Anybody who examines the history of Super Bowl logos will notice a trend that began in 2010.
The archive of Super Bowl logos on Sportslogos.net displays the evolution of the design for each year of the NFL’s title game. The first 12 logos featured similar designs before the league got more creative and colorful. In the 1990s, in particular, designers went all out in creating unique brands for Super Bowls.
Then the league unveiled the logo for Super Bowl 45 in Arlington, Texas, and announced it had partnered with design company Landor, which has handled the design of the Super Bowl logos ever since.
And it shows.
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The Super Bowl logos since that partnership began have featured roughly the same look: mostly grey, featurning the Lombardi Trophy and (for the first six years) something that involved the city.
In recent designs, the logo has become even more standardized with the design simply adding another I as the Roman numerals continue to grow. The logo for Super Bowl 54 follows a similar theme with the Lombardi trophy after the Roman numeral L followed by the rest of the Roman numerals.
Landor released the following statement soon after it partnered with the league:
“The NFL has historically introduced a dramatically different Super Bowl logo every year based primarily on the location of the game, and using roman numerals for greatest impact. Landor’s strategy for the new visual identity system places at the heart of it the Vince Lombardi trophy, given to the Super Bowl’s winning team each year. Depending on the NFL event, the new system allows for complementary elements to be introduced. The released version, for the Arlington 2011 Super Bowl XLV, is the first example of a region-specific identity which will include each year’s stadium venue and the roman numerals to designate the event. This system affords the NFL consistency from year to year, regardless of the playoff event.”
Sporting News reached out to Landor, which chose not to comment for this story.
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“The overall stifling of creativity that we’re seeing more and more across all sports effectively sterilizes the entire design industry,” Chris Creamer, the founder of Sportslogos.net, told Sporting News. “I mean, sure, I can certainly understand why they’d want to go this route — it’s easier, it’s got to be less expensive, and it’s a way to increase brand awareness with a consistent look. But what it’s ultimately doing is forcing us all to stick with a single design cooked up over a decade ago, despite any evolution in society’s tastes and industry trends.
“The NFL is far from the only league who’s tried to standardize a logo from year-to-year; it’s just that they’ve taken the most drastic shift from creative and unique each year to rigid and lifeless.”
Todd Radom, who designed the logo for Super Bowl 38 and had a hand in designing the logo for Super Bowl 39, spoke to SN about the development of the logo.
“Sports is all about passion and color and energy,” he said. “The current logo is a beautifully rendered illustration, but it’s colorless and static, corporate and soulless; all metaphors for many — fairly or otherwise— for the NFL itself.”
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From Super Bowl 45 to Super Bowl 49, there was no color in the logos. Just recently did Landor start incorporating color, but only a little.
In contrast, the logo for Super Bowl 33, for example, featured six distinct colors. Radom said that logo is among his favorites, including those of Super Bowls 14 and 17, because those logos had “a defined sense of place and time.”
Said Radom when asked what makes a good Super Bowl logo: “A sense of excitement and bigness, and a structurally sound logo that’s going to resonate with fans at retail. Something that can animate well on broadcast and on our devices, a logo that can peel apart into smaller logos for optimal versatile usage and, hopefully someday, something that gives us back the feeling of time and place that we have lost along the way.”
Creamer also noted the lack of homage to the host cities in the logos for Super Bowl 51-53.
“Just compare the logo of Super Bowl 28 featuring a giant peach with this year’s rehash,” Creamer said, referring to 2019’s logo. “It’s hard to imagine the same city hosted both of these games.
“A good Super Bowl logo needs to clearly represent the city or region that’s hosting the game. These communities pour a lot of time, money and other resources into staging the game. It’s only fair for the league to throw some love back at them. It should be a pretty simple task, including the individual host elements, including a relevant color scheme, combined with the change in Roman numerals from game to game takes care of most of that on its own.”
But, as Radom says, “Change is inevitable, especially as visual trends and digital technology evolve.”
Roger Goodell will not be the NFL commissioner forever, and whoever replaces him will have a chance to get back to the roots of what made Super Bowl logos fun.
“One day we’ll look back on this era, shake our heads, and be glad that it’s done with,” Creamer said. “A time will come where there will be a change in leadership and the new person in charge will realize it’s better to go back to a different design every year.”