Brand Protection and College Football

Brand Protection

Richard Rimer

September 22, 2023

Brand Protection: Cheering Without Infringement

Football season is in full swing. You’ve probably noticed people wearing shirts, hats and many other items bearing the logo of a favorite team. Here in the south, there’s a good chance that team is a college team. During my career I’ve had many questions about what can and can’t be made without a license. The people asking are not large companies— they tend to be moms wanting to make hair bows or costume jewelry for craft shows or dads decorating their cars. Surprisingly, the answers for brand protection rights for college sports are different.

Brand Protection

Like with any company, you cannot use the brand names, logos, taglines and other source identifying items belonging to a college. What is somewhat different is the use of colors. The general rule is that you cannot use the colors of a school plus any item that identifies the school. For example, I can’t make shirts that are red and black and say “Cheering with my 92,746 best friends,” because that clearly refers to the University of Georgia and its football stadium’s seating capacity. Colleges have brand protection rights even when it comes to things like t-shirts or bumper stickers. 

NIL Is The Latest College Football Stat

College football fans everywhere are spending their Saturdays watching games and the entire week devouring information about their favorite team. While a lot of this information involves on-field activities like who is injured or who is the newest phenom, some of this information involves relatively new off-field news. One relatively new element in college football is NIL. This is an abbreviation for “name, image and likeness,” and it refers to athletes being able to get money from companies for endorsing their products.

Brand Protection

NIL is in a “wild west” period right now. The Supreme Court ruled in 2021 that colleges can’t prevent athletes from making money from these NIL rights. The 2021 season was really wild as very few teams, conferences, states, etc. had found ways to manage this new reality. The past seasons have seen the development of some framework, but there is little consistency. I’m happy that athletes can now profit while in college, but I’m looking forward to uniformity.

If you are curious about NIL rights when it comes to college sports, see this article by the NCAA. 

UGA’s “G” Logo

Does your business want to use NIL rights to promote its products or services? Let’s talk. Many of you know I am a big fan of college football, and specifically UGA, my alma mater. Georgia’s football team has gotten a lot of attention recently, having won the last two national championships. This success has drawn the notice of football fans, including pro fans and fans from outside the southeast. One of the first questions people ask is: isn’t Georgia’s “G” logo the same as Green Bay’s logo? Well, here’s the story:

The Packers created their logo in 1961. An equipment manager designed it to look like a football, with the “G” meaning “Green Bay.” A few years later Vince Dooley ordered a redesign of Georgia’s uniforms. His idea was to have a black G on a white background on the helmet. A coach’s wife was chosen to help with the redesign and created the G logo we know today. UGA’s dimensions and colors were different, but they asked the Packers for permission anyhow. Green Bay granted its permission. Georgia’s G is slightly slimmer in comparison to the Packers’ G and has remained the same. Green Bay’s logo was slightly altered to have a gold border in 1980.

Do you want to use a logo similar to an existing logo? Call me and we can discuss how to make this happen.