We continue to have Super Bowl LII on our minds here in the Twin Cities. It’s hard to avoid thinking about the upcoming “Big Game” with ads like these blanketing our skyway maze:

Turns out, everyone wants to have a little piece of the action in this upcoming event, even without the formality and cost associated with sponsorship, some call it ambush marketing:

Ambush marketing is not necessarily unlawful. It’s tricky, but I’m guessing the above ad may have cleared a legal review. No obvious conflicts with federally-registered rights, it appears.

Having said that, does this little guy change your view on things? Look familiar? It appears to be the same Wilson NFL Pee Wee Touchdown football without the name brands shown:

I’m thinking the JB Hudson ad employed a little airbrush strategy, or at least some strategic and highly precise palm expansion and placement in hiding the Wilson and NFL logos.

Actually, if so, it’s a good move, but will it be enough — especially given this website link — to avoid the aggressive NFL Super Bowl sponsorship police?

Who owns rights in TOUCHDOWN for footballs, if anyone? Anyone?

Neither Wilson nor the NFL appear to own federally-registered rights in TOUCHDOWN for footballs, but do common law rights exist?

If so, who owns them, the NFL or the maker of the NFL’s official game footballs, Wilson?

Moreover, did legal review consider non-verbal marks? What about the stitching design bordering the football laces? Non-traditional trademark? Functional? If not functional, fair use?

So much to think about as we anxiously await the Big Game in our own chilly backyard . . . .

  • James Mahoney

    First of all, how in heck did you spot that the football is likely a Wilson model? Impressive investigation, counselor.

    That said, I’ll hazard some guesses here. If it is a Wilson football, it’s definitely Photoshopped to remove the logo and the NFL reference. Since someone went to that trouble (which is minimal in Photoshop), they should have also had the brains to remove the other type elements, and maybe even the stitching if that’s a distinctive brand element.

    If Wilson owns rights to the word touchdown on footballs or football related stuff, it’d have to be ToucHdown, with the H shaped to mimic goalposts, as it does on this ball. Since the ad says “Touchdown” and not “TouchHdown,” I think they’re safe on that score.

    Now to the ad and the webpage you linked to. I like the ad. It takes a moment to realize what they’re getting at, but I think it’s effective. It works as well, if not better, for the local audience as it would for visitors.

    Conversely, the webpage is a puzzlement. I *think* it’s a jewelry store, but with the mention of “Venue”, “five-course French dinner” and “bourbon and cigars,” I don’t know. Are they a hotel or a restaurant, too? Are they a mini-mall? Do they host events? I have no idea, and the copy doesn’t do anything to clarify.

    At the nit-level–that is to say, the level that NFL rules get down to–the copy’s sloppy. What does it matter to a visitor (or other potential customer) that they’re “as Minneapolis as it gets”? Or that they’ve been in business for over 130 years? (Snarky grammar police citation: the company’s been in business for over 130 years, not “your guests”.)

    If JB Hudson’s trying to offer their elegant surroundings as a host site for events, then they ought to say so, clearly.

    As to “right in the middle of Super Bowl Live,” I’ll leave that to smarter people than I to evaluate.

    • stevebaird

      Eagle eyes my friend, and thanks for sharing your talons and perspective.
      It is a local jewelry store, nothing more, as far as I know.