Baseball, football, and basketball logo evolutions

Any sportsfan can tell you that their love of the game goes beyond simple fandom. It’s a passionate pastime – and big business. A team is more than just a collection of players: it’s a form of identity. And behind that identity is a logo(opens in a new tab or window) that carries a lot of weight.

Any team goes through good times and bad. And as we see in this post, their logo designs(opens in a new tab or window) often evolve to give them a new look and feel.

In researching this post, we’ve observed the following common changes:

Simple modifications: Some logos are just slightly updated to fit with the times. A simple color difference, bolder strokes, size, or detail.

Simplify the logo: Some logos are designed with extreme detail. Later on those logos are simplified, removing illustrations and stripping information—often transforming into a simple icon that represents the brand.

Complete overhaul: Some logos go through a totally different look, not keeping any design element from the last. A complete overhaul can be dangerous—it might not get the thumbs up from the fans and the brand will lack connection with its core audience. It’s a risky move, but some teams like to completely refresh their brand— and if the franchise isn’t making any money on the old brand, it might be a worthwhile gamble.

World Series, All Star Games, Super-bowls, Playoffs: These special event logos are usually branded to fit the location. This showcases the growth of a logo as it goes through its annual change. This being said, there are always some elements that stay the same in the end.

Major League Baseball Logos

Boston Red Sox

As you can see, the Red Sox have stuck with the same team history and colors. From the first simple, yet effective, logo design in 1908, the Red Sox moved on to a much more detailed logo between 1979-2008. In 2009, the logo returned to the team’s original idea.

Atlanta Braves

The 1968-1971 logo features the iconic laughing Native American with the Braves scripted wordmark underneath. In 1972-1986, the logo is modified to include a blue square and a bold blue and red outlined color scheme. Moving forward to 1990, the infamous tomahawk takes centre stage.

San Diego Padres

An interesting case study: All of the logos are completely different, overhauling the design each time. The only element that has remained consistent is the name of the team. The first logo from 1969–1984 has a prominent character illustration, but seven years later the Padres dropped the character and color scheme and went with a traditional baseball typography logo.

World Series

Going back to 1974 and 1975, the World Series logos are nothing more than basic text. They progress to a more graphic logo in 1985 and 1987, including the MLB logo and placing more attention on baseball elements.

From 1992 to 1999 the logos were given depth, adding shadows, stronger strokes and bolder lines. The logos were contained inside the diamond, which is often used in baseball logos. A globe has been inserted and changed up the color schemes. In 1999, they’ve added a different perspective.

In 2000-2003, the logos received a much more detailed look and were styled around the team that held the World Series. This detailed look was reduced from 2004-2007, losing the diamond shape.

2008 was the year of the “Fall Classic” MLB, trying to throw back their logo with a much more credible, mature feel. However, in 2018 the logo took on a more simplistic approach, featuring a bold, heavy font that’s rather similar to their 1975 logo.

MLB All Star Game

This annual event showcases the best players in the league. The one obvious trend in each All Star Game logo is that the team holding the All Star Game brands the logo to fit with their club.

As you can see, from 1938 to 2018 the logos are different in almost every aspect.

NBA (National Basketball Association) Logos

New York Knicks

The 1965-1976 logo offered a picturesque logo. The basketball looks very realistic, especially considering its time.

Keeping with the same theme, the 1996 Knicks logo was modified to be more modern, adding a simplified color scheme, shape and bolder lines. The perspective is key for the Knicks logo.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs have gone through a bunch of different logos in the past 60+ years. Their first logo from 1947–1964 features a great character illustration, leaving a lot to the imagination. Moving to 1971–1983, the logo took on a more college basketball look, whereas from 1984–1994 the logo was simplified to the more popular team name.

From 2004-2010, the logo is much more aggressive and bold. The orange colors in the previous logos feel soft, whereas dark red and blue with gold and white highlights is more bold.

In their latest logo, the Cleveland Cavaliers have removed the basketball, encompassing their logo in a shield. Although they have reverted back to including some of the softer orange colors, the logo still feels bold and strong.

Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics is one of the most successful teams in the NBA and one of the most recognizable brands in the history of sports. From 1947–1950 Boston Celtics had a button-like logo featuring the team name and a simple clover icon. Moving to 1961-1968, the Celtic character was introduced, paving the way for the introduction of 1969-1978’s character.

1997’s logo still stands strong. It’s a great reflection of what a character can do for a brand. With a hugely iconic character, this logo is timeless.

Chicago Bulls

Designed in 1967 by Theodore W. Drake, this classic logo hasn’t changed since. The logo is strong, bold, powerful and aggressive; a great reflection of the bull. The typography also sits nicely between the bull’s red tipped horns.

National Football League Logos

Buffalo Bills

From 1960-1969, the logos for Buffalo Bills were certainly interesting. Featuring a football player over the top of an image of a bull, the logos were contained within the football shape. In 1974, the Bills upgraded their logo to the blue and red charging bison.

Cleveland Browns

This is an interesting brand, with the 1950s logo being an illustration of an elf. However, from the 1970s to the present day, their main logos have been very similar iterations of a football helmet—leaving fans pleading for a new logo.

Miami Dolphins

This is a great example of keeping with the same logo and just enhancing it. 1966 was the first year the logo was introduced, featuring a cute dolphin with a Miami football helmet. The logo wasn’t modified until 1974 when it was given a warmer color scheme and more detail.

In 1997, the logo was updated to a fully enhanced dolphin illustration, featuring details to show the emotion and expression of the dolphin. The logo is much more bold, including enhanced weight of the strokes and highlights.

In 2017, the Miami Dolphin ditched the Miami football helmet and took on a much more sleek and modern appearance.

Arizona Cardinals

This is an example of how simple change can elicit different emotions. The original Arizona Cardinals logo from 1994–2004 is a solid logo; simple and easy to understand. In 2005 the logo was slightly modified to fit with a faster and stronger NFL. The Cardinal was tilted slightly, more streamlined, with sharp elements and strokes.

Dallas Cowboys

Some people might argue that this should be alongside the Chicago Bulls logo as one of the best sports logos of all time. The star has been around since 1960, with a slight update 4 years later. Standing strong for the Cowboys, this logo is simple and iconic.

New England Patriots

This is another example of a detailed logo being simplified. The 1970’s logo is a fantastic illustration but the 2000 logo is completely different, featuring a much more streamlined design, and a different color scheme.

Super Bowl Logos

The biggest TV sports event of the year. And its logo has come a long way since 1967. The logos use the powerful roman numeral system, bringing to mind the emotion and history of this epic game. Similar to the MLB All Star Games, the logo branding matches the location where the Super Bowl is taking place. In the early years, the logos were very basic typography, prioritizing getting the message across, and showcasing the roman numeral as the main focal point of the logo.

In more recent years, design elements were added. While still using the roman numerals as the main focal point, they’ve added football elements or city trademarks to pull the logos together nicely.

From 2010, the Super Bowl logo was revamped, still keeping the roman numerals but featuring the Vince Lombardi trophy along with the shape of each stadium behind it. Criticised for moving away from the bold, colorful and unique designs, the logo now follows a more consistent design using a very similar color scheme.

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