The stories behind the most recognisable sporting logos

Written By:  •  Thursday, May 4, 2017

In the ultra-competitive world of branding, sports companies have done pretty well. While the logos of the likes of McDonalds and Apple are instantly recognisable the world over, the top sports brands are not far behind. Whether you are a baseball fan or not, you would most likely be able to identify the New York Yankees’ logo.

Meanwhile, sports fans and beyond will most likely be able to immediately identify some of the world’s top sports betting sites. Much of this is down to lucrative sponsorship deals between betting sites and some of the world’s top football teams – Betway and West Ham, Mansion and Tottenham are two prominent examples. In addition, this Winner casino review gives an insight into another sports betting site, which you might already be familiar with its logo, partly thanks to a six-figure sponsorship deal with the UK Jockey Club Racecourses.

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And of course, when it comes to the world of sport, there are perhaps no bigger brands and popular logos than those of the leading sportswear companies. The Nike ‘swoosh’ and the Adidas triple- stripes are synonymous with sporting excellence. But how did they achieve such notoriety?

Well, the story of the Nike ‘swoosh’ is especially surprising. It would be natural to assume that a logo this successful would have cost the company a significant amount of money paid to world-famous consultants. In reality though, it was the work of a hard-up graphic design student at Portland State University called Carolyn Davidson. Her accounting professor, Phil Knight approached Davidson in 1971 about doing some freelance design for his company Blue Ribbon Sports (later to become Nike). And for the princely sum of $35, she produced the ‘swoosh’ as a symbol of motion and efficiency.
The ultimate tribute to the ‘swoosh’ came in 1995, when Nike removed the lettering from their logo to leave just the symbol itself. You’ll be pleased to know that Davidson eventually received a diamond-encrusted ring and 500 shares in the company.

So, what about Nike’s great rivals? Well, if you are looking for a story of intrigue, then look no further than Adidas and Puma. Both are global brands today, but they actually began in a small village in Bavaria in the 1930s, the work of the Dassler brothers. They successfully produced sports shoes, which were famously worn by Jesse Owens at the 1936 Munich Olympics. But after World War Two, the brothers fell out. Although they remained in the same village, they set up rival companies. Adi Dassler founded Adidas (in tribute to his name), while Rudi Dassler established Ruda (another name amalgamation), which he soon changed to Puma.

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Adidas had greater initial success and Adi soon trademarked the distinctive three stripes, which were emblazoned on the boots of West Germany’s 1954 World Cup winning team. It wasn’t until 1971 that Adidas branched into leisurewear and added the three-pointed trefoil to its logo. In 1997, creative director Peter Moore incorporated the iconic three stripes into an upward looking mountain motif, designed to represent the challenges which can be conquered.

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And what of the other great sports leisure brand Reebok? Well, it also began in humble surroundings. Joseph William Foster founded the company in 1895 in Holcombe Brook, a small village near Bolton in northern England. Until 1986, the Reebok logo paid tribute to its modest beginnings, featuring the Union Jack next to the lettering. The company then dropped the Union Jack and adopted the criss-cross ‘vector’ which has become instantly recognisable. Another major logo change occurred in 2006, when the vector was dropped in favour of the simple “Rbk”.

So it is worth remembering that even when it comes to some of the world’s most familiar sports logos, there is more to them than meets the eye.

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