Now that we know that Super Bowl XLVI is going to feature the New England Patriots against the New York Giants in Indianapolis, you may be thinking that the next best thing to being there is watching it on a brand-new big-screen HDTV.
But if you've been searching the Web for an amazing Super Bowl deal on an HDTV only to find the pickings slimmer than a runway model after a three-day fast, we have another suggestion: Try substituting the term "Big Game" for "Super Bowl" in your search engine.
Get a bit more action? That's because retail ads and promotions can't legally use the phrase "Super Bowl"—or even "Super Sunday"—unless the companies have paid big bucks (really big bucks) to the NFL, which owns the trademarks to the two terms. Fortunately, exceptions are made for news organizations like Consumer Reports, or this article would have a different headline.
It isn't surprising that the NFL vigorously tracks down violations. Organizations that don't aggressively act to protect their trademarks can lose them—just ask the makers of aspirin, escalators, or yo-yos, all trademarks that became generics due to common usage. As a result, TV retailers have to be very creative about advertising Super Bowl specials without using the words "Super" and "Bowl" together.
That's why over the next few days you'll see numerous ads announcing "super" sales in time for "The Big Game," or perhaps even "The Invasion in Indianapolis," but surprisingly very few that tout "Super Bowl" specials.
Two years ago, Samsung ponied up the dough for the right to be called "the official HDTV of the NFL," earning it the ability to use the term "Super Bowl," as well as the Super Bowl and NFL logos, in its advertising and commercials. And that gave retailers that carried Samsung TVs some creative leeway.
No "official" NFL HDTV in 2012
But for the second year in a row, there is no "official" NFL HDTV. As a result, no manufacturer—and thus no retailer—is legally entitled to bill its TV sales as "Super Bowl" specials. (Although Samsung is a Super Bowl XLVI advertiser, it doesn't get the right to use the logo elsewhere). Best Buy, for example—which is also a Super Bowl advertiser—is instead suggesting you "score big this week," and that "the big game" deserves a big TV, in its pre-event promotions. Sears is using the term "the Ultimate Football Experience" in its pre-Super Bowl promotions.
But just as it's done in years past, regional retailer H.H. Gregg is once again pushing up against the NFL's Super Bowl advertising restrictions—this year with a website that sports a very Super Bowl-looking logo, complete with the words "Super Sale" and the Roman numerals "XLVI." I guess some retailers figure "Big Game" promotions call for some big-time gambles, and not just on the outcome of the game.
Perhaps other retailers will also adopt more creative end-arounds to help promote football-oriented TV sales without violating the NFL's trademarks. As we get closer to game day, let us know if you see any local ads that tie in to a "Big Game" promotion, or if you notice any especially creative ways a dealer is finding to promote "super" sales without getting flagged by the NFL for trademark encroachment.
Find all of our Super Bowl coverage in one place on ConsumerReports.org: Super Bowl XLVI game plan helps you pick out the best TVs for watching the game, how to find those TVs, apps that'll augment your fun, the tastiest TV-watching treats, and lots more.
—James K. Willcox