There’s a lot of confusion when this time of year comes around and churches begin to plan and promote their Super Bowl Sunday parties. While using a massive cultural event like football is a great opportunity to reach our communities and invite guests in, we need to be mindful of how to do things legally. In 2007, the NFL infamously put the kibosh on a church Super Bowl party for trademark infringement. In the last several years, the NFL has relaxed some of its notoriously-stringent rules surrounding watching and showing the Super Bowl. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still rules to consider when your church hosts its Super Bowl party in a couple weeks. Here are two main points to consider as you promote your upcoming parties for the big game.
- Super Bowl is a trademarked term. The NFL owns the term Super Bowl, and since the name is trademarked, they have famously gone after inappropriate use, probably even stretching over the line beyond what the trademark legally covers. They may have relaxed some of their rules, but it’s still important to be aware and respectful of their copyright and trademark ownership. Rule of thumb: Instead of using the term “Super Bowl” be creative and come up with your own name, like Souperbowl Sunday (and throw a party themed around soup and football), or Tailgate Party, or the Big Game. You see creative names all over the place right now, all referring to the Super Bowl, without actually saying “Super Bowl.” Even if you choose to go ahead and use the “Super Bowl” name in your event marketing, do not use the event’s logo, the NFL shield, or team logos in your communication materials.
- You can show the game at your church...with a few restrictions. In 2011, Church Juice’s founding producer, Jerod Clark, spoke directly to the NFL and asked what rules a church needed to follow. Their response was simple: “As long as you don’t charge admission, you can show the game.” However, there still are a few more rules to follow.
- You are legally allowed to show the game — as long as its live.
- You must also show the game in your regular worship setting (and not rented space, even if that’s where you regularly meet), using equipment you regularly use.
As you continue with your plans for the Big Game and celebrating with friends, family, and neighbors, remember to be mindful of these things. It may seem inconvenient, but really these laws push you to be more creative. Obeying the laws of the land is certainly a biblical concept our churches need to follow — and these rules aren’t really that overbearing, and make complete sense because the NFL needs to protect its brand.
What plans does your church have for Super Bowl Sunday?