49ers-Chiefs debunks Super Bowl color theory

ByBrianna Williams ESPN logo
Friday, February 9, 2024

The NFL's "script writers" are (allegedly) still at it, but this time it's on the game's biggest stage: Super Bowl LVIII.

Earlier in the season, fans pointed out similarities between the dominant colors of the Big Game's logo and the teams featured in the matchup in recent years.

It all started when the orange and yellow hues in the art for Super Bowl LVI were similar to the colors of theCincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Chargers. That was followed up with green and red tones in the logo for Super Bowl LVII, which matched the colors of the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs.

This year, purple and red are primarily featured in the Super Bowl LVIII logo.

"If the Super Bowl is Baltimore and San Fran, then I tell you what, that Super Bowl LIX emblem better have Jet green on it," New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers said on the "Pat McAfee Show" ahead of the AFC Championship Game.

For some fans, that conspiracy was spoiled when the Chiefs (and Taylor Swift) defeated the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game.

But, since half of the projected matchup (read: San Francisco 49ers) was accurate, that has to count for something, right?

While the discussions of whether it's a coincidence or conspiracy continue, here's how we got here:

From 1967's Super Bowl II until 2009's Super Bowl XLIV, the Big Game's logo included various colors, fonts and designs. In its earliest days, red, white and blue dominated -- until the early 90s. Super Bowls IV, VI XV and XVI are some of the biggest outliers to this, with their bold gold lettering standing out from the bunch.

"The first 10 Super Bowls didn't have formalized logos because there was really not a need for it. There was not a lot of merchandise being sold with the logos. They weren't featured on the field at all," Todd Radom, designer and sports branding expert, told ESPN. "The game evolved into the biggest spectacle in American sports, probably sometime in the mid-seventies, so the marketing and selling of the game really became far more detailed and sophisticated."

Later on, elements of the host city were also incorporated, such as in Super XXI which was played at the Rose Bowl and included the venue's signature flower in its art.

"The NFL realized there was an opportunity to really monetize Super Bowl merchandise in the early 1990s. By the time Super Bowl XXVIII came around, they really leaned into designs that would be most appealing to local fans," Chris Creamer, founder of SportsLogos.net, told ESPN. "[Local fans] were most likely to attend the game and just, in general, be interested in that year's Super Bowl merchandise."

The game was played at the Georgia Dome and featured a logo that paid homage to the host state's official fruit.

"The peach featured in the Super Bowl XXVIII logo is a perfect example [of merchandise appealing to local fans]. Looking back you'll always know where that game was played, where you wouldn't have a clue with most of the games before it. Of this era, the peach logo stands out as well as the Mardi Gras-influenced logo for Super Bowl XXXI and the lighthouse of San Diego's Super Bowl XXXVII."

According to Radom, who designed the logo of Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, the sense of locality was a refreshing change.

"The logos were always very expressive and deeply rooted into the location of the game. They really represented these individual moments in time that got consigned to history once the game was over. They looked, in a very refreshing way, like the moment that they were played."

This trend popped up late as 2005, where the host city Jacksonville, Florida'sMain Street Bridge was illustrated in the background.

Starting with Super Bowl XLV in 2011, the Lombardi Trophy became a prominent piece of the logo, and silver was the only color featured until gold was incorporated for Super Bowl 50. As a nod to where the game was played, a depiction of the venue was included in the designs, but potentially at the cost of creativity.

"When the logo got standardized in 2011, the first several years were all monochromatic. And if we're gonna call the NFL (sometimes) the 'no fun league', these logos were no fun at all and broke sharply from tradition," Radom said.

"The Lombardi Trophy is a very recognizable asset. If you're the NFL, it is the ultimate prize, but it's very limiting and when you combine it with the need for Roman numerals, it certainly sets you up to really be challenged to make things look effective."

Silver continued to be the primary hue from Super Bowl LI in 2016 through Super Bowl LIV in 2019, but this time around it was paired with two accent colors that changed each year.

In 2022, the design was tweaked again, this time through the aforementioned prophetic hues of the Roman numerals in Super Bowl LVI and LVII. In reality, the shades of the numerals recognize their host cities: first, with palm trees as a nod to Los Angeles in 2021 and then with a desert-like illustration for Arizona.

In this year's logo, outlines of notable casinos are featured along with the famous "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign. It also bears a purple and reddish gradient with gold outlines.

Radom estimates that the logo was completed roughly 18 months to two years ahead of this weekend.

He believes that next year's look could pay homage to its host city, New Orleans, by highlighting Bourbon Street and the French Quarter's decorative balconies.

Radom and Creamer are in agreement when it comes to which colors they'd like to see featured. But they have different teams in mind when it comes to who could represent each conference, according to the color theory.

"They had better go Mardi Gras! You know, king cake, green, gold [and purple]. If you really wanna drill down to it, the Vikings have both purple and that yellow/gold color," Radom said. "So maybe it's them against the Jets."

Creamer, on the other hand, sees things a little differently.

"New Orleans, I'd say we're going Mardi Gras-themed! Purple, green and gold -- Ravens vs. Packers? Aaron Rodgers would love it!"