Sports brand logos through the ages: Nike, Adidas & Co. in the past and today

by Corinna

The logos on the clothes and shoes are among the most important marketing elements of a sports brand. We show you the development of some famous sports brands over time

Logos of famous sports brands: Nike

Sports logos need to be simple and easily recognisable, but at the same time they don’t need to include overly complicated shapes to remain memorable.

  • Founder Phil Knight paid just $35 for the logo that his then-student Carolyn Davidson designed for him.
  • The “Swoosh” was an instant success. It not only symbolises speed and energy, but also the wings of the Greek sports goddess Nike.
  • The Swoosh has not been changed much since the company was founded in 1971, which speaks for the logo. The curvature has been changed here and there over time, giving the Swoosh a slightly straighter look. Some classics like the Nike Classic Cortez still achieve high sales figures with the old-fashioned logo.
  • Initially, the logo was blue and white, changed to red and white in 1985 and has been predominantly black and white since 1995. The “Nike” lettering has also become more minimalist and symmetrical over the years.
  • Even though the logo has become more modern, there are still products from Nike that aim exactly at this vintage style and use old logos. For example the Nike Blazer Mid 77′ VNTG, or the Nike Court Vintage. The latter still has the logo with the swoosh sign, on which the word “nike” is written in italics.
  • Today, the Swoosh has become such a well-known symbol that it no longer even needs lettering as Nike’s unique selling point. Every person sees the logo and knows what’s behind it.

Development of the Adidas logo

The brand with the three stripes: There have been some major changes here since the company was founded in 1949.

  • Unlike Nike, you wouldn’t recognise Adidas’ original logo, a crest with a sports shoe.
  • The founder at the time, Adolf Dassler (nicknamed “Adi”), referred to his company himself as the “Three-Stripe-Company”, and indicated this by another logo in which the extended trunks of the d’s represent a football goal.
  • From 1950 onwards, the ever-growing company decided to use only the “adidas” lettering as its logo.
  • In 1971, Adidas switched to the cloverleaf logo they still use today, which they bought from Karhu-Sports. There are also opinions that see the cloverleaf logo as a kind of world map symbolising all continents, from America to Asia. In any case, the logo is still popular today and is the primary identifying feature of Adidas’ “Originals” brand.
  • It was with the Trefoil that the three stripes really became famous. After some turbulence and changes in the upper echelons of Adidas, the logo with the three diagonal strokes and the lettering underneath was introduced in 1990.
  • At the end of 2022, with the World Cup in Qatar, Adidas minimalised its logo. The lettering is dropped, the stripes become slightly higher. Anyone who has built up such a high profile as Adolf (Adi) Dassler’s empire no longer needs verbal cues, the logo speaks for itself.

Puma: The story of the big cat

It was a rivalry from day 1: Rudolf Dassler, founder of Puma, and Adolf Dassler. World War II had probably played a big role in both companies, and in the sibling relationship.

  • The first designs of the Puma logo were a black cat of prey pouncing through a big D. The Puma was intended to illustrate the characteristics of sportswear, which were associated with elegance, agility and athleticism.
  • For a short time, the Puma was supplanted by three parallel stripes that ran across a football boot. However, Rudolf Dassler wanted to keep the connection to the cat, so in 1970 he commissioned Lutz Backes, his son’s professor, to come up with a new logo.
  • His design has prevailed to this day. In 1974, the bold lettering “PUMA” was also added, which is located below the puma.

Vans logo: unchanged

The Dutch name of co-founder Paul van Doren was the inspiration for the name “Vans”. The V covers the remaining three letters like a square root.

  • The logo was actually invented by the 13-year-old son, Mark van Doren, when he made a stencil for his skateboard in 1966.
  • Since then, the Vans logo has remained fairly consistent. The font was made a little edgier, and the red and white colour combination was also added later to suit an active skateboarding lifestyle.
  • The famous inscription “Off the Wall” originated in the 70s, from a little anecdote by skateboarder Tony Alva. The latter is said to have had a conversation with a friend in the skateboard shop about how they rode along the wall in a drained swimming pool.
  • So in addition to the verbal lettering, a graphic emblem was designed that was supposed to represent a skateboard, but because of its shape it is called a “turtle”. This “turtle” can be seen as a red and white sticker on the heels of Vans sneakers.

Converse: Star as a red thread

The streetwear brand’s logo has already gone through several phases of development. Notable here is that the company logo is not the exact logo embroidered on the sneaker most associated with Converse, the Chuck Taylor.

  • The 1963 logo somewhat resembled a car sign. A 5-pointed star on the left, the words Converse on the right, all in a black rectangular border.
  • 1977 the logo was modernised. The star got a filled-in, rounded frame and the lettering became thicker, edgier, more modern. This logo lasted for almost thirty years.
  • From 2003 onwards, the company changed its logo every 4 years. Until 2007, the logo consisted of a star without an angular frame and a thinner font, and thus appeared somewhat fresher.
  • In 2007, a chevron (arrow without tail) was used, which had already been designed in the 70s. It was meant to symbolise progress and pointed to the right, with the star inside it.
  • 2011 the chevron disappeared again. For 6 years the logo consisted of a bold “Converse” lettering with the star inside the “O”.
  • Since 2017, Converse – like many other brands – has been focusing on minimalist design without words. The symbol is made up of the 5-pointed star and the chevron.

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