Many businesses, especially in the restaurant and bar industry, have marketing efforts surrounding the upcoming Super Bowl. In recent years, you have probably read about the efforts from the National Football League (“NFL”) to protect its trademarks associated with this game. If you haven’t, you should understand the limitations associated with your use of these trademarks and trade names in your business.
The NFL has registered trademarks for the terms “Super Bowl” and “Super Sunday” and the logos associated with the game. Additionally, the NFL and its teams and players have trademarks or other rights to the use of their names and logos. The NFL enforces these rights.
So what are you supposed to do with your advertisements, social media posts and marketing materials?
- Do not reference “Super Bowl” or “Super Sunday” or use the logos associated with the game;
- Do not use the names of the NFL or any of its teams or the logos associated with them; and
- Do not use the name of any NFL player.
To illustrate, don’t run a promotion that you are hosting a “Super Bowl Happy Hour” or a “Super Bowl Party” or indicate that you are the “The 49ers, Eagles, Chief or Bengals Bar for the Super Bowl”.
So, how do you get around these restrictions? Most businesses use phrases like “The Big Game” or “Football’s Favorite Day” or “America’s Biggest Sports Day” or just use the name of the cities instead of the team name when referencing who is playing in the game (ie. Come Watch Cincinnati Play in the Big Game”). It doesn’t hurt to also put a disclaimer on advertisements and marketing materials that you are “not an official sponsor of the NFL”
Most people feel that these restrictions are silly. However, in past years, the NFL has sent cease and desist letters to businesses and even non-profit entities, like churches, who wrongfully used their trademarks and trade names. They do so because advertisers pay millions of dollars to be associated with the Super Bowl, which requires the NFL to prevent confusion with their use. You should expect the NFL to continue to protect their trademarks and trade names this year as well.
By: Michael E. George, Esq.