Brand equity. Brand awareness. Brand image. These are all economic terms that overlap, exist in a nebulous world and don’t directly impact the bean-counters. But as the media world has grown over the last half century, so has the understanding and belief in things like advertising, marketing and, of course, branding. Business executives figured out early on that separating oneself, especially in a saturated marketplace, could be the difference between success and failure.
And so things like tag lines — “I’m loving it” or “We pick you up” — and brand logos are born. Volvo being known for having safe cars or Chick-Fil-A known for it’s Sunday beliefs have been interwoven into the fabric of those corporate cultures.
But a company’s logo is still the most recognizable, most direct way to separate yourself from your competitors. The NFL is no different. And since Athlon Sports has been producing the best looking magazine on newsstands for the better part of five decades, we feel qualified to analyze all 32 NFL team logos for 2013.
And I turned our graphic design guru and Art Director Matt Taliaferro loose on the current roster of NFL logos and here is what he came up with:
What other franchise, company or corporate entity in general has gotten more mileage out of a simple star? If it ain't broke (and if it's immediately identifiable) ...
Quite frankly, I don't care whether the universities of Georgia or Grambling or the NFL's Titletown bunch was the first to it (so save me your history lesson), the classic oblong "G" is timeless regardless of team.
The brilliance of this logo lies in how it combines the arrowhead with a rather unique, yet vinatage, font (as logos go, anyway). These "old school" logos fit well with the proud, "old school" fanbases.
The most successful NFL brands are represented by a singular, unmistakably unambiguous logo. The horseshoe personifies that.
San Fran's old "circle logo" needed some refreshing, and when that came to pass a few years ago it was handled with as much elegance as I can imagine. Yeah, I just used the word "elegance" in relation to a football team.
Ever notice the Cincinnati Reds have basically the same logo? The differing color schemes help mask that truth. Hey, go with what works.
The fleur-de-lis encapsulates what the city of New Orleans — and the franchise name "Saints" — is all about. An otherwise simple design that marries a team to a region is typically a winner.
Bold, block lettering portrays the idea of "giant" without getting literal. I'm a sucker for their unis, too.
Is there another logo that incorporates the feel of a fanchise's locale better than Houston's? And with such direct simplicity? The steer, the star, just the right amount of "mod." Answer: I don't think so.
The marriage of logo and fanbase is no stronger anywhere in the NFL as it is in Oakland ... and in the end that's the most important thing, right?
An historic logo whose significance lies as much in the industrial world as the sporting realm. That in itself makes up for the rather bland imagery.
Detroit's lion was redesigned by using just the right amount of contemporary touch. No overdoing things here. Well done.
When the Jets '80s-fied" their logo the look lasted about as long as those of the parachute pants that the designer wore at the time. A case study in why not to jump on the trendy bandwagon when branding is involved.
An aggressive logo whose subtle use of angles and simple, aerodynamic curves fit well with the "Falcons" moniker. A sure favorite of the avant-garde amonst us.
Remember prior to the '97 season when Denver changed uniforms and logos? Then it was radical, now it's common. This logo beats the hell out of the alternate "bucking bronco" mark. Don't bother Googling it; I gotcha.
Subtle color changes aside, the Chargers have enjoyed a successful 50-plus year run with a lightning bolt. Ironically, there's nothing "flashy" about it, yet in the overall theme, it has worked quite well.
"Flying Elvis" quips aside, New England's logo design encapsulates the Minuteman/Revolutionary/Patriot theme in a smart, tidy way.
Love the feathers. If (when?) this franchise makes a complete overhaul, keeping those around in some form would be wise.
Seattle sports are doing a nice job of unifying their themes. Its NFL franchise has done a solid job of going radical with a new look, while not indulging in some of the gaudiness that has come to define sports in the Great Northwest (looking at you, UO).
It was time, Miami. This logo tweak has been handled with class ... the Marlins could take a lesson. As could a couple of the NFL franchises on this list.
I mean, how are you gonna make a buffalo look cool? They've done a lot with a little. And it tramples the old "standing bison" look.
We're wading into "over-Illustrator'd" logo territory, now. I love the color scheme (St. Louis calls it "Millenium Blue" and "New Century Gold"); the mark could use ... something, but I can't put my pen tool on it.
A more fearsome cardinal has helped Arizona's mark. Still, it's a bit underwhelming.
It's a nice little package that the Bucs have put together here. And certainly more marketable than "Buccanneer Bruce."
A stylized "B" with tiger stripes. Could be better, could be worse. Much like the on-field product.
The simple horns on Minnesota's helmet work better than He-Man over there. Braided hair in a football logo seldom works (that's why no one else does it).
"The Flaming Thumbtack" has elements that work: the three stars that are reflected on the state flag and the Greek theme, tying in Nashville's billing as the "Athens of the South." A quirky logo that far outdistances the team's ghastly uniforms.
Technically, Cleveland's logo is the helmet, making placing a logo on the helmet impossible. Talk about minimalistic.
A somewhat cartoonish representation of a bald eagle, this works in a late-90s sort of way. That, however, was 15 years ago.
Carolina is another relatively new franchise that seems to have struggled to find its identity. That is reflected in the logo, which just received a slight adjustment to solidify it's Arena League-esque quality.
I'm not going anywhere near the atrocious gold-to-black helmet gradient, so as to the logo: Yes, it looks like a jaguar. With a blue tongue. Now please move along quickly.
Baltimore has seriously struggled in the logo department since stealing Cleveland's Browns adopting the Ravens. I mean, purple and black? Let's just call them the Baltimore Bruises and be done with it.