This past fall, 32 NFL teams began training camp with a quest to win one of the most famous trophies in sports: The Vince Lombardi Trophy. Twelve teams qualified for a spot in the playoffs by the end of December. As we approach Feb. 4, there are still two teams with a chance to become Super Bowl champions: the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots. While the Patriots are the favorite to win on the field, let’s take a look at the matchup from a brand standpoint.
Logo: When it comes to primary logos, both teams could make improvements by going back into history. The “Soaring Eagle” and the “Hiking Patriot” are both classic logos, and upgrades from what each team has now. However, both of their current logos have stood the test of time from their debut in the 90s.
The Eagles rebranded in 1996 and dropped its eagle soaring through the sky holding a football as prey, in favor of a modernized, white and grey, angry eagle face. The biggest loss was the change from a bright and vibrant “kelly green” to a darker “midnight green.”
The Patriots, on the other hand, had a revolutionary war soldier hiking a football from 1961-1992. It was a hand-drawn masterpiece, but it was replaced by what is often referred to as “Flying Elvis,” in an effort to modernize the team and bring it into the new millenium. The team adjusted its colors in 2000 to what we see now. Its most recent improvement in 2013 was an update to the wordmark found on the jerseys and in the endzones.
Put side by side, the Eagles’ logo is fiercer and flows better with its uniforms. The Verdict: Eagles
Uniforms: Just like their logos, each team’s uniforms have suffered in the name of “modernity.” Although this has given us some fantastic throwback jerseys over the last few years, it has ultimately left us with disappointing and dull current uniforms. Just like the logos, both uniforms have remained almost unchanged since they were rolled out in the 90s.
During the 70s and 80s, the Eagles wore fantastic, vibrant kelly green uniforms, but the logo change brought on a new “midnight green” color scheme. Although this was a downgrade, the team kept its strongest uniform feature: the wings of the eagle on the helmet. Unlike most NFL teams, the Eagles don’t use the team’s primary logo on the side of their helmets. Instead, the team’s helmet design features a dynamic image of an eagle’s wings coming from the front of the helmet, contrasted nicely with the primary eagle logo on the shoulders of the jerseys. This gives the Eagles of one the best helmet designs in the league. The negative thing about its uniforms is the number font, which seems out of place with the rest of the design, but color change aside, it’s a good look.
The Patriots used to have white helmets and pants and a clean red jersey that had simple shoulder stripes. These uniforms have made their way back on the field a few times in throwback fashion. Although it didn’t make much sense to have the “Patriots” wearing red when the British army was the “redcoats,” it was still a timeless design. The move to silver helmets and more striping on the sides fit well in the early 2000s, but appears cluttered today. Don’t expect the superstitious Patriots to change anything while Brady, Belichick and Kraft are still in power, though. The team has won five Super Bowls with this current set, and it’s wearing white on this upcoming Super Bowl Sunday thanks to its undefeated Super Bowl record in the road uniforms.
The extra piping under the arms really subtracts from the Patriots look, while the wings on the helmet give Philly an edge. The Verdict: Eagles
Brand Awareness: The NFL has done a fantastic job of building its brand as a league, to the point of taking over baseball as “America’s pastime” (according to Bloomberg Politics poll, 67 percent of Americans consider football as “America’s pastime,” while only 28 percent say baseball still is). Individual teams have benefited greatly from this trend and have built their own individual identities, uniting cities, states and sometimes even entire regions around a group of men playing a game.
Longevity is a vital part of building a brand. The Eagles have been around for a long, long time. Founded in 1933, the team has been a staple of Philadelphia and of the NFL. Counting this upcoming game, it’s been in two Super Bowls and won the NFC east division 13 times, but its players are still searching for their first Super Bowl win. Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles’ stadium, is regarded as one of the most hostile environments for away teams and fans in the league. Compared with many other franchises, the Eagles have something to be incredibly proud of.
But, even better for a brand than longevity is sustained success. The Patriots have essentially been the benchmark of that for the last 15+ years. The team has now appeared in 10 Super Bowls, winning five of them and looking for a sixth ring, even though it was founded almost 30 years later than the Eagles. The Patriots’ identity is forged by no-nonsense characters like Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, who are never content with current success. Belichick is famous for his short and usually not sweet interactions with reporters, almost appearing robotic at times. He also coined the mantra that inspires his team, “Do Your Job,” encouraging players and coaches within the organization to stay focused on what they have to do each week and not worry about anything else. The organization has built a loyal fanbase in the New England area, which makes the entire region feel connected to what happens in Foxborough, Massachussetts, on Sundays during football season.
The name “New England Patriots” carries with it a heavy weight among the NFL that “Philadelphia Eagles” simply doesn’t. It is hated, but respected. The Verdict: Patriots
Digital: Whether through Twitter, Instagram or a website, it is vitally important to connect with your targeted audience and develop a voice for your organization digitally. For fans who are unable to watch a game, getting live game updates on Twitter might be just what they need. A well-designed gameday graphic could inspire someone to tune in and watch the team play. A website that’s easily navigated can push someone toward buying a favorite player’s jersey. It’s incredibly important for teams to have consistent, coherent and creative messages across all platforms.
The official website of the Eagles, philadelphiaeagles.com, is clean, but bland at first glance. It lacks good design, but it is well-organized. On Twitter, the Eagles have built a unifying rally cry, “Fly Eagles Fly,” into a hashtag, boosting fan interaction. On Instagram, what it lack in graphics, it makes up for in incredible photography, but the communication team could afford to add in a few graphics to give its posts a flow.
The Patriots website, patriots.com, is very well-designed. The content is intriguing, with a “lifestyle” news section and a “locker room celebrations” video section. This shows another side of the players that you don’t get to see on the field. The best part of the team’s digital footprint is the “Not Done Network," which delivers non-stop coverage of the team leading up to the Super Bowl, with content on the website, Twitter Live, Facebook Live and YouTube. The continuous coverage gives people the ability to consume as much as they want to, and brings media across several different platforms. On Twitter, the Patriots created the hashtag “#NotDone” specifically for the playoffs, although it’s not as well-known as “#FlyEaglesFly.” Its Instagram account has solid photography, but also mixes in the right amount of graphics.
The design across all platforms and the creation of the “Not Done Network” give the Pats an edge over “Fly Eagles Fly.” Verdict: Patriots
The Final Verdict: While the final score will decide the best team on the field, it’s ultimately up to the individual to judge between these two brands. The Super Bowl is a special event that brings in the whole world, connecting over 100 million people who are watching the game, the commercials or just Justin Timberlake’s halftime show. There are many groups of fans who will simply root against the Patriots in every game, and many more want to see the underdog get the upset. As the game plays out, try to think deeply about the lessons that can be learned about the brand and voice of a sports organization, while enjoying the reactions of people at watch parties and on Twitter.
Soak everything in this Super Bowl Sunday.
By Hudson Nuckolls, Capstone Agency Assistant Firm Director