Here's Why Companies Can't Use the Name "Super Bowl" in Their Advertising

Jamie Lerner - Author
By

Feb. 8 2024, Published 1:05 p.m. ET

Super Bowl sphere arena
Source: Getty Images

Every year, we’re graced with the presence of the Super Bowl as two teams fight for the championship title. While the NFL hypes us up for the season’s matchup, other brands want to capitalize on the popularity as well. But sadly, they cannot actually say “Super Bowl” unless they’ve paid for an advertisement slot during the big game.

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It might seem strange, but even if your favorite local bar is holding a ticketed Super Bowl event, they may not be able to actually use the name "Super Bowl" in the event’s advertising. Why is that? There’s actually a very good reason for this.

Super Bowl XIV
Source: Getty Images

Super Bowl XIV

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Companies can’t use the name "Super Bowl" in their advertising because it is trademarked.

Sadly for the little guys, the NFL has actually trademarked the term “Super Bowl.” That’s why hilarious alternatives have cropped up over the years as brands, companies, and even people try to promote their own events and coverage. Stephen Colbert has famously called the Super Bowl the Superb Owl, moving a letter over and incorporating random tidbits with owls in his parody coverage of the big night.

More commonly, however, bars and other companies will just call the Super Bowl “the big game” or “game day” in promotional materials. For example, if Buffalo Wild Wings wanted to do a Super Bowl special, they wouldn’t actually be able to call it that. However, some organizations find creative ways to work around the limitations.

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Patrick Mahomes doing Super Bowl promo
Source: Getty Images

Patrick Mahomes doing Super Bowl promo

For example, Ollie’s social media campaign for a dog adoption drive with a product giveaway calls it their “Supper Bowl Extravaganza,” according to Modern Retail. UrbanStems, a flower company, partnered with former 49ers tight end on its “Biggest Fumble” promo. In the past, Delta has just called it “the pro football championship” and even ESPN calls it the same.

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The NFL has to send cease and desist letters to hold on to its Super Bowl trademark.

While the NFL seems like it shouldn’t care about other businesses using the name "Super Bowl," it still sends out plenty of cease and desist letters to stop its use. Obviously, no one will actually compete with or outsell the actual Super Bowl — the only reason any company or organization wants to even use the name is to enjoy the fanfare and relish in its glory.

Even still, the NFL sends letters to stop people from using the name like nobody’s business. A hilarious example comes from 2007 when they actually sent a cease and desist letter to a church in Indiana that wanted to charge a small admission for a Super Bowl watch party.

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Dogs from the Puppy Bowl with Dan Schachner and Andrea Boelkhe
Source: Getty Images

Dogs from the Puppy Bowl with Dan Schachner and Andrea Boelkhe

The Motley Fool asked NFL league spokesman Brian McCarthy about its trademark on the name "Super Bowl":

"As you can imagine, we annually send dozens of cease and desist letters to companies that we believe are infringing on the NFL's marks, including the Super Bowl. But we would rather not disclose which companies. The Super Bowl is one of the most recognizable events and brands in the world. We take great strides to protect the goodwill we have generated over the previous 47 years."

Regardless, people will have their Super Bowl parties and call them Super Bowl parties, because there’s no way for the NFL to police all of America. And we’ll just have to enjoy the numerous companies that do shell out millions just for 30 seconds during the game and the ability to say “Super Bowl.”

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