30 January 2009

Don't Say Super Bowl, Super Bowl (reprise)

Ah, yes. Intellectual properties and the tap dance tip toe around them.

Did you know that you can NOT say "Superbowl" in a TV or radio advert unless its an officially licensed sponsor?

Pay attention over the next weeks and you'll hear things like "The Big Game" more often than you'll hear "Super Bowl Sunday".

You also cannot say "The Patriots" or "The Pats" however you can say "New England". You are allowed to refer to the teams from their cities of origin but not by their official NFL monikers. (i.e. New England v. Carolina, but not Patriots v. Panthers.)

GOTTA have one of these!

What's crazy is that the game, sorry, The Big Game, is so much a part of American culture that it's easy, and highly cost-effective, to suggest "Super Bowl" without actually saying it. In advertising parlance, this is known as "ambush marketing," or piggybacking an event without paying for the official right to do so.

All a frugal advertiser needs to do to conjure an instant association is to employ such wording as "the Big Game" or "super" and picture a few people in shoulder pads and helmets.

There is no issue with using the term Super Bowl, unless it is being used to promote a product, event, or service for sale. News coverage has unrestricted use of the term Super Bowl, for example, but restaurants and bars promoting their "Big Game" specials and events do not.

Big Game Shits

And this is because "The Super Bowl®" is a registered trademark of the NFL. They make a lot of money by licensing the rights to the use of that trademark (i.e., Coors: the official beer of Super Bowl XXXXVXVXVX or Tostitos: the official nacho of Super Bowl whateverthefuck.)

So you can stand on the street corner and talk to your friends about the Super Bowl, no one will arrest you for that (not yet at least), just don't try to tie it into a sale of something. Or else, you're fucked.

I remember a few years doing radio spots for something Super Bowl related and they had me reading every synonym for Super Bowl imaginable from the classic "The Big Game" to the awful "The Professional Football Championship Game in Houston".

You cannot say or print:
“Super Bowl”,
“Super Sunday”,
“NFL”, “AFC”, or “NFC”,
“National Football League”, “American Football Conference”, ‘National Football Conference”. Any team name (e.g., “Buccaneers") or nickname ("Bucs")

This is also a reason why you'll often see a baseball player in some bullshit TV advert and he'll be wearing his team's colours and maybe his jersey number but not the actual jersey and never the logo or name of the team. For instance Derek Jeter will be shilling some new disposable razors or whatever and they'll have him in a white and navy blue pinstripe baseball uniform obviously alluding to his team, but nowhere on it will it say New York or New York Yankees.

Love the tea light Sterno

None of these restrictions, however, applies to news organisations, whose use of copyrighted terms are legally protected. The NFL also has no say over advertisers that buy time during the Big Game (price tag as of 2007: $3 million per 30-second ad), as long as the commercials do not imply an association with the league that doesn't exist.

The big question is, is it really worth paying a few million dollars to be the "official" whatever when you can pay nothing and still get the point across? Do people buy more potato chips or pizzas from the NFL-authorised Super Bowl sponsors than from the plain old, Brand-X "Big Game" kind? Will consumers know, for example, that Coors is the NFL's official beer maker when Budweiser and Bud Light adverts will dominate during the game's broadcast?

P.S. - Does anyone remember those little plastic football helmets Carvel used to sell as ice cream bowls? Yum!


Tony Toofast said...

Man, that is mental! Fascinating post. Please check my blog. I wrote a piece on The Big Game from my Isle of Man point of view (near the UK). http://aimfor-thehead.blogspot.com/2009/02/superbowl-xliii.html
Hope the Feds don't bust me.

Anonymous said...

The local bird watchers group got away with "Superb Owl" Sunday