Super Bowl 2020 commences this Sunday in Miami Gardens, Florida. The league’s 54th championship game will see the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs battling for the trophy. While the 49ers are no strangers to football’s biggest annual stage, the Chiefs haven’t been in the mix since 1970. But beyond the significance of a rare matchup, there’s another curiosity in this year’s game: Both teams have primarily red uniforms, the first instance of this in the Super Bowl’s history.
In fact, not only are both teams’ colors primarily red (the 49ers’ is more of a deep crimson, whereas the Chiefs wear a hot red hue—though they’re just one shade away from each other based on the Pantone Matching System), they both have gold accents. Tradition dictates that whichever team is designated as the home team—the Chiefs, in this case—gets to choose their jerseys first; as a result, Kansas City will wear their characteristic red and white, and San Francisco will have to wear white tops and gold pants. Naturally, this will help viewers distinguish between the teams, but it also has a deeper, more colorful symbolism.
Red is widely associated with passion, with rage, with love, and with sacrifice. But in the world of sports, its connotations change slightly. “There’s never anything reticent or quiet about red,” color expert Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, told CBS Sports. “And in recent years there’s another buzzword that’s been used. It isn’t just power but empowerment. So that if you adorn yourself in red, if you use red, psychologically that can give you the feeling that you are more powerful.”
In a sport where power and brawn are a large percentage of what determines a victory, it makes sense that the Chiefs would select the red version of their jerseys to wear during the Super Bowl. Strategy-wise, it’s a subconscious advantage for the players—studies show that sports teams wearing red uniforms win more.
If you’re on the fence who to cheer for, the Chiefs’ red jerseys might just be the deciding factor. The vibrant color is scientifically proven to rev humans up. “It seems that red is strongly related to human motivation, and that makes it a powerful cue to initiate basic behavioral tendencies even without being aware of its influence,” psychologist Markus Maier of Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, who studies the color red, told Co.Design in 2014. An example of this is that when people see the color, they instinctively make a stronger fist.
Lucky for Kansas City, the psychology still holds up today.