Whether backpacking in the Swiss Alps or lying on a beach in Mexico, chances are you have seen the SUMO logo on a hat somewhere. By dumb luck or pure design, the SUMO brand has reached places we never thought it would. Call it what you want, but the SUMO logo has a story behind it; In order to tell that story we need to go back 17 years.
SUMO Communications was formed in 2002 by CEO and Founder, Bret Hickenlooper. Bret knew if he was to be taken seriously by clients and suppliers that he needed to have a brand that was synonymous with excellence. Bret looked to his Brother-In-Law, Michael Brian from Penna Powers. Penna Powers is a full-service creative and advertising agency in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The SUMO logo has strong ties to Japan. Bret served a full-time service mission to Japan where he fell in love with the culture. In Japan, they are big on wood stamps called hanko – used as a way to sign a document or as an addendum to their signature. Bret knew he wanted a logo that was simple like a stamp, a hanko, and something that could stand on its own.
While the logo has roots in Japan, Bret didn’t want it to look Japanese or like a sushi restaurant. You will never see the organization use SUMO wrestlers as part of its marketing efforts. The SUMO brand is meant to stand on its own and it certainly stands tall today in the telecom and technology industries.
Back in Utah, Michael Brian took Bret’s feedback and began mocking up various designs. The illustration below were the initial concepts.
After some back-and-forth they fell in love with the logo on the bottom right with just the word SUMO inside of the S. To this day, apart from some color changes, that is the logo SUMO uses. A few times, we tried wandering down the design path of different concepts but always came back to the tried and true.
Who would have thought that a logo would be seen on thousands of hats around the world 17 years later? One of the latest #sumohat sightings was off the coast of Tanzania. Yeah, go look that up on a map. Here’s a hint, it’s in Eastern Africa. Customers of SUMO and even strangers to the company recognize and proudly wear the brand. I think it’s safe to say that the SUMO brand stands on its own. Whether people liken the S in SUMO to a superhero or just like the design, the logo sure looks nice on whatever they place it… especially a hat.
“I would have never dreamed that the logo my brother-in-law and I went back and forth on so meticulously would be so popular today,” said Bret Hickenlooper, CEO and Founder of SUMO Communications. “It’s one thing to have customers and suppliers wear our brand to show support for our organization when at work events. It’s a completely different thing to proudly wear our logo on vacation when they really don’t have to. People wear and support our brand by choice and I hope it’s something that continues to grow for many years to come.”
Editor Note: For the record, the company is called SUMO Communications. They go by sumocom or just plain SUMO in all caps.