, it seems minor compared to the potential merchandising money for unique solutions. If my team wins the Super Bowl, I want to buy a cap with that year's logo. If it looks just like the previous year, my interest would drop. It's a surprising move for the NFL, who routinely cranks out novel items like throwback jerseys just to make a buck. Are they actually turning away money for the sake of consistency? Creatively, the Super Bowl has been THE forum for aspiring ideas in advertising. Shouldn't the logo be part of that?” – Eric, True Story Inc. Brand New comments

“… I like this better than the past four or five, but it is very unsatisfying. They replaced the pageantry with majesty and took much of the fun out of it in the process… for the game itself, it needs color, it needs fun, it needs vitality, it needs to signify reaching a destination (beyond the literal)”. – Eighthaves, Brand New comments

Super Bowl logo history

Further Reading:
2011 logo is first of NFL's standard look
ESPN – Calvin Watkins
The New Superbowl Logo: When The Mainstream Sports Media Comes Up Empty – David Glisan
Brand New
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