You may have heard there’s a nationally televised Lady Gaga concert scheduled for a couple Sundays from now. There will be some sports played as well, dispersed in brief intervals among bajillion-dollar ad buys. If you haven’t figured out to what I’m referring, well, you must not know about America’s Big Game. The ole Professional Football Championship, the postseason finale in which the titans (not the Tennessee Titans, unfortunately) of the turf battle it out.
Why don’t I just call it what it is? Because I don’t have the express written consent of the National Football League. And there’s a good chance you don’t either. Familiarize yourself with the Do’s and Don’ts of “Big Game” marketing so you don’t get a cease and desist. Because big or small, they’ll come and getcha. They’ve gone after churches for charging admission to Uper-Say Owl-Bay parties. The league doesn’t make $13 billion in annual revenue by playing fast and loose with trademarks.
Know the rules
Let’s start with what you can’t say, which is pretty much everything. Super Bowl® and Super Sunday ® are trademarked terms. So is NFL®. So are the names of all 32 teams and the names of the conferences (American Football Conference ®, National Football Conference®, AFC®, NFC ®). Learn more here.
So what do you do?
Bud Light paid more than $1 billion (yes, with a B) to be the league’s official beer. If your brand has that kind of money, why are you even reading this? Pony up! (Also, our media and sponsorship people would love to chat sometime.)
The rest of us are doomed to devise creative ways to reference this big event — and others, such as the global games held every four winters and every four summers and College Basketball’s Win-or-Go-Home Springtime Spectacular — without naming it. Even referring to it as “The Big Game” is overdone. By the way, the NFL tried to put a stop to that, too.
Stephen Colbert’s Superb Owl bit contains a bowl-nanza of “Big Game” allusions.
As a Saints fan, I have a soft spot for ambush marketing. Newcastle’s “entry” in Doritos’ fan commercial contest was hilarious, and it succeeded in hijacking some bowl buzz away from big-budget brands.
Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl has been running for more than a decade. What started as clever counter-programming now inspires Pinterest boards and hot takes. While other auto brands fight over viewers’ attention during the Big Game, Subaru reaches out to its pupper-loving purchasers as the official automobile of Good Dogs everywhere. 13/10.