The Super Bowl is one of the most highly anticipated events in the world of sports, attracting millions of fans, advertisers, and sponsors from around the globe. Because of this, Super Bowl advertisements are plentiful both before and during the game. However, keen observers may notice that, while some companies directly refer to the event in their ads (e.g. the “official soft drink of Super Bowl LVII”), others refer only vaguely to the “Big Game” without mentioning the teams or any other overt references to the Super Bowl. Of course, this is because the name SUPER BOWL is itself a registered trademark owned by NFL Properties, LLC (“NFL”).
Most trademarks are registered to one or, at most, a handful of commercial fields. But the NFL went a step further to expand its rights in the SUPER BOWL name. The SUPER BOWL mark is registered in connection with everything from entertainment and television broadcasting services to apparel, toys, jewelry, and cell phone covers, to name but a few. What is more, the NFL vigorously polices against unlicensed uses of its SUPER BOWL trademark, such as a soup company trying to register the name SOUPER BOWL. To put it simply, the NFL will do everything it can to prevent any unauthorized commercial use of the SUPER BOWL mark, regardless of the field.
Accordingly, companies considering running any Super Bowl (or “Big Game”) advertising should proceed with caution, or risk ending up in the red zone (and not in a good way).