The Denver Broncos are a professional football team that competes in the American Football Conference West division of the National Football League. Started as a member of the American Football League in 1960, the franchise joined the NFL ten years later. In 1959, Bob Howsam, owner of the Denver Bears baseball club, planned to create a third major basketball league called the Continental League. So he expanded the Bears stadium in anticipation of the Continental League crowds. Unfortunately, Howsam’s ambitions were not fulfilled. He got the AFL franchise to Denver to recoup the costs of expanding Bears Stadium.
Bob Howsam became the original owner of the Denver Broncos team, founded on August 14, 1959, with a new league. The franchise debuted in 1960, the AFL’s inaugural season, as the Denver Broncos. “Broncos” was the winning suggestion of 162 entries in a fan contest, which came from Ward M. Vining. Spanish word “broncos” (a mustang, an untamed horse roamed in American prairies) is a Wild West-inspired allusion to Colorado’s history. However, the team is not the first to be called the Denver Broncos. The club with the same name competed in the Midwest Baseball League in 1921.
In May 1961, Gerald Phipps purchased the franchise to run it until 1981, when it was sold to Canadian financier Edgar Kaiser. In 1984, the Bowlen family (Pat, Marybeth, John, and Bill Bowlen) acquired the club. Pat Bowlen remained in control until July 3, 2014. As his Alzheimer’s disease progressed, he had to cede the franchise to Joe Ellis, the Broncos’ president and CEO. The Pat Bowlen Trust currently owns the Denver Broncos.
Meaning and History
The Denver Broncos logo has undergone five alterations for the franchise’s 60-year history. All the Denver Broncos team logos feature the mustang that is mentioned in its name. After all, the Spanish word “broncos” means a wild horse from the American prairies – an uncontrollable and freedom-loving animal associated with the Wild West’s history in general and Colorado in particular. As for the painting style, it changed several times. With four redesigns, the club went from cartoonish emblem design to caricature and then modernist. The last option is considered the most successful because it combines deep meaning and artistic value.
The modern logo is hugely different from the debut one: crude simplicity was changed by modernistic minimalism. The present-day logo was designed in 1997, at the edge of the new millennium, and remains the same.
1960 – 1961
The Denver Broncos owned by Bob Howsam began their career in the American Football League during its debut season of 1960. Their earliest emblem much resembled the hand-drawn cartoon character. It depicted an American football player riding a bucking horse. The colors matched the uniforms of the time – brown paired with mustard yellow. The player was wearing full ivory cowboy chaps, a yellow helmet and a dark brown T-shirt with the letter “B” in the center. Bold “B” with short vertical serifs represented the franchise name. The feral horse stood up its forelegs with the hind legs off the ground. The image appeared cluttered with too many details: a fluffy mane, a waving tail, spurs, and horse ammunition.
1962 – 1969
In 1962, the team unveiled a new logo. The overall concept of the Denver Broncos emblem remained the same: the American football player tamed the obstinate bronco. The shape of the player and the horse was completely altered. Designers made the image more dynamic and a bit aggressive. They sharpened the lines of the mane, tail, and ears. Though the new player looked not as relaxed as the previous one, he still preserved some of his predecessor’s optimistic mood.
The mustang tried to throw the rider off, yet he attempted to stay on the horse by grabbing the reins with his left hand while clinching the ball with the right hand. The bareback rider used neither spurs nor saddle-girth. The animal had massive hooves. Its bared teeth and furious nostrils were a vivid sign of aggression. The player was wearing pants with stripes and ’63 Broncos long-sleeve T-shirt.
If the mustang and player in the debut Denver Broncos logo were left-oriented, in the 1962 version, they were turned to the right. The outer contours of the figures were dark blue and white. Short lines went beyond to create the illusion of motion. The 1962-1969 era brought a significant color change as well. The yellow-and-brown palette was abandoned; dark orange, royal blue, and white became the official team colors.
1970 – 1992
In the 1960s, the team searched for a new logo that should communicate the franchise’s key idea. The recognizable logo was suggested by an amateur artist Edwin Taylor, for which he received a letter of thanks, a shirt, a hat, and two tickets for the game against the Kansas City Chiefs. In 1970, the team accepted the given logo and abandoned the familiar player-riding-bronco concept.
The new logo featured a large, orange “D” on a blue background, with a rearing white bronco exhaling steam in the center. The letter “D,” which, of course, stood for “Denver,” was written in the same font as “B” on the footballer’s outfit in the 1960 logo. The horse did not rise full height; only the upper body was visible. The artistic elements (smooth strokes emphasizing muscles, a lowered eyebrow, an open mouth, and steam coming out of its nostrils) were aimed at accentuating its strength, power, and aggression. The white horse was outlined in black.
1993 – 1996
In 1993, the Denver Broncos presented a moderately altered version of the previous logo to make the image more clear and visible at longer distances. The changes affected only the details: the designers thickened the outer outline, added smooth lines to the mane, removed the strips from the steam, and made the eye completely black. The letter “D” remained the same as in the previous version. The color palette was not changed, as well.
1997 – present
The present-day logo was unveiled in 1997 after franchise owner Pat Bowlen decided to make a complete rebranding. Striving for an exclusive design, Bowlen turned to creative staff at Nike for help. He wanted the new logo to feature the team’s mascot named Thunder. The development team included David Odusanya, Ken Black, Todd Van Horne, and other company representatives. They were faced with a responsible but achievable goal: to beat the Denver Broncos team’s mascot – a horse named Thunder in the drawing. The designers finished the logo in autumn 1996. The official presentation took place the next year, in early February. They managed to convey the primal element’s fury by using the mystical image of a ghost mustang from Native American legends. The key idea was resistance, willpower, and lack of control.
Therefore, the current Denver Broncos emblem is an image of a white horse’s head with an orange mane and eye. Navy blue lines drawn along the neck symbolize the flow of energy. An orange iris is a fire that flares up in the soul of a beast. The mane resembles the tongues of flame. Ears are pressed back to bring the impression of speed as if the mustang is rushing forward. All elements are outlined in navy blue. Due to the renewal of the team brand identity, royal blue was replaced with navy blue.
The emblem was finished in September 1996 and officially presented on February 4, 1997. The media caught sight of the famous Nike swoosh there, yet the company representatives were able to refute it. The modernistic simplicity and design have made the Denver Broncos logo last for more than 20 years.
Font and Colors of the Emblem
The authors of the logo made their task more difficult: they did not make a “portrait” of the Thunder horse but decided to put a double meaning into this image. Guided by ancient Indian legends, the designers went into mysticism and depicted a ghostly mustang with glowing eyes. They felt that this character conveys the main traits of Denver Broncos footballers: strength, speed, determination, and freedom-loving spirit.
Not without scandals. Some journalists thought that the horse’s head’s outer lines were very much reminiscent of the legendary Nike swoosh and accused Nike of wanting to advertise itself. However, the creators of the emblem immediately refuted this theory.
The developers paid attention only to the graphic part, so the logo contains an image without inscriptions. But the drawing itself is quite informative – it encodes a whole story that reflects the Denver Broncos concept.
The horse’s white color suggests that it is a ghost, the disembodied spirit of a mustang from ancient legends. The orange mane can be interpreted as fire because the same orange eye symbolizes the flame in the beast’s soul. And the dark blue lines on the neck represent invisible energy flows.