Dating back to the 1970s, Monday Night Football has been one of the most iconic brands in American sports, establishing a special identity within the TV and NFL landscape.
Throughout its five decades, the name has stayed the same while its look and feel have constantly evolved to keep up with the times.
As ESPN embarked on the company’s first official year under its newest rights agreement with the league – inclusive of an enhanced schedule, the network’s most regular season games ever, and a Divisional playoff game added to the slate – ESPN’s Creative Studio team targeted this season for an update to the iconic MNF logo and “brand kit” to welcome the next iteration of the NFL on ESPN.
The six-month project, led by the Visual Storytelling group within ESPN’s Creative Studio – specifically creative director Lucas Nickerson and art director Brian Girardin – not only included the creation of a new logo for MNF, but also an updated graphics and animation package and new logos for the entire ESPN Monday Night experience – inclusive of all ancillary Monday programming (Monday Night Countdown, Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli and Monday Night Postgame).
With input from multiple groups across ESPN, the concept designers within Visual Storytelling began working on the project, in addition to Nickerson and Girardin.
The driving force behind the refresh: How does ESPN build on the legacy and DNA of the multiple Emmy Award-winning MNF brand the team created in 2019 and modernize it for the coming seasons while enhancing the “Prime Time” activations shown throughout the logo and animation motion theory?
They were keen on continuing to incorporate the shield shape and the stacked MNF text, both synonymous with the MNF brand.
With those two elements in mind, the group experimented with many designs, including utilizing drafts from previous refresh iterations and ideas from other NFL shows. By mid-May, the team curated potential directions and landed on a smart solution of a modernized shield paired with a marquee shape that permeates throughout the brand.
“The big-ticket shape, both in the center of the shield and on its own, was fitting for Monday Night Football, a marquee event in and of itself,” said Nickerson.
The team saw this ticket-shaped marquee as the hero element – the prominent, attention-grabbing design tool – and, as such, would be prominently featured in various ways to serve as the brand’s connective thread.
“For example, the marquee can be found across the MNF broadcast, ancillary programming, on mic flags, and behind [commentators] Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in the broadcast booth,” Nickerson said. “To us, this logo feels modern without trying to be too futuristic. It is future-present instead of being future-forward.”
One fun detail: The notches on both sides of the marquee are meant to look like possession arrows.
With the marquee finalized, the team had to decide on a typeface.
Inspired by the balance of curves and corners on the ESPN logo, Girardin led the team in developing a new typeface called “Monday Night Primetime.”
“We wanted something that was usable and didn’t overload on design details, but at the same time, has some of the DNA of the ESPN logo built into it,” Girardin said. “When you see the Monday Night Football text in the Monday Night Primetime‘ typeface next to the ESPN logo, they naturally pair up.”
When the new graphics appeared during MNF’s 2023 opener in September, Nickerson said, “Seeing the brand identity come to life across all platforms, on all screens, all the way to the sides of the trucks at the stadium is always exciting.”
“Once I saw it on-air, it was definitely a sigh of relief for me,” said Girardin. “Seeing that the new look worked so cohesively and connected well was rewarding and was the accomplishment of such a talented team within our ESPN Creative Studio.”