3 Ways Sports Leverage Sound for Identity, Recognition and Experience

In this blog, we’ll explore the importance of sports anthems and iconic sports sounds, and how they’ve become an integral part of the identity and fan experience of a sport. Whether you’re a die-hard sports fan or simply appreciate the power of sound, this post is for you.


Music has the power to evoke strong emotions and memories, and this is especially true in the world of sports. With only a few notes, fans can be transported into the world of a specific sport. Themes can be both network specific (NBC, FOX and so) and sport specific, meaning that FOX might have its own NFL theme, while NBC could use another.

Let’s go through some of the most recognizable themes;

“A memorable sports theme should be able to capture the excitement, energy, and spirit of the event it is associated with”

Formula 1

The Formula 1 Theme has become synonymous with the high-speed, high-stakes world of motorsports. The theme is an adrenaline filled, upbeat and epic piece that perfectly captures the excitement of F1 racing. The instrumentation is reminiscent of superhero and action movies, perfectly highlighting the intensity of the race but also the iconic personalities in the cars themselves. The use of sound effects and synthesizers reminiscent of the Formula 1 car pass-by sounds is also used in the piece, hammering home the association.

One of the unique elements of this piece of music is that it fits different parts of the production, from intro to starting grid and so on. This ensures that the listener feels a good build-up and storytelling before the actual race begins.
Anyone who watches Formula 1 can instantly recognize this piece of music, making it synonymous with the sport.

Fox NFL Theme

The Fox NFL Theme is one of the most recognizable pieces of music in American sports. With its upbeat tempo and driving rhythm, it perfectly captures the excitement and energy of the NFL. It has a very recognizable melody that is nostalgic to a large portion of Americans, as it has been used consistently since 1995.

It was composed by Scott Schreer, one of the most legendary jingle writers. In 1994, then-Fox Sports president David Hill wanted a new NFL theme with the vibe of“Batman on steroids”. Schreer turned to the cinematic sounds associated with gritty action movies to lend his new theme some gravitas and “(…) put a real dark, manly, masculine football tint to it.”

UEFA Champions League

The theme song of the UEFA Champions League is an instrumental piece that has become synonymous with the competition. The song is an epic, uplifting piece that captures the grandeur and excitement of the tournament. Its primary and most recognizable element is the use of a big classical choir, which is more beautiful and less aggressive than usual sports themes.

The choir gives a uniting and human element to the music. The classical orchestration and choir arrangement also gives the theme a majestic and larger than life feel that perfectly fits the scope and fan following of the competition.

Compositional Guidelines

While these examples only scratch the surface of the many iconic musical themes in sports, it’s important to consider what elements are required to make a piece of music truly memorable in a sporting context. A memorable sports theme should be able to capture the excitement, energy, and spirit of the event it is associated with, and it should also be able to stand the test of time. To achieve this, the composition should be memorable and catchy, while also having a sense of timelessness that allows it to be recognized and appreciated by fans of all generations. Let’s get into how this is achieved.

The first thing needed is a musical piece that matches the attitude and excitement of the sport. A piece of music that is written to represent tennis probably wouldn’t work for the UFC. You have to think about who the target audience is and what you want them to feel right before going into a match. Do you want them to feel sophisticated, calculated and focused? Or do you want them to feel aggressive, pumped and excited? These are things that need to be considered before making a track and it is an essential part of making a piece of music stand the test of time.

In addition to the right attitude and energy, the melody of the musical piece is equally important. As human beings, we tend to retain melodies the most from music. This makes it crucial to create a memorable melody that has a connection to the sport it represents. A well-crafted melody not only sticks in the minds of listeners but also conveys meaning that is relevant to the sport, elevating the overall impact of the music.

Finally, it’s essential to create a musical journey for the listeners. By utilizing tools such as dynamics, instrumentation, leitmotifs, and the development of melody and harmony, the music can guide the listeners through the various facets of the sport. From the beginning of the match to the climax of the game, to the goals scored and the statistical analysis, the music can take the listeners on a musical journey that captures the essence of the sport. By using these musical techniques, the music becomes more than just a background score, but a dynamic and expressive representation of the sport it is written for.

Iconic Sounds

Sports are not just about the visual spectacle, they also provide a feast for the ears. From the roar of a packed stadium to the unique sounds of specific sports. These sounds evoke strong emotions and memories in fans everywhere. These sounds are closely linked to the sport because they are the direct result of the athletes’ actions during the game. For example, in basketball, you might hear the sound of the ball bouncing and sneakers squeaking on the court. Similarly, in soccer, you might hear the sound of players’ feet kicking the ball and the sound of the ball hitting the goalpost. These sounds are all generated as a direct result of the game being played.

Microphones are usually placed in strategic locations to capture all of the best sounds that a sport has to offer. For example next to goals, players and equipment depending on the specific sport.

Here are some of the most iconic sounds in sports:

“Iconic sounds are similar to the best audio logos. They provide instant recognition and have characteristics that are specific to whatever sport is being played”

Basketball Hoop Swoosh

The swoosh of a basketball through the hoop is one of the most recognizable sounds in all of sports. The soft and almost soothing sound of the ball going through the net is completely unique to basketball and therefore a clear identifier of which sport is being played. It is also a sound that communicates the quality of the shot, because the more precise the shot, the quieter and more smooth the sound. This is why the rim of the hoop is purposefully mic’d up to capture the best swoosh sound possible.

Take listen to the sound here:

Formula 1 Car Passby

The high-pitched whine of a Formula 1 car as it speeds past is a truly unique sound. The combination of the powerful engine and aerodynamics create a sound that can only be found in the world of F1 racing. Its high-pitched screech, combined with the deep roar of the engine, creates a symphony of noise that is truly unique to motorsports. The sheer power and precision that is embodied in the sound of a Formula car is a testament to the cutting-edge technology and engineering that goes into each and every one of these magnificent machines, perfectly representing everything that Formula 1 stands for.

Take a listen to the sound here:

Formula 1 Team Radio

Another example from Formula 1 is the Team Radio sound. While not a sound that is directly occurring as a result of the cars being driven, it is a sound that is put on top of the TV production to enhance it. It is used when tapping into the communication system that allows drivers to speak with their team over a radio frequency during a race, so every time it happens a little notification sound will play beforehand.

The team radio has been the source of some of the most memorable and humorous moments in Formula 1 history, making the sound a familiar and beloved sound that viewers associate with positive experiences and anticipation. It is almost as iconic as the previously mentioned passby sound.

Bowling Pins

Another example is the sound of bowling pins being knocked over. It is a universally recognizable sound that brings back memories of good times spent at the bowling alley with friends and family. The sound is a mix of the pins crashing into each other and then clattering to the ground, producing a satisfying and triumphant noise that is both cheerful and exciting. The sound of a strike is particularly memorable and iconic, signifying a perfect shot and a moment of accomplishment.

There are many more examples of iconic sounds in sports and each sport has its own set of sounds. In addition, sounds in sports can also provide important information about what is happening on the field, court, or track. For instance, the sound of a golf club striking the ball provides insight into the power and accuracy of a shot, while the sound of a puck hitting the post in hockey or the blaring of the goal horn can inform fans whether a goal has been scored or not.

In terms of identity, Iconic sounds are similar to the best audio logos. They provide instant recognition and have characteristics that are specific to whatever sport is being played, whilst also establishing a unique sound that is heard nowhere else.

Check out this video to see if you can guess what sport is being played just from hearing the iconic sounds.

Popular Music In Crowds

While there are both iconic sounds happening as a natural response to the sports being played and also specific musical themes being played to represent each sport, there is also a third category that we have yet to look into – popular music being used as the basis for chants by the crowd.

“The next time you sit down to watch a game or a race, try to pay attention to all the different sounds that you hear – all of them are integral to the experience and identity of the sport.”

Seven Nation Army

One of the most popular examples is “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes. The usage of Seven Nation Army dates back to 2003 in the UEFA Champions League where fans of Club Brugge KV sang it to support their team against A.C. Milan. Since then, this chant has become a regular feature in stadiums and arenas across the world, and is often used to create a sense of unity and strength among the crowd. Its enduring popularity is a testament to the power of music to bring people together and create a shared sense of community.

Why the song has become so popular amongst crowds is hard to know specifically, but it has a simplicity that is easy to catch on to. First of all, it has a rhythm that is quite unique but without it being too challenging or complex to memorise. There’s also a certain tension to some of the notes landing on the off-beat, helping establish a kind of tension and anticipation.

Take a listen to Seven Nation Army being sung by a crowd at a stadium here:

We Will Rock You

Another example is the Queen song “We Will Rock You”. A song that is actually written with audience interaction in mind, since Queen felt the increasing importance of their audience’s role at concert. They decided to record a song that would let the audience engage with the band by clapping, stomping and singing, thereby “We Will Rock You” was born.

The song is a masterpiece in regards to writing a memorable piece of music, and that is why it has garnered so many fans as well as usage in the world of sports. It follows a simple rhythm “Boom – Boom – Clap” that is repeated over and over again, making it very easy to learn. Even the words “We will, we will rock you” is repeated in the chorus, doubling down on memorability. The stomping and clapping also associates with strength and unity.

Certain songs or chants will be associated with specific teams, making them somewhat iconic and part of a teams identity. The best example of this is “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, which has been sung by Liverpool fans since 1963.

Take a listen here:


As you can see, sports and sound have a unique relationship that can evoke strong emotions and memories for fans. The power of sound in sports is particularly evident in the use of sports anthems and iconic sports sounds, which have become an integral part of the fan experience.

Sports themes, such as the Formula 1 theme, the Fox NFL theme, and the UEFA Champions League theme, all capture the excitement and energy of the sport, and have stood the test of time, while sounds produced by the sport itself almost act as Audio Logos themselves.

The next time you sit down to watch a game or a race, try to pay attention to all the different sounds that you hear – all of them are integral to the experience and identity of the sport.