10 Feb
Super Bowl: Brand Protection and Advertising

In March of 2021, the NFL announced a new television deal, with networks paying $105 billion to broadcast games through 2033. Traditional networks such as NBC, CBS, and FOX will continue to air games but for the first time a streaming platform- Amazon Prime – will join the fray.

The NFL remains king in an era of virtually unlimited content catering to every imaginable taste. Since its initial broadcast in 1939, which reached roughly 1,000 to 2022, when the average viewership is over 20 million for each game, football and television in America have been in a symbiotic relationship, each helping the other to prosper. Of the top 100 television broadcasts in 2022, 82 of them were NFL games. This massive fanbase allows NFL to charge astronomical sums from networks eager to broadcast the games. Data gleaned from Amazon shows that the key demographic of age group 18-34 has shown an average increase of 12 percent for Thursday night football from 2021. The 2021 Super Bowl, which saw the Los Angeles Rams defeat the Cincinnati Bengals, witnessed close to 100 million people watching the game in the US alone.

With such a captive audience comes a long list of companies seeking a chance to leverage their trademarks and place advertisements for their products during the games. The price tag is not for everyone though, as 30-second ads during the 2022 Super Bowl were selling for $6.5 million.

Is it Worth ?

Super Bowl advertisements and their ability to influence buying decisions have been a subject of research for premier institutions. A paper published by Stanford observed that advertising during the Super Bowl helped in fostering positive associations between a brand and viewers. Mc Granaghan (2016) provided an even more valuable insight who documented that both the number of viewers in a room and their attention increased during the commercial breaks. This is not surprising as the ads surrounding the Super Bowl have become an industry in itself, with many reports indicating that over 40% of Super Bowl viewers tune in to the commercials instead of the game. Of course, the emotional bond an ad can create between a consumer and a company influences decision-making more than anything. The real benefit of placing advertisements in the Super Bowl is generating Brand awareness.

As noted in an article by Nielsen, “After airing, Super Bowl ads typically reap the benefit of social media chatter and people engaging with the advertised brand. Many consumers also seek out ads they missed during the game, further increasing viewership.”

This highlights the cost-to-benefit ratio for advertisers regarding buying spots for their products during the Super Bowl. Large conglomerates such as NFL’s official sponsors Pepsi and alcohol giant Anheuser-Busch can easily afford the million-dollar price tags and continue spending through the year to reinforce product awareness.

Smaller companies and start-ups must find other ways to tap into the football craze and catch fans’ attention. Sly efforts to use the term “Super Bowl”, over which the NFL holds intellectual property rights, has brought swift Cease and Desist letters and lawsuits. The NFL is so zealous in protecting its IP rights that even large social gatherings are prohibited from using the term “Super Bowl”; thus consumers often encounter ads referring to “The Big Game”.

Challenges with Brand Management

While the Super Bowl remains the number one event of the year in terms of sheer viewership, the fact remains that it’s a once-a-year event. Whether your company invests millions in Super Bowl ads or wouldn’t begin to consider such an investment, there are still several common challenges that Intellectual Property attorneys must face when protecting the IP of their company or their firm’s clients.

With restricted budgets, the challenge becomes to strike a balance between investing in brand creation, advertising, and protection of Intellectual Property rights. The situation gets further complicated as the avenues for possible infringements are vast, and manpower costs in a highly specialized field are high.

Companies and law firms struggle to manage a growing portfolio of trademarks, prosecution and renewals. With economic uncertainty ahead, some organizations are going through the painful process of layoffs, whereas others are keeping their headcount flat. In either case, it is rare that the volume of trademark filings is decreasing. This is forcing in-house counsel and law firms to identify innovative ways to address the age-old cliché of “do more with less.”

Due to the lingering effects of the Great Resignation, finding qualified IP professional resources such as paralegals & docketers continues to be challenging. Now that there is pressure from the finance group to more tightly control costs, this creates an even bigger headache for IP executives – how do you manage a growing IP portfolio when you can’t find experienced IP resources to fill open roles or your finance business partners will not approve new headcount? This is where qualified third party Intellectual Property outsourcing companies come into play. By partnering with an outsourcing vendor, companies & law firms can scale resources up and down quickly, and access a wider pool of skill sets, all while reducing costs. Outsourcing mundane IP tasks also have the benefit of improving in-house employee’s morale, as they can send less-desirable tasks to the vendor, thus allowing them to focus on higher-value work tasks.

Jerry Rice, widely considered to be one of the best wide receivers in football history, said “Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow, I will accomplish what others can’t”. While his quote was related to his accomplishments on the gridiron, the message also holds true for companies & law firms looking at innovative ways to manage their Intellectual Property.

As the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles prepare to line up on February 12th at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, numerous companies will hand over a small fortune to be a part of the event with the hope to catch their buyer’s eye. Innumerable smaller companies will try to tiptoe around the legal minefields and try to cash in the craze as well. The challenges that professionals face today will continue after the game ends, and companies that “will do what others won’t” will be able to “accomplish what others can’t”. The question is, which companies will win?