‘The Big Game’ today – lots of legal issues to justify you watching during work time

Super Bowl Sunday (our Monday) is upon us once again, and while my beloved Miami Dolphins continue to break my heart, I am sure many of us will be watching Super Bowl 50 today between the two most boring teams of the season – the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos.

Bigger than the game itself is the advertising that goes along with it, and even here in Australia we are not immune, with all the big advertisements to be played during the game available online well ahead of the actual kick-off.

So why don’t more companies jump on the bandwagon and use the Super Bowl to advertise their products? Why don’t we see Sanitarium asking if Peyton Manning from the Denver Broncos has had his Weetbix?

Because it costs a crapload to use the phrase ‘Super Bowl’, and the National Football League in America has gone to understandably huge lengths to protect their interest in the use of this phrase and to maximise the revenue they can generate from it.

They have a trade mark over the phrase ‘Super Bowl’, and various forms of that phrase.

[Quick side note for the real intellectual property nerds out there – it is a trade mark interest not a copyright interest, as we are talking about the use of words to represent a product (men in armour running into each other and Beyonce singing at half-time) rather than a creative work about the event itself. You could copyright a song about the Super Bowl I suppose, but first you’d have to pay the NFL for the trade mark use.]

A 30 second advertisement during the game costs around US$4 million, so it is understandable why the NFL is so keen to protect the use of the ‘Super Bowl’ wording to those that have the cash to use it in their advertisements.

So what can you call the Super Bowl if you don’t want to pay for the use of the words ‘Super Bowl’? Well, some examples companies have used in the past include:

  • The Big Game (someone in an advertising firm actually got paid to come up with that)
  • The Championship Game (bit of a stretch)
  • The Big One (lots of innuendo I could make around this one, but I will restrain myself)
  • Superb Owl (winner, from Stephen Colbert, who else?)

So please help out the NFL by watching today’s game and reporting back to me if you see any evidence of trade mark breaches. You are doing God’s work and your employer should respect this.



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