12 of the best sports logos of all time

Six of the best sports logos on a gradient background
(Image credit: IOC / Nike / New York Yankees / Manchester United / Paris St Germain / Dallas Cowboys)

Sport is all about passion, and the best sports logos represent that passion for many fans. That makes designing a sports logo a challenging task because the result is almost certain to generate strong opinions.

When a tech brand or clothing brand changes its logo, it might generate complaints, but when a sports team changes its logo, the backlash can be epic. As a result, we've seen many sports teams put their logo revamps to public votes. But there are some famous sports logos that seem almost immortal, standing the test of time and changes in fashion.

Below, we look at 12 of the best sports logos for inspiration, all of which resonate on deep and emotional levels. Some of them belong to sports brands, while others are sports team logos or event logos (also see our pick of the best World Cup logos).

Remember that when designing a sports logo, your work can come under more scrutiny than in any other commission you might get. If people don't like what you've created, they're going to let you know. But get it right, and you could end up with one of the best logos of all time.

The best sports logos

01. Olympic rings

Olympic rings

The Olympic Rings are recognisable the world over (Image credit: International Olympic Committee)

The phrase "design classic" is thrown around a lot. But the Olympic Rings - five interlocking circles, coloured blue, yellow, black, green, and red - surely deserve the title. Instantly recognisable by people across the entire world, this iconic emblem is one of the most famous sports logos that exist.

Created in 1913 by Pierre de Coubertin, the design is richly symbolic. As de Coubertin wrote at the time: "It represents the five continents of the world, united by Olympism, while the six colours are those that appear on all the national flags of the world at the present time." 

More than a century later, so much emotion has been invested by so many,in this beautifully simple yet powerfully unique design, making it one of those logos we never want to see changed.

The Paris Saint Germain logo, one of the best sports logos

The Paris Saint Germain logo is a clean roundel design with a clear sense of place (Image credit: Paris Saint Germain)

There are a lot of roundel logo designs in sports, and the style seems to be proliferating since a circle serves well for a range of applications. But few are so clear, clean and relevant as the Paris Saint Germain logo. The club's original logo featured a red ship, a symbol of Paris, but that was soon changed to a much more widely known symbol of the French capital, at least internationally: the Eiffel Tower.

The team has retained the same motif and colour palette since 1972, except for a brief departure in the mid-nineties. The design has been progressively simplified over the years to reach the super clean current incarnation introduced in 2013. A heraldic fleur-de-lis under the arch of the famous Parisian landmark adds a touch of class to the design.

The Detroit Red Wings logo, one of the best sports logos

This sports logo reflects its team's geography in a different way (Image credit: Detroit Red Wings)

The Detroit Red Wings logo communicates its team's origin in a different way. Rather than use a physical landmark, it uses a wheel to represent Detroit's history as US Motor City. It's an unusual motif for an ice hockey team, which makes the logo stand out from others in the NHL, while the colour and the wings are clear, literal references to the team's name that also give the logo a lot of energy. The design has changed little since the team's beginnings as one of the league's Original Six, with only the shading and dimensions being tweaked.

Nike swoosh

Nike's swoosh represents speed, agility and positive thinking (Image credit: Nike)

The best sports logos also include the logos of sports brands, which are now inextricably linked to a wide range of sporting disciplines. Probably the most immediately recognisable around the world is the Nike Swoosh, which was created by Portland student Carolyn Davidson in 1971. Paid $35 for her work at the time, a decade later she was given a gold and diamond swoosh ring and Nike stock by founder Phillip Knight. 

Effortlessly conveying the key elements of speed, agility and positive thinking, this logo has been the perfect representation of the brand for almost half a century, and it shows no signs of needing to be retired any time soon. That's not to say that the design is universally loved - there was a big backlash when Nike put the Jordan Jumpman logo on Utah Jazz shirts.

The Jordan logo, one of the best sports logos

Nike also owns the Jordan 'jumpman' logo for its Air Jordan brand (Image credit: Nike)

As a bonus, Nike actually owns another of the most famous sports logos. The Nike Air Jordan logo, known as the 'jumpman logo' dates back to the early years of the brand's collaboration with basketball legend Michael Jordan in the 1980s. It was designed by Peter Moore, who designed the Air Jordan I, based on a stage photograph, though didn't feature on the shoes themselves until Air Jordan III in 1988. It quickly became an iconic design associated with both Nike and the sportsman himself. And while we've seen plenty of athlete-brand collaborations and endorsements since, none has managed to achieve the same status.

Adidas logo

The three-leaf shape represents the three main landmasses of the world (Image credit: Adidas)

Occupying the same kind of iconic territory as the Nike Swoosh, the Adidas trefoil was also created in 1971. Incorporating the three stripes that Adolf 'Adi' Dassler had been using to identify its footwear since 1967, the three-leaf shape represents the main landmasses of the world: the Americas, Europe and Africa, and Asia.

Actually, though, no-one at Adidas designed it. The original owner of the logo was a Finnish company, Karhu Sports, who made sports shoes and spikes. But the company was hit hard by the Second World War and agreed to sell the design to Adidas for the equivalent of €1,600 and two bottles of whiskey. (It didn't do them any harm though; they're still a successful company today.)

Manchester United logo

While everything else is changing in football, the Man U logo remains a bridge to the past (Image credit: Manchester United)

Manchester United may nowadays be a multinational business and media entity worth somewhere close to five billion pounds. But its still an organisation that's richly steeped in heritage, and that's clear from its logo. 

The current version, which was crafted in 1998, represents a gradual evolution over the decades from the original 1963 design, which was based on the coat of arms of Manchester City Council. The red devil, based on the club's nickname, was added in the 1970s, and the word 'Football Club' were removed in the 1990s. 

Overall, though, a time traveller from half a century ago would not find difficulty in recognising the current logo. And as such it remains a beacon of steadfastness, linking today's global, big-money operation back to a more communal and local past.

Dallas Cowboys logo

The Dallas Cowboys logo is simple, infinitely flexible, and iconic (Image credit: Dallas Cowboys)

Known as “America’s Team”, The Dallas Cowboys have been named by Forbes as the most valuable sports franchise in the world. And at the centre of this powerful brand lies a sports logo that is all-encompassing in its simplicity.

The original Dallas Cowboys logo, used from 1960 to 1963, was an identical blue star, but without the border. It was an obvious tribute to Texas, known as the 'Lone Star' state. The logo was redesigned by Jack Eskridge after he joined the team in 1959, who added the border and made the logo look more 3D. 

Still used today on everything from team helmets to supporter merchandise, the Dallas Cowboys logo has proved to be as versatile as it is iconic.

New York Yankees logo

The New York Yankees logo is older than the team itself. (Image credit: New York Yankees)

The famous baseball team's interlocking 'NY' logo actually predates the Yankees themselves. One of the team’s co-owners was former police chief 'Big' Bill Devery, and in 1877 he commissioned Tiffany & Co to design a police medal to honour a fallen officer, John McDowell, who'd been shot in the line of duty . 

A few years later, Devery realised that this design could be used as a way of conveying team unity. And so in 1905, the players, then known as the New York Highlanders, adopted a version of the medal design as their official logo. 

Over the years, it came and went from season to season, but has since become established as one of baseball's (and New York's) most enduring symbols, not to mention a global fashion statement in its own right. 

That said, it's worth noting that their most famous player, Babe Ruth, never actually wore it on his jersey. Future biopic makers, take note!

Chicago Bulls logo

The designer of this classic logo never got any royalties for it (Image credit: Chicago Bulls)

Although US basketball is not widely followed outside of North America, there are two things people all around the world will recognise: the name Michael Jordan and the striking Chicago Bulls logo. 

This cartoonish design featuring an angry red bull has been in place since the team began in 1966, and seems unlikely ever to be altered. It was designed by the late cartoonist and graphic artist Dean Wessel, although he unfortunately never received any payment for his effort beyond a few free tickets. 

Premier League logo

The 2016 Premier League logo won near-universal praise (Image credit: Premier League)

Although the sports logos on our list so far have all been around for decades, that doesn't mean a new logo can't quickly become a classic. And here's a great example.

The lion had been a part of the Premier League identity for decades. But in 2016, this vibrant new version of its logo was created by DesignStudio and Robin Brand Consultants. And, somewhat unusually for a new logo launch, especially in the impassioned world of sport, it met with near-universal praise.

A defiantly modern design, stripping back the previous design to its bare essentials, and much more flexible when used across digital media, this was a redesign that ticked all the boxes. 

Most importantly, it gave the lie to the idea that sports fans are super-traditional and don't like anything that's new. Apparently they do, as long as it's good. 

Invictus Games logo

Putting 'I am' at the heart of the Invictus Games logo was a real masterstroke (Image credit: Invictus Games/Superunion)

Found in 2014, the Invictus Games is a sporting event for disabled, wounded and sick servicemen and women initiated by Prince Harry. When Lambie-Nairn (now part of Superunion) was asked to create its identity, they discovered that 'Invictus' is also a famous poem, with the final lines: ‘I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.'

Following this thread, the team hit on the device of highlighting ‘I Am’ within the logo. And this became not just the founding idea of the Games’ visual identity, but a truly global cultural phenomenon. 

Nowadays, if you do Google Image search for ‘I Am Invictus tattoo’, you’ll find that sentiment tattoed on the arms of people from all across the world. Like most great ideas, it's simple, but powerfully and beautifully realised in an elegant logo design.

Tour de France logo

The Tour de France logo is joyously French (Image credit: Tour de France)

The Tour de France logo we've all come to know and love (above) was created by designer Joel Guenounback in 2002. Its playful brush script and splash of vibrant colour is unmistakably French, and filled with that sense of 'joie de vivre' (enjoyment of life) for which the Gallic nation is known. The yellow background  symbolises the yellow jersey given to the winner of each stage. And did you spot the clever little sketch of a cyclist that's formed within the word 'Tour'?

2019 Tour De France logo

The new Tour de France logo for 2019 (Image credit: Tour De France)

In 2019, the longstanding logo got an eye-popping refresh (see above), with some tweaks to the typography, the disappearance of the word 'Le' and a much brighter yellow to match the jersey colour better. Read more about the latest refresh here.

Of course, there are plenty more famous sports logos that didn't make it to our list, and we risk upsetting many fans by not including the logos of their teams. We should give honourable mentions to the clever Minnesota Wild optical illusion logo in the NHL and the Cleveland Browns dog logo for its incredible number of hidden references.

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Tom May

Tom May is an award-winning journalist and editor specialising in design, photography and technology. Author of the Amazon #1 bestseller Great TED Talks: Creativity, published by Pavilion Books, Tom was previously editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. Today, he is a regular contributor to Creative Bloq and its sister sites Digital Camera World, T3.com and Tech Radar. He also writes for Creative Boom and works on content marketing projects. 

With contributions from