Broadcasts and Promotions Related to the 2018 NCAA Basketball Championships

The NCAA national men’s basketball tournament will begin on March 13, 2018, and end with the men’s final on April 2, 2018, at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. The women’s tournament will begin on March 16, 2018, and end with the women’s final on April 1, 2018, at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

It is frequently the case that your station may plan to conduct promotions tied to these extremely popular tournaments. Although these promotional events can be quite successful, especially if local teams advance, they can lead to expensive litigation and damage awards if the NCAA’s intellectual property rights are not respected by your station.

Use of NCAA Trademarks

The NCAA diligently protects its copyright and trademark rights associated with the NCAA basketball championships, and exclusively licenses its trademarks, logos, designs, and other protected terminology for substantial fees. Only licensed parties are authorized to use this intellectual property. The NCAA does not hesitate to take legal action to enjoin violations of those rights. Activities that create the appearance of a relationship between the NCAA and its tournaments and your station or your advertisers (known as “ambush marketing”) are therefore extremely risky.

Any unlicensed use of NCAA intellectual property for the sale or promotion of any product or service is unlawful and can expose your station to charges of trademark infringement, unfair competition, false advertising, and/or misappropriation of goodwill, for which you can be held liable for significant monetary damages. Note that the use of a disclaimer, such as “not an official sponsor of the NCAA Tournament,” will not provide adequate protection against infringement claims. We strongly recommend you avoid any use of the NCAA’s intellectual property in any station promotion (as opposed to news reporting, as discussed below) unless explicitly authorized to do so by the NCAA or its authorized agents.

For example, unless specifically licensed, you may not say or use in print the following in connection with station promotional events:

  • “NCAA” or any NCAA logo
  • “Final Four,” “Sweet Sixteen,” “Elite Eight,” etc.
  • “The Road to the Final Four,” “The Road to San Antonio”
  • “March Madness,” “March Mayhem,” “Midnight Madness”
  • Any team name or nickname (such as “Hoosiers”)
  • Any NCAA or team logo

You may, however, say or use in print:

  • “The college basketball championships”
  • “The national semifinals of the college basketball championship”
  • The dates of the games
  • The names of the colleges that are competing, but not the team names
  • You may also make fun of the fact that you cannot say the phrase “Final Four” (such as by bleeping it out)

For your reference, a representative list of NCAA marks is included below.

Contests Involving Unauthorized Distribution of Event Tickets

The NCAA and its authorized agents are the only legal sources for the distribution of tournament tickets. Your station should not run any promotion where tickets to a tournament game are awarded, even if your station validly purchased the tickets. The only exception is if your station conducts a promotion with an official sponsor that has written permission from the NCAA to allow tickets to be given away in contests or promotions. In such cases, be sure to confirm with the sponsor that it has the required written authorization, and retain a copy of this authorization for your files.

News Reporting on the Tournaments

The NCAA also holds the rights to all live accounts and descriptions of the tournament games and events, and licenses these rights to television and radio stations. Unless your station has obtained appropriate press credentials, do not broadcast reports on an NCAA game from the venue while the game is ongoing. This includes not only live radio and/or television reporting from the venue, but live blogging, as well. Once a game has ended, you can report the “news” of the game, such as a winner and the score.

Your station must also obtain prior consent from the NCAA or the local rights holder to use recorded highlights of the games and pre- and post-game events that occurred inside the venue in station newscasts and on station websites. Although the First Amendment allows the media to report news on athletic events shortly after the event, it does not protect a station that broadcasts footage or sound clips of an event, the rights for which, in this case, are controlled and licensed by the NCAA or the local rights holder.

The NCAA must grant approval before the use of any NCAA trademark or logo, including the following list taken from the NCAA website:

And Then There Were Four®

Champions Play Here®

Champions Win Here™


Elite 8®

Elite Eight®

Elite 90™

Experience It Live™


Final 4®

Final Four®

Final Four Friday

First Four®

Four It All™

It's More Than Three Games®

Make it Yours™

March Madness®

March Mayhem™

Midnight Madness®

Men’s Elite Eight®

National Collegiate Athletic Association®

National Collegiate Championships®


NCAA After The Game™

NCAA Basketball®

NCAA Championships®

NCAA Hall of Champions®

NCAA Photos®

NCAA Sweet 16®

NCAA Sweet Sixteen®

NCAA Team Works™

Pinnacle of Fitness®

Read to the Final Four™

Road to the Final Four®

Selection Sunday™

Share the Experience™

The Big Dance®

The Final Four®

The NCAA Experience®

The Pinnacle Awaits®

The Pinnacle Awaits®

The Road to San Antonio™

The Road to Columbus™

The Road to the Final Four®

Women’s Elite Eight®

Women’s Final 4®

Women’s Final Four®

The 2018 Corporate Champions & Partners currently include:


Capital One


Buffalo Wild Wings


Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Google Cloud




Marriot Rewards


Northwestern Mutual

Pizza Hut




If you have any questions about the nature or extent of the rights controlled by the NCAA or any other aspect of this memo, please contact any attorney in our office.