On Monday, the Georgia Bulldogs claimed the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision national title, the program’s first in 41 years. Today, we’re looking at the backstory of the logo design shared between the Green Bay Packers and the University of Georgia.
For over five decades, the University of Georgia – the newly-crowned champions of the College Football Playoff – has used a very familiar logo to Green Bay Packers fans. Given the similarities, it becomes even more peculiar when one considers the Packers and Bulldogs rank among the top merchandise sellers in the NFL and college sports, respectively.
So that begs the question: Who had the iconic logo first – Green Bay or Georgia?
The Packers debuted their version of the logo prior to the 1961 season, when it was adorned on the gold helmets at the team’s annual preseason intra-squad scrimmage. That logo was designed by St. Norbert College art student John Gordon, who was also employed as summer help under long-time equipment manager Gerald “Dad” Braisher.
“(Vince Lombardi) told ‘Dad’ Braisher to come up with a design for the helmet,” Gordon said in an interview with Cliff Christl in 2010. “I don’t know how specific they got in their talks. But when I came in in the morning, ‘Dad’ said Lombardi wants me to come up with a design for a Packer logo and I want you to draw it: a ‘G’ in a football shape.”
Though Gordon was not sold on the football shape, he designed the logo as instructed. Lombardi approved of the design and the logo appeared on the team’s helmet beginning that season. The logo did receive some minor tweaks in the early 1970s, as the ends were rounded some. However, the ‘G’ logo has remained pretty much the same ever since.
Now, with Georgia, the story begins in 1964. Shortly after being hired as the new football coach, Vince Dooley wanted to create a new look for his team. His idea was a red helmet with a black ‘G’ on a white background.
Conveniently, John Donaldson, Dooley’s newly-hired backfield coach, volunteered his wife, Anne, to design a logo, as she had graduated from UGA with a degree in commercial art. Her design was accepted by Dooley, but had several similarities to the Packers’ logo. Hoping to avoid legal issues, UGA Athletic Director Joel Eaves reached out to the Packers for permission to use the logo, which the team granted. Officially, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office lists the Packers as giving Georgia limited permission to use the logo.
While the Packers and Bulldogs came to an amicable agreement, an interesting twist to this story began the following year when Grambling State, one of the nation’s premier HBCU football programs and the alma mater of defensive end Willie Davis, began using the logo and also got limited permission from the team.
However, Grambling never sought a trademark for their version of the logo until Jan. 14, 1997 – ironically, 12 days before the Packers would play in Super Bowl XXXI (by comparison, Georgia registered their version in 1981). With no way of being able to make money from licensing the logo and a likely denial from the USPTO due to similarities with the Packers’ version, Grambling abandoned its bid to trademark the logo in 1998.
After flirting with the idea of a new logo, Grambling came to an agreement with the Packers to continue using the logo, but with some alterations in a similar vein to what Georgia did. So, while all three logos may look similar, there are actually subtle differences between them.
So, who got the logo first? The simple answer would be the Packers. However, the team has allowed both Georgia and Grambling to use the logo with slight variations, providing an amicable solution to what could have become much messier.