Gaming the name

Hey, do you know that professional football game that they play at the end of each season? The one with all the expensive commercials and the all-day pre-game show? The one that sounds like something Clark Kent might use to eat two gallons of Rocky Road ice cream? Yeah, that one.

You may already know that the NFL is like Terry Tate, office linebacker, fresh out of law school, going after people and businesses who use its trademarked name for this game. I learned this more than a decade ago when I was writing an advertising and promotional campaign for a brand of microwave popcorn that was being launched in the U.K. Part of the promotional campaign was that by trying the new snack you’d get a chance to win an expense-paid trip to the U.S. for the … well, the Big Game. We had planned to use the real name of the event, but we were threatened with an “illegal procedure” call so we used the BG alternate wording.

Many other businesses have done the same as they annually promote their snacks, HDTVs, adult beverages and recliners leading up to the “Big Game”. Now the NFL is trying to call “Encroachment” on these sideline retailers by seeking to trademark the Big Game audible as well (HT: The Trademark Blog and Likelihood of Confusion).

It’s kind of reminiscent of those NFL commercials from a year or so ago where players such as Jerome Bettis and Daunte Culpepper would suddenly appear, uniformed, in business meetings or warehouses to penalize people who misused football cliches. If this registration goes through you’ll have uniformed NFL lawyers laying crackback blocks on any sports bar putting “Watch the Big Game here!” on their marquees.

I really can’t see how the NFL is harmed by these enthusiastic but unauthorized efforts; referring to the Big Game doesn’t give anyone the impression that the sale, happy hour or sofa are sanctioned or licensed by the NFL or detract from the allure of the game. If anything it probably just adds to the hoopla that has practically turned that Sunday into a national holiday. (It does kind of make me wonder if the real Santa Claus gets a taste from all those copy-cats in the malls and taped to walls). Certainly this move by the NFL could make things a lot worse.

After all, “The Big Game” has a positive connotation. If forced to be more creative retailers and bars might have to resort to saying “Watch the Great Commercials here!” or “Be sure to stock up on drugs before the Steroid Bowl!” or “Your Lame Game Headquarters!”

3 thoughts on “Gaming the name

  1. I’m going to put a big sign up using that name over our toilet. Just let em try and nail me for trademark infringement on that.

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