Being Careful about Your “Super Bowl” Promotions

Being Careful about Your “Super Bowl” Promotions

The Super Bowl isn’t just a football game – it’s a trademark.

Thus, if your business is organizing any events or promotions around the Super Bowl, you need to be careful, or you could find yourself on the receiving end of a cease-and-desist letter or a lawsuit.

The National Football League (NFL) is very protective about the “Super Bowl” mark. As ABC News reported,

Some congregations that throw parties to watch the big game and possibly convert a few nonbelievers may be in violation of National Football League policy and could face legal action. According to the league, the churches are violating NFL copyright by airing games on large-screen TV sets and by charging admission. …

The threat of legal action has caused dozens of churches to cancel or alter their plans for Super Bowl parties this year.

Last year, Pastor John D. Newland of the Fall Creek Baptist Church in Indianapolis received a cease-and-desist letter from the league telling him that the church was in violation of league rules by charging $3 a person to watch the game and munch on snacks. He canceled the event, and this year the church is doing in-home parties combined with Sunday school classes.

Other names associated with the Super Bowl are also protected by trademarks, including:

  • Super Sunday
  • Super Bowl Sunday
  • The Super Bowl logo
  • The National Football League and NFL names and logos
  • Team names and logos, including the names and logos of the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals, who will be playing against each other this year

If you want to run a contest or sweepstakes related to the Super Bowl, you can’t use “Super Bowl” in the name. Also, you need to be careful about obeying federal and state laws that apply to contests and sweepstakes.

You should also understand the difference:

Sweepstakes are games of chance, where winners are chosen at random – for example, by pulling a name out of a hat.

Contests rely more on skill, and winners are typically chosen for solving some puzzle, winning a race, or being the “best” – for example, the best game-watching costume or snack recipe.

Different laws apply to each.

Note that you can’t provide tickets to the game as a prize, even though you obtained them legally, without the written authorization of the NFL.

Gambling on the outcome of the game is illegal, except for licensed entities where sports betting is allowed (for example, in Las Vegas). A Super Bowl pool is also probably illegal, whether or not you use the Super Bowl name.

So what can you do if you want people to come watch the game on the TV in your sports bar, or if you want to promote your sale on chicken wings before the game?

You can use euphemisms. For example, you can talk about:

  • The Big Game
  • The Professional Football Championship Game
  • The Big Game on February 13
  • The Big Game between LA and Cincinnati
  • The Big Game in LA on Sunday

You can also “bleep out” the name, by writing something like “S***r B**l” -- though your readers may find that rather confusing.

Categories: Trademarks