Each Race Should Have Its Own Personality

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One thing that I always liked about the Super Bowl was the way they would always come up with a unique logo for each year. The Indianapolis 500 has done the same since 1980. Every single year is unique, although some are better than others.

Sometimes, the Super Bowl logo had a tie-in for whatever city was hosting the game that year. You know the drill – if the game was played in Pasadena, a rose might be incorporated into the logo to symbolize playing in the Rose Bowl. The Jacksonville Super Bowl after the 2004 season had a bridge spanning the St. John’s River in the design of the logo. The logo for the Big Game in New Orleans might feature something to do with Mardi Gras. Whether or not there was a symbol of the city or area, each logo was unique for that individual year.

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That all changed in 2010, when the NFL followed the direction of a consulting group. The consultants said that the NFL should standardize the Super Bowl logo for each year so that the fans won’t be confused and the NFL can focus on the same logo becoming a brand. Now instead of unique and colorful logos that might highlight something specific to a region, the NFL has chosen the generic approach of having the same bland silver replica of the Vince Lombardi Trophy (one of the uglier trophies in sports) against a plain background, with Roman numerals underneath. Talk about boring.

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This is what happens when you listen to consulting groups. Individuality or personality never factors into their decisions. It’s all about the bottom line, under the guise of focusing on the brand. When IndyCar paid the Boston Consulting Group $1 million to examine everything that IndyCar and IMS did and didn’t do – there was nothing left protected. Some of their suggestions were followed and implemented, while others were ignored or rejected.

I never heard or read anything about their thoughts on continuing the practice of a new logo for each and every event held at IMS, but fortunately – it looks as if that practice is safe. Whether it is the Indianapolis 500, the Brickyard 400, the US Grand Prix, the MotoGP race or this season’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis – each year’s edition of each race has had its separate logo. It can’t be cheap, but it is a practice that I think sets events at IMS apart from events at any other track. The logo for each event is everywhere. It is on the TV graphics, the tickets, merchandise, the top of the scoring tower and the starter’s flag stand.

As with anything, some of the Indianapolis 500 logos have been better than others. One of my all-time favorites was the logo for the Centennial race in 2011. Unfortunately, that one was followed up by one of the ugliest in 2012. That bothers me because that is the logo associated with the year that Susan and I married at IMS on Qualifying weekend that year. I really liked last year’s logo and I like the one for this year too. In fact, both logos for this upcoming month of May are attractive – the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the 2014 Indianapolis 500.

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Here are some more of my favorites over the years.

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Keep in mind, I’m judging the logos and not that year’s race. The 1991 race, when Rick Mears passed Michael Andretti on the outside for the win, was one of my favorites. However, the logo symbolizing the seventy-fifth running was rather lame. Here is that logo with some others that have been my least favorites.

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Favorites or not, it’s good to be able to identity each logo with a specific race. Can I quickly identify each one they’ve had and tell you which race it goes to? No, but I can some.

So, while watching the Super Bowl and its bland logo on the field and on all promotional items, be glad that the Indianapolis 500 has not succumbed to such a homogenous look. It is my hope that Mark Miles, Jeff Belskus and Doug Boles all maintain the tradition of paying to design a separate and individual logo for each race. It adds to the personality of that year and helps to quickly identify it. And it gives much more color and flavor to each event – just like the Super Bowl logos used to do, before they went so generic.

George Phillips

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9 Responses to “Each Race Should Have Its Own Personality”

  1. Bent Wickerbill Says:

    Would prefer the use of the winged wheel in each years logo. That graphic more than any other signifies the IMS for myself….

    • I agree. The winged wheel is a timeless and awesome logo. But agree with George that it should be changed with each race. I agree with everyone!

  2. Did not realize the NFL now uses the same logo every year. That has to hurt sales of shirts/caps/memorabilia. That did help make Superbowls unique. That is what they get for listening to consultants. Probably suggested having the superbowl in one place to save money. Is that next?

    The worst thing Indycar has done the last couple years is listen to independent consultants.

  3. Dear George,

    While I hope that you join us here at the Milwaukee Mile race in august, I would like to suggest that you don’t pack your thoughts about Mr. Lombardi’s trophy.

  4. billytheskink Says:

    I also appreciate the 500’s use of a new logo every year. It is certainly handy for memorabilia collectors, who can tell which race something came from just by looking at the logo. Of course, I also like the logo from 1991, so what do I know?

    Keen-eyed observers might have noticed that the 2014 Indy 500 logo was the logo used for the 500 in the movie Turbo. It’s a good one.

    As someone who collects from hat/lapel pins from every race I attend, I also appreciate it when non-500 races vary their logos. I understand that races with title sponsors need some continuity in their logo each year, but even slight variations are welcome.

    And to be fair to the NFL, every year since the standardization of the Super Bowl logo has had a version of the logo that includes a silver depiction of the stadium in which the game is being played. It is different, but not terribly distinctive. This is a shame because pre-standardized Super Bowls produced some outstanding logos.

  5. I like the yearly logos for the Indianapolos 500. Each year is a special and unique celebration and I’m glad that the powers at IMS realize that.
    By the way, the NFL conference championship trophies are not anywhere close to the beauty of the previous ones. These new ones are plain and boring.

  6. Mike Silver Says:

    I love sweeing the new 500 logo each year. Sure some are better thatn others, but I can always tell what year. It seems the NCAA is tending toward a uniform final 4 logo as well. The 2016 logo for Indy is as plain and uninspiring as i’ve ever seen.

  7. That reminds me I need to get tickets for this year while I can…I never noticed the Super Bowl ditched the cool looking logos. I guess that happens when you root for the Browns.

  8. Thank you George for showing us some of the logos, old and new ones alike. It’s quite interesting how much variety there has been throughout the years. Many of them do look rather “of their time”, to be honest, but that’s to be expected if it is designed for only one occasion, even if that race turned out to be “one for the ages”.

    I wanted to point out that IndyCar fans are lucky that not only special logos help give each event a personality, but each racetrack the series runs on, has got its own personality. That is totally different to a restaurant franchise where every place is a “cookie cutter” basically. Consultants, of course, do like corporate identity, which is a concept of sameness that would let them perceive the following features as sticking out like a sore thumb: the insect sculptures at Barber, the blue guardrails at Watkins Glen, the fountain at Long Beach, even the Yard of Bricks at Indianapolis.

    I like the idea of the Grand Prix of Indy, yet when the news broke of the Boston Consulting Group suggesting an IndyCar race in Boston, I kind of questioned the respectability of their report. Yet, I’d rather see them race in Boston than end the season on Labor Day.

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