Broadcasts / Promotions Related to Super Bowl XLVIII

Super Bowl XLVIII will be held on February 2, 2014 at MetLife Stadium outside of New York City.

The National Football League diligently protects its copyright and trademark rights associated with the Super Bowl. If your station plans to conduct Super Bowl-related promotions or contests, it should obtain all necessary licenses, and otherwise not infringe the NFL’s rights. Even if your station has obtained rights to broadcast the Super Bowl, it may not have the separate advertising or promotional rights that would allow it to use the Super Bowl name, logo, or other trademarks in station-produced promotions or contests. We therefore urge you to review any such agreements to ensure that you understand the full scope of the rights they grant.

Use of NFL Trademarks

The NFL controls all marketing rights to the Super Bowl and its associated trademarks. The 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 (e.g., “Patriots” or “Seahawks”) or nickname

You may, however, say or print:

  • “The Big Game in New York (or New Jersey)”
  • “The Professional Football Championship Game in New York”
  • The date of the game (e.g., “The February 2nd Game”)
  • The names of the cities of the competing teams in the Super Bowl (e.g., San Francisco or Denver ), but not the team names
  • You can make fun of the fact that you cannot say the phrase “Super Bowl” (e.g., by bleeping it out)

Advertisements Produced By Third Parties

Before accepting pre-produced Super Bowl-related advertisements, your station should make a reasonable inquiry to confirm that the advertiser has the necessary contractual rights to use NFL copyrights and trademarks. You should exercise even greater caution in determining whether a local advertiser has secured 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 traditionally large corporations or entities that can afford to pay the high licensing fees associated with “official” Super Bowl sponsorship.

Ticket Giveaways

The NFL and its authorized agents and licensees are the only legal sources for the distribution of Super Bowl tickets. Your station should not conduct a promotion giving away tickets to the Super Bowl, 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 NFL to conduct such a promotion. In that instance, you should require written confirmation that the sponsor is permitted by the NFL to give away tickets.

News Reporting and Use of Highlights

Unless your station has obtained official press credentials, you may not report on the Super Bowl from the venue while the event is ongoing. When the event has concluded, 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 half-time show, or posting clips or images on a website, your station needs to obtain consent from the NFL and any other rights holders. Although the First Amendment may allow the media to report to some extent news about an athletic event, it may not protect your station if it broadcasts or posts footage or accounts of the game in violation of licensed rights, especially prior to the game’s conclusion.

If you have any questions regarding the legality of broadcasts or marketing promotions relating to the Super Bowl, please contact any attorney in our office at 202-429-8970.