This time of year presents an interesting challenge for in the marketing industry. Grocery stores want to advertise sales for Super Bowl parties. Big box stores want to sell big TVs for people to watch the Super Bowl on. Bars and restaurants want to advertise their Super Bowl specials.
But the National Football League doesn’t want anyone using the term “Super Bowl.”
Well, that’s not exactly true. If you’re a newspaper or a TV station reporting on the Super Bowl, you can use the term. But if you’re using it in a way that is not officially sponsored by the NFL, you’re going to get a cease and desist (C&D) letter. The NFL is very protective of its trademark.
A group may have a legit reason for using the term “Super Bowl,” but the NFL will probably C&D letter them anyway. Most businesses will cease and desist even if they can use the term, since no one wants to take on the legal team for an organization that makes more than $10 billion a year.
Dancing Around Trademarks During the Super Bowl
The NFL isn’t the only group that gets excessively protective of its trademarks. The U.S. Olympic Committee issued a cease and desist letter to a knitting group that was hosting a “Ravelympics,” before apologizing. The NCAA is also very picky about the use of its trademarked terms like “March Madness,” “Elite Eight” and “Final Four.”
So how do you refer to the Super Bowl without getting lawyers involved? In addition to “Super Bowl,” the NFL owns the trademark on “Superbowl,” “Super Sunday” and lots of other words attached to “super.” “The Big Game” and “game day” are the more generic terms for getting around any legal entanglements. There’s also phrases like “The Bowl Game,” which by February should be able to avoid confusion with the flood of college bowl games.
But if the NFL had its way, “The Big Game” would be off the table as well. The football league tried to trademark that term in 2007, but it was rejected due to the name being associated with other, longer-standing games.
How to Use Super Bowl Hashtags
You can also use phrases that end with “bowl” to get your point across. A good example of this is the #Hashtag Bowl, Marketing Land’s way of keeping an eye on how advertisers are incorporating social media and online marketing into Super Bowl commercials. Keep an eye on the commercials during the Super Bowl to get an idea of how large companies work around mentions of The Big Game, if they mention it at all.
Last year was the most tweeted Super Bowl ever, with 28.4 million tweets about the game. When it comes to discussion of the game itself, #SuperBowl is the traditional hashtag to slip into your tweets. #SuperBowl50 might also get some usage this year, along with hashtags for the two teams playing. Thirty-three of the 66 ads played during the game featured a hashtag, emphasising how companies are going after social media users. Just be aware that if you’re tweeting about your business having a #SuperBowl party or #SuperBowl sale, you might catch the eyes of the NFL and its lawyers.
Facebook is also launching a new feature, The Facebook Sports Stadium, just in time for the Super Bowl. Its aim is to create a feature similar to Twitter’s Moments, for now focusing on sports.
Why the NFL is so Protective When It Comes to Marketing
While it can be a pain at times, there is a good reason to support the NFL’s protection of the term. Valuable trademarks are often lost due to becoming genericized. Aspirin, thermos and trampoline are examples of words that were trademarks before being ruled generic by courts. As a result, companies like Johnson & Johnson are protective of brands like “Band-Aid” (the Walgreens version is an “adhesive bandage”) and what you call your Crock-Pot might actually be a “slow cooker.”
It takes a lot of work building up a product with a name that is ubiquitous with what it does (think Xerox and photocopying), and if you managed to do that, you wouldn’t want people referring to knock-offs as the real deal. It’s why the NFL cracks down on events that label themselves as “The Super Bowl of ____.” Meanwhile, Major League Baseball can’t do anything about events like The World Series of Poker, since uses of “World Series” predate MLB.
Make Blue Compass Part of Your Team
If you’re looking to build up your brand, Blue Compass can help. Our team of digital marketing experts can make sure you’re ready for The Big Game, no matter what sport you’re talking about.