Broadcast Stations Must Obtain Copyright and Trademark Rights for NFL and Super Bowl Broadcasts and Promotions

Super Bowl LVI (56) will be held on February 13, 2022 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.

The NFL carefully protects its copyrights and trademarks. If your station plans to conduct promotions or contests related to the Super Bowl or to any of the conference championship games, you should obtain all necessary licenses to avoid infringing on the NFL’s rights. Even if your station has obtained broadcast rights from the NFL for one or more playoff games and/or the Super Bowl, you do not automatically obtain advertising or promotional rights that would allow you to use the NFL or Super Bowl name, logo, or other trademarks in station-produced promotions or contests. You need to confirm that such use is permitted under your agreement with the NFL.

Use of NFL Trademarks

The NFL controls all marketing rights to the conference championship games, the Super Bowl, and various associated trademarks. Unlicensed use of the NFL’s trademarks for the sale or promotion of any products, services, or contests is unlawful, and the use of a disclaimer such as “not an official sponsor of the Super Bowl” will not provide adequate protection from an infringement claim.

Use of NFL Terminology in Marketing

Without express written permission from the NFL and/or the teams involved, you may not use the following, or related protected words or logos, in marketing or promotions, whether on-air, in print, online, or otherwise:

  • “Super Bowl”
  • “Super Sunday”
  • The Super Bowl logo
  • “NFL,” “AFC,” or “NFC”
  • “National Football League”
  • “American Football Conference”
  • “National Football Conference”
  • Any team name (for example, “Chiefs” or “Packers”) or nickname

You may, however, say or print:

  • “The Big Game in Inglewood (or Los Angeles)”
  • “The Professional Football Championship Game in Inglewood (or Los Angeles)”
  • The date of the game (for example, “The February 13th Game”)
  • The names of the cities or states of the competing teams in the playoff games or the Super Bowl (for example, “Kansas City” or Green Bay”), but not the team names
  • You can make fun of the fact that you cannot say the phrase “Super Bowl” (for example, by bleeping it out)

Advertisements Produced By Third Parties

Before accepting pre-produced advertisements relating to a conference championship game or the Super Bowl, your station should confirm that the advertiser has the necessary rights to use NFL copyrights and trademarks. The NFL’s copyrights and trademarks, including Super Bowl-related marks, are usually licensed separately for different categories of products and services. For example, the NFL might grant a license to one particular brewing company to be the “official” Super Bowl beer sponsor, to one particular automobile manufacturer to be the “official” Super Bowl automobile sponsor, and so forth. Such sponsors are usually large corporations that can afford to pay the high licensing fees associated with official Super Bowl sponsorship. For this reason, you should exercise extra caution if a smaller, local advertiser provides your station a pre-produced ad related to one of these games. It may be unlikely that such an advertiser has actually obtained the necessary NFL copyrights and trademarks for its ad.

Ticket Giveaways

The NFL and its authorized agents are the only legal sources for distribution of tickets to a conference championship game or to the Super Bowl. Your station should not conduct a promotion giving away tickets to these games, even if your station validly purchased the tickets. You can only conduct this type of promotion if your station, or a third-party contest sponsor, has written authority from the NFL to be an official sponsor for the game.

News Reporting and Use of Highlights

Unless your station has obtained official press credentials, you cannot report on a conference championship game or the Super Bowl from the venue while the game is ongoing. After the game has ended, however, you may report the “news” of the event, such as the winner and score of the game.

Before broadcasting highlights of the game or the halftime show, or posting clips or images on a website, your station needs to obtain consent from the NFL and any other rights holders.

If you have questions about broadcasts or marketing promotions related to the conference championship games or the Super Bowl, please contact any attorney in our Media practice group.