NCAA Aggressively Protecting “March Madness” and Related Trademarks

As with the Super Bowl, stations must be extra careful broadcasting any advertisements containing the name “March Madness”. Such use requires NCAA approval.  This includes a number of other related trademarks associated with the NCAA Basketball Tournament including; March Madness®The Big Dance®Final Four® or Elite Eight,® each of which is a federally registered trademark. March Mayhem® is also registered to the NCAA, which is currently seeking to register March to the Madness.  A complete list of NCAA Trademarks can be found by clicking HERE.

Potential liability would apply not only to any advertisements you produce, but also advertisements produced by others that you broadcast.  So you must be careful accepting any advertising that includes any of the trademarked terms mentioned above. You must also be careful using “on air” lead ins.  For example; “Our March Madness sports report is next and brought to you by…..” may raise some issues.

So before you accept any advertising that includes these terms, make sure the advertiser has cleared the rights to use the term from the NCAA.  Get this in writing.

You should also be careful with using tournament brackets.  Since 2014, the NCAA has argued that you cannot include advertising within its brackets.  To see the NCAA’s memo on the subject click HERE.

Importantly, these trademark restrictions do not apply when used in actual news or sports coverage. To avoid trouble when doing news or sports, make sure you do not connect any of the trademarked terms to a sponsor that has not cleared the rights with the NCAA.


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