Why no one on TV wants to say 'Super Bowl'

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Why No One on TV Wants to Say 'Super Bowl'


Super Bowl 50 is this Sunday, and everyone's talking about it -- though they might not be using the words "Super Bowl."

That's because the term "Super Bowl" is copyrighted by the NFL, prompting people to use a euphemism like "the big game" -- or something else. Remember "The Colbert Report"?

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"We are in night three of my Superb Owl coverage!" Colbert said in an episode leading up to the 2014 game.

PHOTOS: Ranking the last 10 Super Bowls
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Ranking the last 10 Super Bowls
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Why no one on TV wants to say 'Super Bowl'

10. Super Bowl XLVIII: Seattle defeats Denver 43-8

Regardless of who you were pulling for in this one (unless you're a Seahawks fan) this was indisputably the worst Super Bowl in recent memory. From the opening snap, it was an all-out onslaught by Seattle. Hopefully for Peyton Manning, this year's game goes a little differently.

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

9. Super Bowl XLI: Indianapolis defeats Chicago 29-17

Otherwise known as the time Rex Grossman played in a Super Bowl, 2007's big game -- aside from acting as Peyton Manning's lone championship -- was mostly forgettable. The Bears logged just three points over the final three quarters, and Indy, favored by seven, covered the spread.

(Photo by Gary W. Green/MCT/MCT via Getty Images)

8. Super Bowl XLI: Pittsburgh defeats Seattle 21-10

In Jerome Bettis' final NFL game, he went out a champion. Ben Roethlisberger, in just his second season, earned his first Super Bowl ring, in a game that was relatively low-scoring -- but did include Antwaan Randle El's heroic touchdown pass to Hines Ward.

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

7. Super Bowl XLV: Green Bay defeats Pittsburgh 31-25

Aaron Rodgers' only championship to date came against a 12-4 Steelers team. He went for 304 yards and threw three touchdowns without getting intercepted, while Jordy Nelson racked up 140 yards on nine catches. 

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

6. Super Bowl XLIV: New Orleans defeats Indianapolis 31-17

In the game that brought a championship to New Orleans after the city endured so much heartbreak years earlier, the Saints knocked off Peyton Manning's Colts. Sean Peyton's daring onside kick after halftime rests as one of the boldest playcalls in Super Bowl history.

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

5. Super Bowl XLVI: NY Giants defeat New England 21-17

It wasn't quite as exhilarating as the previous time New York knocked off the Patriots, but an unexpected, come-from-behind victory against a favored New England team provided football fans with a great product on Super Bowl Sunday, 2012.

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

4. Super Bowl XLVII: Baltimore defeats San Francisco 34-31

Super Bowl MVP, Joe Flacco. The dream became a reality in February 2013, when Baltimore knocked off Colin Kaepernick's 49ers in the infamous blackout Super Bowl. Ray Lewis went out a champion in his final NFL game.

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum, FIle)

3. Super Bowl XLIII: Pittsburgh defeats Arizona 27-23

This one featured James Harrison's classic 99-yard fumble recovery, Santonio Holmes' epic touchdown grab and an ill-fated, yet still exciting, Cardinals rally in the final quarter.

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

2. Super Bowl XLII: NY Giants defeat New England 17-14

The day David Tyree's name went down in Giants history -- and Super Bowl history -- forever. New York spoiled the Patriots' attempt at an undefeated, 19-0 season -- something nobody has come close to completing since. 

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel/FILE)

1. Super Bowl XLIX: New England defeats Seattle 28-24

The most thrilling Super Bowl of the last decade is also the most recent. Malcolm Butler's last-second interception to fend off the Seahawks' attempt at a go-ahead score will forever live in Patriots lore, as Tom Brady clinched his fourth championship.

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

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As it turns out, Colbert would probably be within his rights to just come out and say Super Bowl, thanks to the concept of nominative fair use. Essentially, you can say the name as long as you're referring to the game and make it clear you're not an official NFL sponsor.

Despite this, companies are often unwilling to take that step, mainly because the NFL is extremely aggressive in protecting its copyright. In 2007, the league famously pushed an Indianapolis church into canceling a Super Bowl watch party.

So why the "Super Bowl" crackdown? Truth is, the NFL isn't just doing this to protect its own brand. It's also making sure its biggest backers stay happy.

Brands like Bud Light, Papa John's and Hyundai are "official sponsors" of the league, meaning they can say Super Bowl as much as they want in their ads.

The NFL wants to make sure this right stays exclusive -- so much so that it's tried to copyright the phrase "the big game" as well, though that 2006 attempt fell through. Besides, Stanford and Cal have been playing their Big Game long before anyone said the words "Super Bowl."

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San Francisco preparing ahead of Super Bowl 50
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Why no one on TV wants to say 'Super Bowl'
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 03: Super Bowl 50 signage is displayed around the city on February 3, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 03: A pedestrian is seen next to the beginning of a large mural on Market Street promoting Super Bowl 50 on February 3, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 03: A fan poses with a Super Bowl 50 sculpture on February 3, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 03: A large graphic of the Vince Lombardi Trophy promoting Super Bowl 50 is displayed on a skyscraper on February 3, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images)
Kamron Samady, age 4, gets football images painted on his face at Super Bowl City Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Angie Bagares poses for a photo in front of a Super Bowl 50 sign at Super Bowl City Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Darian Anador, 13, wears a Super Bowl 50 logo on his face while attending the NFL Experience Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, in San Francisco. The Denver Broncos will play the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Levi's Stadium is decorated for the Super Bowl Tuesday, Feb 2, 2016 in Santa Clara, Calif. The Denver Broncos will play the Carolina Panthers in the NFL Super Bowl 50 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2015, at Levi's Stadium. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Andrew Macy, 10, walks away from a display inside the Super Bowl NFL Shop Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
San Francisco Police tactical unit officer Jeff McHale watches the crowd at Super Bowl City Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016 in San Francisco. From ticket scalpers to terrorism, football's biggest game always presents challenges large and small for law enforcement officials. Their task is made more difficult by the location of Super Bowl 50, some 45 miles from downtown San Francisco, and a number of events throughout the sprawling Bay Area in the run up to the game in Santa Clara on Sunday. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Denver Broncos fan Rocky Brougham, left, and San Francisco 49ers fan Stacy Samuels pose for photos at Super Bowl City Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016 in San Francisco. Both men have dressed in costume and lead the crowd in cheers at their respective stadiums for 33 years. The Denver Broncos play the Carolina Panthers in the NFL Super Bowl 50 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2015, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
A Super Bowl 50 sign stands in a park overlooking San Francisco Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. The Denver Broncos play the Carolina Panthers in the NFL Super Bowl 50 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2015, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Antonio Cantey, 9, climbs out of an oversized Dallas Cowboys football helmet at the NFL Experience Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Visitors pass a video board inside the NFL Experience Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
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