Speak UpA Former Division of UnderConsideration
The Archives, August 2002 – April 2009
advertise @ underconsideration
---Click here for full archive list or browse below
Sports Branding

Sports. No need to explain the social importance of sports in any part of the world. We all know that people live and die by their favorite teams’ wins or losses. A night at the bar can start as a joyful experience and end as a terribly depressing night.

It is of big importance for teams to have a strong identity that fans can relate to. That includes not only the logo, but uniforms, stadium signage, colors and even the mascot. Lately a lot of teams have been redeveloping their logos mainly to attract new fans and increase the lacking revenue of today.

But is sports branding more than swooshes, shadowy lettering and stylized illustrations of every member of the animal kingdom?

Sports branding is a specialty offering within the Graphic Design field, and few firms offer these services. I was able to find only a couple. One is called SME Power Branding which apparently has done every major sports logo, but they don’t have a web site. Then there is this other small place, there are no big names in there but it’s a good representation of what sports logos should look like.

There also is an interesting article about the NBA’s branding strategies on the AIGA’s Gain Journal.

And as a bonus: old school logos (with a few new ones in between).

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
ARCHIVE ID 1300 FILED UNDER Branding and Identity
PUBLISHED ON Nov.11.2002 BY Armin
tom’s comment is:

Do ALL the sports team logos created in the last 10 years look like they were created and or illustrated by the same person. I mean enough with the sharp, jagged edges. And the color selection... every new team in the majorleagues recently has some version of 'teal' and black. I can just here the presentation pitch, "It's energetic and the colors are hot."

To me, and again it's just me, I love the classics. San Francisco Giants, the Yankees, The Celtics, Penn State(just a blue stripe on the helmet), Notre Dame, Alabama with player numbers on the helmet.

I have often thought that the marketing executives for these sports leagues would take a look at the youth fashion industry(Abercrombie, Gap, Polo, FuBu, etc...) and see that all this simple, old school athletic look and translate that to a new team.

The rest of this comment is an interesting article about the origins of football helmet graphics.

Los Angeles Ram halfback Fred Gehrke, elusively roamed NFL gridirons for six years and left his mark for all to see whenever the Rams take the field.

In 1939 Gehrke was an art major and a grid speedster at the University of Utah. He joined the Rams in 1940 and the following off-season became associated with Northrop Aircraft in Los Angeles and became an integral part of that firm's design department throughout the war.

At the close of the 1947 season, Coach Bob Snyder asked Gehrke to designing a new Ram uniform.

Gehrke's imaginative helmet design, however, created a momentary monster. Unable to find a mass method of stenciling, Snyder delivered 70 leather helmets to him with instructions to hand paint them. Throughout the summer, Gehrke worked every available moment at night and on weekends on the project, and throughout the year, as solid blows chipped and cracked the paint, "Gehrke's helmet paint repair department" became a season- long and active part of the Ram scene.

Before the 1949 season, Coach Clark Shaughnessy introduced the Riddell plastic helmet and Gehrke envisioned the same job all over again. But the manufacturer agreed to include the design and the paint was baked on from the inside, showing through the transparent plastic. Since then, there have been changes in the design of the helmet itself, but the famous Ram horns remain a basic part of every "hat" received from the manufacturer ... the most distinctive helmet in football.

On Nov.11.2002 at 10:41 AM
Jon’s comment is:

> the most distinctive helmet in football.

The Rams' helmet is a great one. The Eagles helmets are good too, with the wings on the side.

> Do ALL the sports team logos created in the last 10 years look like they were created and or illustrated by the same person

I agree wholeheartedly with this. I have steadily watched as teams 'updated' their identities with more and more of the same. I miss the iconic look of some of the older team logos. As much as I HATE the Anaheim Angels, I was SO happy to see them ditch that ridiculous Disney Wing logo of a few years ago and go back to a version of the Halo'ed A.

I've noticed that more teams are taking this type of approach and going back to more classical logos. The NY Jets and Giants both have gone back to classic marks - the Giants even have their old 50's NY mark on the helmets - even though both now play in New Jersey. The Philadelphia Phillies updated their stuff about 7-8 years ago and went with an update of their old 1950's designs. I remember the NY Islanders changed from their bad hockeystick/island logo to an actual 'storm king' type of creature (done by SME) about 5-6 years ago. The fans hated it so much, they switched back the next year.

> One is called SME Power Branding

I don't think they exist any longer. I recall they were purchased by SFX or Clear Channel (can't remember) a few years ago and absorbed within. They did some nice stuff, but they also did a TON of the agressive illustration and zoomy type stuff that I'm tired of.

On Nov.11.2002 at 02:06 PM
Kyle’s comment is:

Here's their site.. SME Power Branding

I work at a screen printing company that serves the collegiate market....I see a LOT of SME style marks. Even thought it gets old seeing their style, SME and those like them do provide schools with consistent logo guidelines that make my job much easier.

If you look at the logos for colleges and professional sports teams, you'll notice a pattern of similar logos...I think it's the mindless corporate mentality of "hey, our competition is doing it, we should to!" They think they have to do it to compete or because "it's what the fans want".

On Nov.12.2002 at 10:40 AM
Armin’s comment is:

>Here's their site.. SME Power Branding

Thanks! I typed that exact URL and it never loaded. Oh Well.

>I think it's the mindless corporate mentality of "hey, our competition is doing it, we should to!"

Exactly. I think it's a shame that it has carried over to sports. The fact that sports are more entertainment than competition is probably what makes all these logos look the same and corporations and sponsors wanting identities that are making money. I mean if the Denver Nuggets still looked like this:

who would go watch them? oh... right, nobody watches them anyway.

[start cliché] Where did the love for the game go? [end cliché]

>every new team in the major leagues recently has some version of 'teal' and black

Teal is the new �IBM Blue’ ; )

On Nov.12.2002 at 12:14 PM
Stephen Coles’s comment is:

That Bullets logo with the arms is one of my all-time favorites. It’s so amateur it’s endearing.

On Nov.12.2002 at 03:23 PM
B. Baltimore Brown’s comment is:

Old-school uniform and logo design in sports has always fascinated me. One of the best things the NFL ever did was bring back the old uniforms for the anniversary a few years back. Oddly, My team the Kansas City Chiefs was exactly the same.

Here's a great resource and dream worthy online store for all of your old-school sports desires: Ebbets Field Flannels

On Nov.19.2002 at 02:16 PM
Nand Dussault’s comment is:

Here's a studio doing a lot in the world of College logos - nice work, and fairly well rounded representation...


On Nov.19.2002 at 11:18 PM
jonsel’s comment is:

For you baseball fans north of the border, I just saw the new Toronto Blue Jays logo unveiled yesterday. More of the same, basically. They've got new uniforms, too, but I haven't seen a picture. Here's the most recent logo. They are apparently following the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the shortening of their name on uniforms.

I guess in the age of business baseball, where players are rarely in the same town for long, where a player no longer will play his entire career (or the vast majority of it) on a single team, the notion of a timeless, age-defying logo is irrelevant. Still, I long to see more interlocking NY's, single B's, or birds balancing on a bat existing almost the same for decades, linking generations of players and fans. I love watching games of the team I love, knowing that same uniform and logo was running around the field 50 years ago when my father watched their games and rooted against them.

On Sep.04.2003 at 09:25 AM
graham’s comment is:

mitchell and ness, baby.

particularly the jackets-check distant-replays.com, then baseball, then jackets.


On Sep.04.2003 at 09:37 AM
jonsel’s comment is:

I want that 1951 Yankees jersey bad. Pricey stuff. Nice link, Graham. Thanks.

On Sep.04.2003 at 10:09 AM
Colin’s comment is:

I pray that my team doesn't fall victim to either this logo or the third jersey phenomena.

On Sep.04.2003 at 12:02 PM
Rick Moore’s comment is:

I was just thinking about this topic this morning as I was looking at the new Phoenix Coyote's identity.

The old logo was terrible, but this one is even worse.

On Sep.04.2003 at 02:28 PM
jonsel’s comment is:

I'm not sure what sport those Coyotes play, but does it involve decapitating the loser?

On Sep.04.2003 at 02:35 PM
Colin’s comment is:

Damn, I was just going to post the Coyotes logo.

Well this is a move away from the new look. If you check out their sweaters you'll notice they're very old school, with simple 3 horizontal lines in 1 color, no color on the shoulder, and a neck tie strap on the dark (home, the NHL is switching this year) jersey.

Their old logo/jersey was in this hideous Adobe Illustrator South American style.

Let's see how long this old school revival lasts, because I see management in a few years thinking, "WHY IS THERE NO COLOR IN OUR JERSEYS?".

On Sep.04.2003 at 04:38 PM
jonsel’s comment is:

Their uniforms remind me of the Red Wings. I do like the video of the "evolution" of the logo - nice and bloody like the NHL should be!

On Sep.04.2003 at 05:42 PM
Doug G.’s comment is:

As far as the Coyotes' new identity, I think it's a stronger and more classic image, but the color scheme for the jerseys is lacking. I felt the green, mixed with the creme and brick red, gave the team a pretty distinctive look. I never liked the glyph-like icons that came along with the team's inception, though.

SME does a hell of a job, even if there are some excessive parallels in the designs. Most of the teams they have done work for needed updates to their identities badly. I certainly hope Ole Miss and some other colleges follow suit.

On Oct.16.2003 at 11:51 AM
Phil’s comment is:

Everyone seems to be looking for SME. Their website is www.smebranding.com

On Dec.02.2003 at 07:40 PM
Phil’s comment is:

Here's another sports branding agency that has some good work. You just have to look past the really bad website design. Link

On Dec.02.2003 at 08:01 PM
AndyMac’s comment is:

The reason why the Rams and Eagles look the same is the NFL has its own design team in New York that updates these things. I'm not positive they were both worked on by this firm, but it seems kind of obvious that they were. An interesting case to note is that of the Baltimore Ravens, where the security guard of the stadium created the original logo, but this design team passed it off as its own. I'm doing my senior thesis on sports branding and am very interested in and thankful for this site, and also I thought the original coyotes logo--as strange as it was-- expressed not only the city of phoenix in its design, but also was exciting to see an NHL team breaking out of the box. The new one is boring, and doesn't communicate much.

On Dec.08.2003 at 04:36 AM
Lucien’s comment is:

I agree completely. I attend Old Dominion University and our new logo, about a year or so old has a style that resembles many other school's logo. For one I know it resembles temple's logo. It is the straight lines and high contrast in colors. Most of the mascot are rendered in an almost geometric fashion, flat , hardly 3-d but stylized to appear 3-d. So I think there is a guy out there that has a good sales pitch, that he is giving to these universities and professional team officials. Or we have a lot of copy cats in that sports design market.

-or when the client approaches the designer they say, "I like the way theirs looks, make mine like that." (which Iam sure is the case.)

On Dec.08.2003 at 06:33 PM
surts’s comment is:

The post today about Step magazine triggered me to look through some of my older Step by Step magazines. One of my favorite articles was about Gerard Huerta in V14.1. I think it was seeing the detail that went into his Swiss Army watches that has made me a collector of the brand, SamataMason could be blamed too. At his web site, Gerard has numerous sporting designs along with some of his watches.

On Dec.12.2003 at 07:40 PM
Kobe’s comment is:

Other than SME, who are some of the major players in sports branding (sports logo design?). It is extremely difficult to find some of the other players....

On Feb.23.2004 at 02:28 AM
Larry Christensen’s comment is:

I have been a student of university logos for almost 30 years. I read the comments from the Old Dominion University alumnus with sympathy. Old Dominion had the finest logo, in my opinion, of any university in the US. It was a stylized lion with a crown. Now I can't even find an example of it on the internet. It has been replaced by a simplified "crown." Now the ODU athletics programs are using high-school lion drawings. Have those people lost their minds?

On Mar.12.2004 at 12:58 AM
Mark’s comment is:

The 1990-1997 NY Jets logo was one of the most recognizable logos in the sports world.

I remember seeing it and though it was unique even though I'm not a Jets fan.

sigh the previous one was forward looking the current Jets logo seems "old school" just some fancy not really unique type inside a green oval, yawn.

Whoever designed the 1990-1997 logo was a genious whoever they are.

Heh, the 72-77 New York Nets logo is oddly similar to the CBS logo

Another rememberable logo was the Hartford Whaler's logo (and yes rememberable is a real word)

Some proof that good design is evident in sports.

On Sep.28.2005 at 05:31 PM
Mark’s comment is:

As quoted by Landon Christensen:

I have been a student of university logos for almost 30 years. I read the comments from the Old Dominion University alumnus with sympathy. Old Dominion had the finest logo, in my opinion, of any university in the US. It was a stylized lion with a crown. Now I can't even find an example of it on the internet.

Well Landon, I have good news and no,I didn't save a bunch of money by switching to Geico (LOL)

Instead, I have found the logo you've been looking for!

I came across this while searching Old Dominion University on Ebay (I use Ebay as a resource for searching for old logos besides Wayback Machine.)

The crown design is the same as the one thats on the university's website so it must the the correct one.


Personally I think this is much more of a stronger mark than a simple crown.

its more eyecatching and unique too.

BTW I don't attend Old Dominion University yet I feel it looks pathetic to have just a crown to represent your university it looks weak,the lion to me seems to make more sense.

On Sep.28.2005 at 06:15 PM
Mark’s comment is:

another old ODU sighting!

ok thats enough for now.

On Sep.28.2005 at 06:27 PM
Mark ’s comment is:

Ok just one more in all its finest details ODU logo

(I'm really digg'n this logo)

Okay back to topic.

On Sep.28.2005 at 06:31 PM
Skye’s comment is:

hey guys, check out this site www.skyedesignstudios.com. I'm a professional logo designer focusing on sports branding. I have learned about all the powerhouse agencies and have modeled my style to create much more unique trademarks for each team...as opposed to pumping out cookie cutter designs left and right. love to hear your thoughts!

On Jul.14.2007 at 10:31 PM