New Orleans Super Bowl
posted: February 1, 2013

With the SuperBowl returning this weekend to New Orleans, it seems like a good time to bring a project out from the archives. In Spring of 2001, my friend Brad Jansen was art director at the NFL, he called to ask if I’d be interested in designing the official poster for the 2002 Super Bowl to be played in The Crescent City. It was an intimidating assignment. There’s a long history of illustrated Super Bowl posters dating back to the first game in 1967 and a lot of great illustrators had their shot at it. Even though the formula was the same every year – The Vince Lombardy Trophy surrounded by visual elements of the host city and no football players, there were some wonderful posters produced by illustrators that I’d always admired. The art gets used on program covers, tickets, and lots of souvenir items and becomes a part of NFL history.
Gary Kelley, Dennis Ziemienski, Charlie White III...

New Orleans has no shortage of visual imagery and Brad and I decided on a collage of architecture that kind shows a view from the French Quarter in the foreground up to the Superdome at the top with, of course, the Lombardi Trophy in the center. We needed an image of a jazz musician and I included my friend, the long-time Saints fan, Wynton Marsalis. The poster was approved without any big revisions and I looked forward to seeing it printed on all its applications.
Then, 9-11. All bets were off for a few weeks and football didn’t seem too important.The NFL cancelled some games, adjusted the playoff schedule and decided to scrap the official logo and poster for a patriotic theme. Brad asked me to send him some ideas for a new poster, the new brief was Red-White-and-Blue, Football Players as Heroes, Eagles, Flags, and The Vince Lombardi Trophy.

The sketches I sent all were rejected, and the new poster was a retouched photo, an image of the trophy with an American flag reflected in it.

The next year the Super Bowl was played in San Diego and Brad, being the mensch that he is, knew I was disappointed with the outcome from XXVI and asked me to design the poster for XXVII. We came up with a vintage travel poster vibe showing the Southern California coastline.

There have been a lot of changes at the NFL since 2002 and it seems to me that they have just stopped trying to design memorable posters.
Program covers from the last three Super Bowls....

Drawger February 3, 2013
Those sketches are all winners. Your posters are timeless - wonderful. The most recent Superbowl posters you included at the bottom of the post are embarrassing. Sigh.
Manny February 4, 2013
Way to end the article on such a low-note. Ha. Get back to classic illustrations, NFL.
Alan Witschonke February 4, 2013
Pity that your New Orleans poster wasn't used. But the lovely and luscious San Diego poster was a nice rebound. Did that one become official?
Paul Rogers February 4, 2013
Yes, Alan. That was the official XXXVII poster. I feel like I just got in on the tail-end of the series before it changed.
Brad Jansen February 9, 2013
Paul: Thanks for the trip down NFL memory lane! It's an honor to be mentioned in your excellent Blog. Your New Orleans poster is one of my favorites and a framed version of it decorates a wall in my home office. Also, I'd forgotten how great those post-9/11 out-takes were, so thanks for posting them. I must confess, I miss the days when the Super Bowl theme art was a high profile showcase for talented illustrators; created with passion, skill and artistic integrity. As always, I look forward to any opportunity to work with you again...
Douglas Fraser February 14, 2013
Great post in spite of the ending. Always a privilege to see the process. Thanks! 626 564 8728