The NFL Pretending Trademark Law Says Something It Doesn't Leads To Hilariously Amateurish Ads For 'The Big Game'
from the the-game-that-shan't-be-named dept
Every year, right about this time, this site is forced to remind everyone that the NFL is completely full of crap when it comes to how it enforces its supposed trademark rights for the Super Bowl. While the NFL does indeed have some rights to the phrase and to controlling how it’s used, those rights generally amount to prohibiting companies from falsely implying sponsorship of the game or a relationship with the NFL in commercial speech. What the NFL pretends is the case, on the other hand, is that it can somehow prohibit any company from even mentioning the Super Bowl in any context, up to and including simple factual statements.
All of this leads to the absurdity of every company that has chosen not to sponsor the NFL diving into the euphamism business, gleefully referring to the Super Bowl by any other name. “The Big Game” is the most popular of these, although the NFL has actually gone so far as to look into trademarking that phrase as well. The end result is the Picasso-ing of reality in which companies make references which every member of the public gets but that fall short of calling the NFL’s biggest show by its proper name, something you would think the NFL would want everyone everywhere talking about.
With the Super Bowl a week away, we’re already seeing this practice ramp back up. In Philadelphia, the home city of one of the competing teams, some small local businesses are getting into the act in hilarious ways.
Bethlehem’s SteelStacks campus announced Thursday it’s hosting a ‘watch party’ for the Big Game, and used clip art in place of NFL logos. One ArtsQuest staff member also tweeted a tongue-in-cheek ‘FLY [REDACTED] FLY!’ with a graphic advertising the event, which references Birds (but not Philadelphia Eagles) and includes a small gold cup instead of the Lombardi Trophy.
Here is the tweet and image in question.
— ArtsQuest (@ArtsQuest) January 25, 2018
That is some glorious clip art right there. But just let it sink in how dumb this all is. Every viewer of that image is going to know that it’s an advertisement for a watch party for the Super Bowl in which the Eagles are playing. Yet, because of the NFL’s status as a fullblown bully-monster that’s perfectly willing to throw gobs of expensive legal prowess over something as small as a watch party at a bar, out comes the clip art, the references to the “Big Game”, and the Eagles suddenly become the “birds.” And literally nothing is accomplished. The public will view this image with the exact same understanding as if it contained the phrase “Super Bowl”, yet it somehow satisfies the NFL. That’s just stupid.
The NFL gets a lot of value out of its corporate sponsorships, no doubt. There have been something like five billion dollars spent on ads throughout the history of the game. Why the league continues to pretend it has rights it doesn’t have when companies accurately referring to the game’s name are no threat at all is beyond me.