Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Why Is It The “Big Game” For Most Ads
The term "Super Bowl" is a trademark owned by the National Football League, and it is protected very aggressively. What does that mean? The biggest no-no of all is to use the term "Super Bowl" in any advertising or promotional announcements that are not sanctioned by the NFL.
There is a court-created trademark concept known as "nominative fair use." Under this concept, trademarks can be used when necessary under certain conditions. First, the mark must not be readily identifiable in any other way. For example, you do not have to refer to the Pittsburgh Steelers as "the professional football team from Pittsburgh." Secondly, you can only use the mark to the extent necessary to identify it. Repeated gratuitous use would cross the line - for instance if you repeatedly state that your station is "the place to hear everything about the Super Bowl." And third, you cannot do anything to suggest a false connection or sponsorship arrangement.
What does this really mean? It means that media can use the term "Super Bowl" editorially in discussing the game on air (but not in a way to imply that the station has a connection to the game, or not in a repeated way analogous to a station slogan or positioning statement). It means that news stories about the game can refer to the "Super Bowl." The NFL will not consider such uses to be trademark infringement so long as the use is reasonable. In fact, from an editorial perspective, the NFL appreciates some hype about the game to attract viewers and general consumer interest in the game.
Many major companies have purchased the rights to be the “Super Bowl” in relation to the promotion of “Pizza”. This year Papa Johns is the Official Coin Toss Experience. You could have entered the VISA Super Bowl XLVII Sweepstakes.
Every so often you see people run ads that use trademarked names in the ad when there is no official relationship with the event and nothing seems to happen. But you should always double check for the use of any trademark infringement of any image or tradename you use in your business advertisements.
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