Why did the Super Bowl logo design stay the same for so long?


The Super Bowl is one of the most exciting events on the sports calendar. Between pregame theatrics, a headlining halftime show and, of course, a championship NFL game, there’s something for just about everybody to look forward to on Super Bowl Sunday.

For a decade-long stretch, however, one aspect was noticeably stale.

The Super Bowl logo went from a unique design each year to an annual re-hash. The NFL has started to make creative progress with it in the last two years, but why did it take so long to get innovative again?

With this year’s matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs set, let’s look at how the Super Bowl logo got to where it is today:

How did Super Bowl logos used to look?

Before the NFL got into a repetitive cycle, it had over four decades of original Super Bowl logos.

The first Super Bowl logo didn’t even say “Super Bowl,” as it was considered the “First World Championship Game” between the AFL and NFL. Super Bowl II marked the origins of not only artistic logos, but also the use of Roman numerals. 

For the next 40-plus years, each Super Bowl logo stood out on its own. Fonts, colors and more continued to evolve, and the designs even began to incorporate the sites of the game itself. Prime examples of this creativity include Super Bowl XXI (Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.), Super Bowl XXXI (New Orleans), Super Bowl XXXVIII (Houston) and Super Bowl XXXIX (Jacksonville).

When did the NFL change its Super Bowl logo design?

After utilizing unique logos for Super Bowls I through XLIV, the NFL made a switch to a uniform design.

Before Super XLIV took place in Miami in February 2010, the NFL and the North Texas Super Bowl Committee unveiled the logo for the ensuing Super Bowl that would take place in Arlington, Texas. From top to bottom, the logo had the Lombardi Trophy, Cowboys Stadium, a bar that read “Super Bowl” and the Roman numerals for 45.

The logo was the first of its kind, as no other Super Bowl had involved the Lombardi Trophy in its design. And for the next 10 years, that – like just about everything else – would not change.

“It's a unique mixture of icons that represents what this whole thing is all about. It's well done,” Bill Lively, the president and CEO of the North Texas Super Bowl XLV Host committee, said at the time, via ESPN. “We've approached our mission not just for 45 but for many, many [Super Bowl] games to come.”

The NFL got some outside help in creating its new system in 2010, which extended beyond the Super Bowl and into other rounds of the playoffs. Landor Associates, now Landor & Fitch, partnered with the league and helped launch the redesign.

How did the Super Bowl logo change from 2010 to 2020?

For five straight years, the Super Bowl logo had the same formula: the Lombardi Trophy and stadium sitting atop “Super Bowl” and the Roman numerals. It used the same font and colors with only the background venue and numerals adjusting with each iteration.

The NFL switched things up for Super Bowl 50 in the 2015 season, more from a name standpoint than a design one. To celebrate a half-century – and avoid calling that season’s big game “Super Bowl L” – the league ditched the Roman numerals for one season.

As for the logo, the NFL incorporated color into the Super Bowl logo for the first time in six years, giving the “50” a sleek gold. Aside from that, the only difference between that and prior logos was sticking the 50 behind the Lombardi Trophy instead of below it and placing Levi’s Stadium as the venue.

The Roman numerals returned for Super Bowl LI, and so did repetitive logos. For the next five years, the logo went “L” plus the Lombardi Trophy plus the remaining numerals. Over that stretch, there were ever-so-slight modifications like color and miniscule font tweaks, but they were otherwise indistinguishable. Super Bowls LVII and LVIII looked as identical to one another as the four-year run of Super Bowls XLV through XLVIII – just add an “I” and that’s it.

Do other leagues use the same championship logo every year?

Part of the NFL’s rationale in sticking with one design was its desire to match other major leagues and events.

“A sports event of this stature needed a consistent, iconic identity — a symbol that fans could immediately recognize, much like the Olympic rings,” Landor said, via The Washington Post

The Olympic rings are no doubt an iconic symbol, but the Olympics still incorporate a new logo for each edition of the Summer and Winter Games. The same goes for the World Cup, too.

Looking at other major American sports leagues, the NBA maintained a Finals logo from 2004 to 2017 before switching to a bland design. After four seasons, the league finally switched back to its signature, cursive font for its championship series in 2022. Major League Baseball went through a handful of recurring World Series designs in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s before making a different logo each year throughout the 21st century.

What was the Super Bowl LVI logo?

The NFL took a creative step forward with its logo for Super Bowl LVI, even if it was a small one. 

The Roman numerals were red with a little bit of yellow and palm trees were included for the game’s return to the Los Angeles area. The Lombardi Trophy was also moved behind the numerals, eliminating any confusion about if it was meant to signify an “I.”

While any change could be seen as a good change, there were still some complaints about the Super Bowl LVI logo and its “bloody” shade of red.

What is the Super Bowl LVII logo?

Like many of the logos from the first four decades of the Super Bowl, as well as its immediate predecessor, this year’s Super Bowl logo infuses its location.

The Super Bowl LVII logo showcases a canyon and blue, turquoise, purple and red desert features as the game returns to Glendale, Ariz. The Lombardi Trophy is slightly behind the colorful “L,” though it is alongside the “V,” whereas it was behind the “V” on the Super Bowl LVI logo.

What is the Super Bowl LVIII logo?

No logo has officially been confirmed for next year’s event in Las Vegas. The Raiders and Allegiant Stadium used a simple but sleek design for the Super Bowl LVIII announcement in December of 2021, but it remains to be seen what will be used for the actual game.

There is no shortage of design possibilities when crafting something for the first Super Bowl in Sin City, but it’s up to the NFL to go all-in on a creative look.

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