Some of the most established, recognisable and beloved logos in the world are those that represent sports teams.
Supporters identify with the badge or emblem that has represented their club for decades and often feel betrayed when any small (or large) update is made to it. The badge can often be found tattooed on die-hard fans’ biceps or calves, doodled on their school-books or diaries or on stickers on their cars’ rear windscreen.
There is immense association between the logo and the team, maybe more so than any other kind of logo and it’s owner.
For me football team logos hold a lot of sentimental value; representing my youthful enthusiasm for studying everything there was to know about the game (kits, badges, players…)! Unfortunately most are very traditional with no standout design concepts and seldom any inspirational technique or quality. Many are still exactly as drawn decades ago and are in severe need of some quality refining.
That said, there are some really good and well drawn sports team logos out there. I really love the American style sports logos you see around: aggressive looking arrangements featuring bold emphatic type and stylised, hard vector style characters or mascots associated with the team. The style has become quite an art and seems particularly associated with American football and basketball teams despite the fact that when you look at a lot of the current NFL and NBA teams* their logos are actually fairly poorly crafted!
Here are some of my favourite sports team logos from around the world. Some are iconic, some mean more to me than they might to you, and some I’m just captivated by their crafting. I’d love to know if you agree with my choices or if you think I missed any out!
*Interestingly, I’d love to have included Chicago Bulls in there: the logo is indisputably recognisable and iconic but it’s SO badly drawn and typeset it makes me cringe! Someone do them an update, please!
No. 10. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins have always been one of the more famous American Football teams; their popularity amongst flitting fans from across the globe probably stemming a lot from their ‘cute’ angry dolphin mascot (not to mention quarterback Dan Marino and the team’s central role in the cult classic comedy movie from the early 90s, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective!).
Since 1997 a smart and stylised vector version has been in use, keeping the traditions of the badge and adding a professional quality sheen.
No. 9. London Glory
London Glory joins Munich Warhawks and Paris Reign as imaginary ‘NBA Europe’ teams designed for by student Ian Bakar. The teams are given sharp logos with relevant themes and it’s the execution that impresses me on these – particularly the type.
Ian also revamped existing NBA logos including a popular revision of the famous Orlando Magic badge.
No. 8. Glasgow Rangers
Scottish football was dominated by Rangers during my childhood and I was always fascinated by this (ironically) celtic arrangement of the letters RFC that formed the club’s crest.
Even now, as well as a sense of nostalgia, the way the letters combine still appeals to me as one of the best typographic sports logos out there.
No. 7. Onalaska-Holmen Tornado
Another fictional rebrand, Matt Kauzlarich (another American student) found some fame on the internet through his series ‘Rebranding the NHL’. His marks take the bold vector style that’s associated with American sports and deliver with stunning quality.
This logo for a junior (ice) hockey team in particular caught my eye for its energetic and skilful execution.
No. 6. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals are usually represented by a simple letter B in orange with black tiger stripes but their secondary logo features this beautifully drawn mascot. The artwork features perfect judgement, aggressive attitude and admirable craft – quite a combination.
No. 5. Tottenham Hotspur
An English football club with plenty of history, Spurs’ recent rebranding by famous identity designer/illustrator Chris Mitchell of EpicIcons kept true to the club’s originality and tradition and brought it right up to date, replacing the tired old cockerel with a newer, prouder and more assertive model.
No. 4. New Jersey Nets
Despite the trends already mentioned regarding the ‘American style’ illustrative logos, looking around the NBA it’s easy to see that many teams’ marks don’t live up to the quality craftsmanship of others. Famous basketball teams like the Chicago Bulls and LA Lakers in particular have recognisable logos but ones that, on closer inspection, could really use a bit of an update!
The Nets’ logo was redesigned in 1998 and has become established as a good example of what can be achieved. The shield shape is rotated on its axis and shown in 3 dimensions – allowing the hoop to show and the ball protruding from the background. Well constructed and dynamic.
No. 3. Sharks
I love this wicked looking illustrative logo for South African rugby team The Sharks. From what I can tell the logo isn’t live but it really should be. The shape hints at an S, the creature is typically poised, ready to instil fear into the opposition!
You should see some of the other excellent designs English designer Fraser Davidson has produced – see his website here. I particularly love his London Monarchs reworking.
No. 2. England
The three lions have become such an incredible symbol of English football (even inspiring the popular song from Euro 96 by Frank Skinner and David Badiel!) it would be impossible to leave it out of the list.
The symbolism of the English Lions (from the ancient National Royal Arms) have become traditional and the latest rendering is well drawn and brings the classic logo right up to date. Especially with the solitary star, reminding us (can you imagine us ever forgetting…?) of our famous World Cup win in 1966!
No. 1. Yankees
I think this has to top my list for its sheer exposure as much as anything! Probably the most widespread sports team logo ever, the Yankees monogram features not only on the players’ helmets and uniforms but on fashion items (most commonly, caps) the world over.
I’ve always loved the smart way the letters interlock and come together to make one of the world’s most recognisable motifs.
Which of these do you like the most? Do you have one you prefer?