Super Bowl Question

Cidu Bill on Jan 31st 2008

I noticed in the supermarket today a big sign saying “Stock Up For the Big Game,” which made me realize I’d been seeing a lot of advertising that referred to the Super Bowl without actually mentioning its name. Which made me wonder whether tis is some sort of legal thing where the NFL owns the rights to the name “Super Bowl” (which of course they do) and won’t allow companies to use the name in their advertosing without permission.

Does anybody know this to be the case?

Filed in Bill Bickel, Super Bowl | 28 responses so far

28 Responses to “Super Bowl Question”

  1. dd Jan 31st 2008 at 10:12 pm 1

    Yes, they are stingy with the name. I remember several radio stations in Atlanta having contests a few years ago and calling it “the big game” rather than “the super bowl,” and they all made a big deal out of not being allowed to say “those other words.”

  2. Charles Jan 31st 2008 at 10:51 pm 2

    The National Hockey League shut down a Buffalo artist’s sale of posters and other art celebrating the “Ice Bowl” even though that was not the name of their event (”Winter Classic”) and there were no team or league identifying images in his art.

    His was better.

  3. Alan Hamilton Jan 31st 2008 at 11:13 pm 3

    Yes, the NFL guards its trademark very closely, hence the “football party” and “big game” circumlocutions.

  4. Count Shrimpula Jan 31st 2008 at 11:41 pm 4

    Yup, they’re completely crazy about no one being able to call it the Super Bowl in any sort of promotional thing. Rather stupidly so, if you ask me. They’re certainly making enough money on the game that they shouldn’t need to shake down your local bar for the right to say, “Come on down at watch the Super Bowl at Pat’s! Drinks half off during the first half!” or the like. And it seems to me like they should be on somewhat shaky legal ground there anyway. But so much of our crazy ass copyright laws are perception, and they’ve got everyone saying “The Big Game” so they win. Feh.

  5. solarrhino Feb 1st 2008 at 12:28 am 5

    Actually, Gregg Easterbrook wrote about this in this week’s TMQ .

    TMQ Hopes to Trademark the Phrase, “The Big Column”: Last summer, the NFL abandoned its ridiculous quest to trademark the phrase “the Big Game.” The name Super Bowl is trademarked, meaning it can be used by anyone in public discourse but cannot be employed for commercial purposes without permission. That’s why, every year about this time, the league sends cease-and-desist orders to sports bars or arenas advertising a Super Bowl party with paid admission. But go ahead and advertise a Big Game Party, because the NFL dropped its trademark quest after an initial ruling that indicated little chance of success. Late January television ads that ask “Are you getting ready for the Big Game?” or some such are now kosher, even without a royalty to the NFL.

  6. Nicole Feb 1st 2008 at 08:28 am 6

    Bill — I don’t think it is too late to trademark the phrase “Comics I Don’t Understand”. I don’t know if you are aware of this, but on campuses all across America, college students are gathering for CIDU parties. These include games such as LOL, EWWWW and Arlo!!! I am sure you can guess what kind of game Arlo is. It is only a matter of time before these games migrate to bars etc, and perhaps eventually an annual televised CIDU competition.

    This your chance to sew up the millions of dollars you will make when CIDU goes national

  7. Count Shrimpula Feb 1st 2008 at 09:19 am 7

    Ha. Ya know, when I wrote my comment, I almost mentioned that calling it The Big Game has gotten so ubiquitous now that it’ll just be a matter of time before the NFL tries to trademark that phrase. Because, ha ha, how silly would it be to seriously try to trademark “The Big Game.” So. I’m depressed now.

  8. Lola Feb 1st 2008 at 09:47 am 8

    While I understand their wanting to have some control over their trademark, aren’t they sort of shooting themselves in the foot? The real money is in the advertising not merchandising the Super Bowl logo. The more people who watch, the more they can charge per millisecond of ad during the game. So, isn’t it in their best interest that as many people as possible gather to watch this icon of marketing? Isn’t every bar or restaurant that advertises the game just creating more buzz for it? And that’s Buzz they don’t have to pay a cent for. The only reason I can see for this is if they are already charging a fee for businesses to use their name in advertising and they are going after the ones that haven’t or are refusing to pay up.

  9. John DiFool Feb 1st 2008 at 10:07 am 9

    Then there’s the NFL’s very curious refusal to allow any of its games to be shown on big screen TVs bigger than 60″ in a public/commercial venue. If they really are making all their money via the ads during the game, then 100 people in a movie theatre watching the Super Bowl is that much more revenue, right?

  10. HR Feb 1st 2008 at 10:28 am 10

    “the NFL’s very curious refusal to allow any of its games to be shown on big screen TVs bigger than 60″ in a public/commercial venue.”

    Not just commercial, apparently they are going after churches (yes CHURCHES!) that use their big screen TV’s for “Big Game” parties. I mean, what kind of message does that send? They are worried about decreased ratings from lots of people watching one screen rather than lots of smaller ones, but people can go to sports bars and watch on the huge TV’s (article on the front page of Sheesh.

  11. DPWally Feb 1st 2008 at 11:07 am 11

    Silly NFL. When people forget there’s a game this weekend, it’ll be their fault.

    I just figured stores/bars were re-using their signs - start a “big game” promotion before the playoffs, leave it up through the *****bowl, revive it during March Madness, etc.

  12. Michael Feb 1st 2008 at 01:15 pm 12

    The NFL did try to trademark the term “Big Game” because they felt too many commercial enterprises were making money off it without paying to be official game sponsors. In the end they had to give it up since the term “Big Game” was well established as the name of the annual Cal-Stanford football game since 1900.

    There’s a brief mention of it on Wikipedia’s “Big Game” entry under “Naming Rights” at

  13. Schist Happens Feb 1st 2008 at 01:54 pm 13

    Of course, “March Madness®” is a trademark, too, as are Three-peat, The Academy Awards, The Oscars, Miss America, etc. It’s one thing if they just use that power to keep others from profiting from their name and from besmirching it (i.e. strip clubs or porn) but it does seem to get ridiculous.

  14. Cidu Bill Feb 1st 2008 at 02:12 pm 14

    What I suspect is that the NFL (and the others) make money licensing out these trademarks and would be less able to do so if they allowed people to use them for free in any context.

  15. Frosted Donut Feb 1st 2008 at 04:57 pm 15

    Not to defend the NFL, but there’s one other thing to consider: if they don’t aggressively defend their trademark, it may fall into common usage and then ANYbody can call any game a “Super Bowl.”

    It’s happened to kerosene, dry ice, and aspirin–all of them used to be trademarks, but are now considered regular words. So the NFL has some legal obligation to show that they are protecting their property.

    Do they go too far? To us laypeople: yes. To a lawyer: is it possible to go too far?

  16. Alan Hamilton Feb 2nd 2008 at 12:50 am 16

    #14: Yep. Companies pay a lot to be the “Official Earwax Removal System of the NFL”.

  17. Nicole Feb 2nd 2008 at 10:50 am 17

    So — “The Big Game” is everywhere. I am on the mailing list for Sepora — for the guys here think Home Depot — but for cosmetics. Anyway I just got a special offer for free shipping but only while the “BIG GAME” is on — lol

  18. eeyore19 Feb 2nd 2008 at 11:52 am 18

    The radio station I listen to had an ad last year for their Super Bowl party that started off with listing “words you can’t say on radio.” They recited the standard George Carlin “7 words” list (bleeped out, of course), and finished it off with a partially bleeped “Super Bowl.” “Thanks to the NFL’s lawyers, we’re not allowed to say Su******l anymore.” The rest of the commercial was a long string of bleeps as the announcer told us about getting “****faced at our ****ing great Su******l party.”

  19. Nicole Feb 3rd 2008 at 09:28 am 19

    S000000 just how much trouble is Cathy Guisewite in — She used the term S***R B**L (I don’t want any letters form the NFL) four times in this Sundays comic

  20. Mark in Boston Feb 3rd 2013 at 08:39 pm 20

    Cathy Guisewite just may be in trouble. One cartoonist (I think it was Berke Breathed) got in trouble one Olympic year for labeling his comic strip “The Official Comic Strip of the [year] Olympics”.

  21. Lost in A**2 Feb 3rd 2013 at 09:32 pm 21

    Yeah, but Ms. Guisewhite has gotten out of the business since that strip was first published, five years ago.

  22. Cidu Bill Feb 3rd 2013 at 10:50 pm 22

    Back around 1970 or 1971, when this sort of thing wasn’t as big a deal to most people, my father owned a health food store and advertised on the same radio station that carried Yankees games. The host of one of the shows took it upon himself to call it the “official health food store of the New York Yankees.”

    In time some Yankees official got wind of this and called the guy up and asked him about it. Actually, he just asked him whether it was a reputable store. The host assured him it was, and he said “Okay, fine then.”

    Forty-some years later, of course, the team would probably demand 50K or more for the right to be the “official xxx of the New York Yankees.”

    (Of course, back then, my father could also pay a Yankee and a Met to come to the store and sign autographs; because they could use the money)

  23. Lola Feb 3rd 2013 at 11:33 pm 23

    Imagine my surprise reading in THIS, of all threads, a post by Lola and it’s not me? How perfectly bizarre and confusing. As can be imagined, I don’t run into this very often, unlike, say, a Bill Bickel….oh never mind.

  24. Cidu Bill Feb 3rd 2013 at 11:49 pm 24

    Well, it was five years ago. Are you sure you didn’t just forget?

  25. Ron Feb 4th 2013 at 01:03 am 25

    There is only one LOLA, accept no subsitutes.

  26. Morris Keesan Feb 4th 2013 at 08:19 am 26

    Recently, possibly in a comic strip, I saw a reference to the “superb owl”.

  27. Elyrest Feb 4th 2013 at 11:26 am 27

    Sometimes when I read old posts of mine I am amazed at how erudite I was when I wrote them. Other times I think there must be an imposter out there as I don’t remember the post at all.

  28. mitch4 Feb 4th 2013 at 07:24 pm 28

    I looked up an old sitcom on IMDB, and there were a couple viewer posts from about 10 years earlier, giving overall summaries of the premise but disagreeing. I thought one was clearly more in the right, though not very well expressed. That turned out to be by me, and I hardly remembered it.

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