Music and Fantasy Football Make the NFL Brand Great

This post may not be as off-topic as you think simply by reading the title.  Yes, I will be licking my wounds as a result of an opening day fantasy football loss, but what is really prompting this article is a discussion this morning on ESPN radio with host Eric Kuselias, who incidentally was managing partner of Goldblatt, Kuselias & Rashba, P.C. prior to becoming a sports radio personality. I must confess to being envious of Kuselias, an attorney turned ESPN radio star and fantasy football guru, and would love to turn my passion for sports into a gig on ESPN radio, but I digress. Kuselias was filing in for Mike Greenberg and former NFL superstar Chris Carter was filing in for Mike Golic, the two Mikes being in California to call the second half of the ESPN Monday Night Football double header. It seemed as if the producers played the long familiar Monday Night Football theme song and Kuselias screamed YES, and Carter explained that something physical comes over him when he hears that music. Upon hearing it myself I got goosebumps, and I just got them again as a chill ran through my body just thinking of the tune. Yes, the NFL is the king of US sports, grown men wait in anticipation through the dark days of the calendar year (i.e., February through through the draft at the end of April and then from the draft through training camps opening at the end of July). The truth is the NFL has a great brand, they monetize the brand well, they keep us engaged, and the hype leads to anxious anticipation. So without further ado, are you ready for some football?

NFL music, whether it is the Autumn Wind or the classic NFL Films theme song,  is highly identifiable.  The NFL trademark is simple and classy.  Like so many others across the country I am thankful the Fall is upon us and football is once again being played.  But even for those who are not football fans, and are simply intellectual property aficionados, a lot can be learned from looking at the NFL and what they do to protect their image, build their brand and keep delivering an entertaining product.  The NFL provides a highly choreographed and glamorous look into the sport, and unlike the NBA the glitz and glamor is built in to crescendo with the games not in spite of the games.  The NFL effectively uses trademark and copyright protection create assets and then monetize them in a way that all business could learn from.

For those who are not football fans it is probably hard to understand why the sound of the NFL Monday Night theme, or Hank Williams Jr.’s rendition of the popularized “are you ready for some football” theme matters so much.  Even the Faith Hill Sunday Night Football anthem, and the Pink version from previous years, lead to anticipation.  The music becomes a ritual, it becomes familiar and most importantly it identifies the product that is about to follow.  When many are looking to obtain trademark protection they forget that sounds can be trademarked as well.  I am not suggesting that a song should be trademarked, but it is undeniable that the music used by the NFL, ABC, NBC, FOX and ESPN build the anticipation and lead to easy recognition of the product, American football played at a high level.

Well, OK, maybe American football is not always played at a high level, the Detroit Lions, Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders seem more akin to the Washington Generals, who famously lose almost every game to the Harlem Globetrotters.  Then there is my fantasy team in the IPWatchdog league.  Yikes!  At least  one person in the league told me they thought I drafted the strongest team, and if that is the case my fantasy team is proof that games are not won on paper!  Andre Johnson (WR – Houston) gave me 3 points and Steve Slaton (RB – Houston) gave me 2 points, so I didn’t get any production from my first and second picks respectively!  Add to that my starting Lance Moore (WR – New Orleans), who seems to be the only eligible receiver Drew Brees did not find for a TD, and me starting the Carolina Panthers defense, which was thrown under the buss by Jake Delhomme (QB – Carolina) giving the game away with interception after interception and killing his defense, and it became comically bad for my fantasy team yesterday.

In any event, a patent agent friend of mine who shall remain nameless, unless he wants to identify himself in a comment to this article, sent me a link to a Times article about delusional fantasy football fans.  The articles starts off:

A rich fantasy life is important, but a fantasy life that drains your riches is, in this particular economy, perhaps not the greatest idea. And yet there you are — if you count yourself among the millions of Americans who indulge in fantasy football — spending your hard-earned money and precious time pretending to be an NFL general manager. Tom Brady is not really on your team, my sweet — dare I say deluded? — friend. Your draft decisions don’t affect reality. They only, sadly, bore your nonfantasy friends.

See: Fantasy Football: Is It Going to Our Heads?

I suspect the author isn’t into fantasy football, and probably was the last kid picked for teams in gym and recess, but there is no point denying that there are legions of people who would disagree.  Yes, in any endeavor there are those who go to extreme, but the article points out that there are 30 million fantasy football team managers in the US and Canada, and that is certainly a statistically relevant portion of the American football audience.  So there!

The truth is that the NFL gives us games worth watching, an off season that keeps you engaged and as any Cubs fan can tell you, and Red Sox fans used to know, hope springs eternal with the start of every season no matter how futile the effort will become.  The NFL has become more than a sport and more than a business.  It is an integral part of the lives of many people.  We keep in touch with long lost friends who have weird names for their fantasy teams, we go to games and root and cheer together, and if you are like me during games you are tied to the phone with geographically distant relatives who are watching the same game and more or less experiencing the same thing at the same time.  The NFL connects many of us in ways that little else does or can.  Whether through effective marketing, recognizing and exploiting new trends or relying on core intellectual property protections such as copyrights and trademarks to make it seem reachable, attainable and a part of our lives, the NFL does a lot right and pretty much any business could learn from paying attention to the masterful business acumen portrayed by the NFL and many teams.

So are you ready for some football?  I know I am!  Enjoy the games everyone.


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Join the Discussion

3 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for Ron Q. Dry, the pseudonymous Docketing Guy]
    Ron Q. Dry, the pseudonymous Docketing Guy
    September 15, 2009 03:25 am

    Apologies if I came across as accusatory, or inappropriately snarky; indeed, to clarify, I absolutely do not think that you have re-broadcast, or re-transmitted, anything. It was not my intention to accuse you of anything, nor to make anything up, either of whole or partial cloth.

    As for the second paragraph of your reply- I can take no issue with any of your contentions there. To answer your question at the end of that paragraph, I can give you an emphatic “no”, I certainly do not think that every content producer gets the consent of every one/thing subject to their coverage. However (and I fear that this is where my initial comment failed to be sufficiently clear), my recollection of the copyright warning that the NFL bookends around the broadcasts that we enjoy so much, is that they specifically prohibit unauthorized written descriptions of the contents of those broadcasts, along with re-broadcasting, re-transmitting, and a few other things that escape my memory at the moment. As such, my (admittedly less-than-perfectly informed) opinion is that might run up against the First Amendment issues (among others) that you’ve mentioned.

    So, I’m left with an unanswered question – are you right, or is the NFL’s copyright warning right? Or, have I simply misunderstood (or mis-remembered?) their warning? Or, is there something else going on here that I fail to understand?

    At any rate, your closing admonition is well taken, and come Sunday, I shall pay closer attention to the boilerplate that the NFL uses to fill the gaps between commentary & actual gameplay, to see if the answer can be found there.
    Thanks for your reply, and thanks again for the original post, and apologies, again, for any offense that might have been given,

  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    September 14, 2009 11:21 pm


    Thanks for your comment. I must confess that I don’t really understand your question, because I have not rebroadcast anything. In fact, I have not even copied the NFL logo. I have inline linked the logo so it is being served from the NFL website.

    To the extent that you are asking whether I have the express written permission of the NFL to use the name of teams, to use the name of players, the name of the league itself or write about factual and historical events, no such permission is legally required. Anyone is allowed to write about trademarks and personalities without their permission. If that were not the law there would be no magazines, no newspapers and anyone with a name or trademark would have veto power over how others use it. This would be a clear violation of the First Amendment if that were the law. Anyone can report on events. Do you seriously think every newspaper, magazine or online publication gets the express written consent of everyone and everything they write about?

    If you care to clarify what you mean, and exactly how and why you think I have re-broadcast or re-transmitted copyrighted telecasts of professional athletic competitions I would love to hear it. You are making things up out of whole cloth and charging me with doing something that I have obviously not done. Whether you are trying to be snarky or not, you really should check facts and get the story straight.


  • [Avatar for Ron Q. Dry, the pseudonymous Docketing Guy]
    Ron Q. Dry, the pseudonymous Docketing Guy
    September 14, 2009 10:29 pm

    Long-time reader, first time commenter. As usual, another entertaining, informative, and enlightening post; I do, however, have a minor quibble which I hope that you’ll accept – in the spirit in which it’s intended, and not from someone who’s an actual, y’know, lawyer… I trust that prior to distributing written accounts of exciting Week One action from around the league through the magic of the intertubes, you procured the express, written consent of the National Football League, yes?
    Please understand – I ask not for the sake of pedantry or snarkiness, but because in my day-to-day life, I far too often see young people relying, erroneously, on implied and/or oral consent in such matters. It would be a terrible thing, indeed, if your young & impressionable fans were to conclude that it’s okay to re-broadcast, re-transmit, etc., the copyrighted telecasts of professional athletic competitions with anything less than express, written consent of the copyright owner(s).
    At any rate, thanks for another post that educated & entertained, and best of luck with your virtual 11.
    Ron Q. Dry, the pseudonymous Docketing Guy