NFL Branding: Ranking of the NFC Teams from Worst to Best
November 18, 2019
The NFL is all about competition–on the field and off. On the field, the teams fall into rankings themselves. But off the field, it is really up to each team’s fans to show support. Here’s our ranking of the NFC teams based on the success of each team’s franchise and the durability of their branding.
16. Washington Redskins
When every season involves as many conversations about the racial insensitivity of your name as the chances your team will make the playoffs, you’ve done a poor job of branding your franchise.
15. Los Angeles Rams
In the last twenty years the Rams have moved from LA to St. Louis and back to LA. With the exception of the “Greatest Show on Turf” years with Kurt Warner, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Marshall Faulk, etc., the team has done very little to establish a nationally recognized brand.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers entered the NFL in the late 70s and were almost comically bad for the first twenty years of their existence. The team got more competitive when they hired head coach Tony Dungy in the mid-90s and traded their safety-cone orange uniforms for the red/pewter ones they wear today. Despite a few really good seasons in the 00s and one Super Bowl victory, the Bucs are arguably still Florida’s fifth most popular football team behind the Miami Dolphins and the three major colleges in the state.
13. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals play in the dessert and have a good run every few seasons, unfortunately the team has failed to capitalize on the popularity of players like Larry Fitzgerald and really establish themselves as a national brand outside of Arizona.
12. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings play in the historic NFC North with storied franchises like the Packers, Bears, and Lions. Unfortunately, however, the team does not have the same national recognition as their division mates. Playing in the frozen north and not being an elite team for over a decade has hurt the Vikings’ brand, and to top it off, their purple and yellow jerseys are a hard sell to anyone but devoted fans. In the 70s, the Vikings were one of the best teams in the NFL and in the late-90s they reached elite status again, but the 21st century has not been kind to the former “Purple People Eaters.”
11. Atlanta Falcons
For the first few decades of their existence the Atlanta Falcons had a hard time establishing an identity in a region dominated by college football’s premier conference (The SEC). In the early 90s the team re-branded with black-on-black uniforms with red accents to become the NFC equivalent of the AFC’s outlaw Oakland Raiders. The new image and uniforms were immediately a hit with fans nationwide, but the “Bad Guy” posturing reached its’ apex in the mid 2000s, when coaches like Bobby Petrino and players like Michael Vick turned the tide of public opinion against the team. This decade, the team has done a great deal to clean up its’ “Dirty Bird” image, but it still has a long way to go.
10. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers have been in Charlotte since the mid-90s, and aside from making it to a Super Bowl in the early 00s have been a pretty nondescript franchise. That has changed drastically in the last few years with deep playoff runs and electrifying players like Cam Newton. Everything about the Panther’s brand (uniforms, attitude, style-of-play, etc.) has connected with residents of the “New South” that are eager to latch onto a team that proves that part of the country is not the sleepy, quaint, backwoods cliché often associated with the Carolinas. If the Panthers continue winning and connecting with fans at their current level, watch out for them to rank much higher on this list next year.
9. Chicago Bears
The Bears are an organization stuck in the past. Names like Ditka, McMahon, and Payton are still discussed, despite not playing in Chicago since Michael Jordan had hair and a gold chain. The team’s extremely basic uniforms reflect the basic, anti-flashy, and clearly mid-western vibe of the franchise. While this may be boring to many fans outside of Illinois, the team still has one of the most dedicated fan bases in the league, despite not being consistently successful since the “Super Bowl Shuffle.”
8. Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions have never been good at football. Their decades of futility on the field have given them ownership to several statistical anomalies over the years, the most striking of which is having the distinction of being the only team to go 0-16 in a season. However, somehow the Lions are a somewhat popular franchise. The team consistently sells tickets and always plays a Thanksgiving game on national television. Not to mention, the Barry Sanders throwback jersey is one of the most popular in NFL history. The Lions have successfully branded themselves as the official mascot of Detroit by using a color scheme influenced by the city’s automotive factories and consistently marketing themselves as the underdogs that people want to root for.
7. Seattle Seahawks
Over the last decade no team has changed their image more than the Seattle Seahawks. They went from the nice guys of the Pacific Northwest (colorful uniforms, personable players, etc.) to the undisputed tough guys of the NFC. The uniforms got darker, the players got meaner, the fans got more intense (it’s routinely listed as the hardest place to play in the NFL) and the win/loss ratio steadily improved.
6. New Orleans Saints
New Orleans has the Pelicans in the NBA and Blues in the NHL, but it’s the Saints that truly represent the city. Between the gold/black uniforms, the fleur-de-lis on the helmets, and the way the team became a symbol for the city’s rebuilding after hurricane Katrina, the Saints are as much a national symbol of New Orleans as Bourbon Street, jazz music and Lil Wayne.
5. Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia has always been a place where underdogs have a shot. Unlikely success stories like Vince Papale and Allen Iverson have flourished there. It is also the home of the ultimate underdog story, the fictional Rocky Balboa, the city’s most notable sports figure. The Eagles fully embrace this status and have consistently cultivated fans of the “Us vs. The World” mentality that permeates the city. The team may never overtake the Steelers as the most popular team in Pennsylvania, but has a huge fan base in Delaware and Southern New Jersey that combine with their South Street core to make one of the biggest and most vocal fan bases in the league.
4. San Francisco 49ers
In the 80s the 49ers were the cream of the NFL’s crop. The team had ownership that appeared to have walked right out of the popular movie Wall Street, a roster full of of electrifying players, an innovative coaching staff that reimagined offensive football, and a few Super Bowl rings to top it all off. Over the last three decades the 49ers have seen mixed success on the field but have never really lost that fan base or stopped branding themselves as a first class, competitive organization. Maybe it’s the regal red and gold color scheme, or the 80s fans passing it down to their kids, but the 49ers always appear to be in the NFL’s elite even when the standings show otherwise.
3. New York Giants
The Giant’s formula for branding success is pretty simple: play at a high level; treat players, personnel, and fans with respect; and do it all in the biggest market in the nation. The Giants have been the class of the NFL for decades with one of the most dedicated fan-bases. Aside from a season ticket waitlist that is decades long, they have the championship victories and merchandise sales to prove it.
2. Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys are worth over a billion dollars. They have a logo that is sold all over the world (including countries that are barely aware of American football), devoted fans all over the United States, play in arguably the most state-of-the-art stadium in the world, and have an iconic owner that is a bigger celebrity than most of his players. The team has had multiple eras that could be considered the best in franchise history…and did we mention they’re worth over a billion dollars?
1. Green Bay Packers
In a league dominated by big cities and big media markets, somehow a team based in tiny Green Bay Wisconsin has found a way to be one of the marquee franchises. For over fifty years, the Packers have stood as the only “Mom & Pop” team amongst a sea of corporate giants by embracing their mid-western aesthetic and representing “Small Town, USA” for the entire football-watching country. The team’s uniforms have barely changed over the decades, and they play in an open air stadium despite being in one of the coldest cities in the league. They’re also a publicly traded company and allow fans to buy shares of the team–talk about a dedicated crowd. The Packers have amassed one of the biggest and most devoted fan bases in the nation and have done it in a completely unique way.
Angelo Gingerelli is a New Jersey native, stand-up comic, streetwear enthusiast, and avid hip-hop fan. He has been writing for various publications since 2009 and currently contributes to Pop-Break.com, FifthRoundMovement.com and Rush Order Tees. Learn more about Angelo on his website and on Twitter @Mr5thRound.
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