Sports Law Trademarks

The Importance of Association

For BYU fans hoping to make use of apparel sporting the university’s football team’s slogan for the upcoming 2014 season, unfortunately, you are out of luck. This past week, BYU officials discontinued sale of merchandise containing the slogan “Rise As One,” removing the items from store shelves and online listings.

The discontinuation of BYU’s use of the slogan comes on the heels of the discovery that Anheuser-Busch – the largest brewing company in the United States and owner of brands such as Budweiser, Michelob, and Natural Light – owns a federally protected trademark registration for the phrase, and recently used the slogan as part of the company’s global World Cup marketing campaign. Specifically, Budweiser created a website for its “Rise as One” campaign that served as the center for video and social media content surrounding the tournament.

BYU decided on its own accord that it would be best to put an end to the use of the saying before a tangible association could be made between it and the slogan and/or Anheuser-Busch; reports indicate that the brewing company was not behind the university shutting down use of the phrase. One of the main purposes of establishing and promoting a trademark is to aid consumers in associating a product or service with a certain company. Stated differently, the heart of trademark law revolves around protecting users and consumers from being misled, or confused, into believing that a product or service stems from one company rather than another. The shared use of a slogan by two entities would most likely lead one to believe that one entity supports the other or that the two entities are in cahoots in some form or fashion.

As a dry campus – meaning that the university has banned the possession of alcohol on school grounds, regardless of the owner’s age or intent to consume it elsewhere – BYU took a proactive step to ensure that its students and other individuals would not be encouraged to associate the university with alcohol. Such an association would undoubtedly send a wrong message to the public and go against the morals established throughout the history of the university. Knowing what and with whom you are associating yourself with is an important step in the furtherance of a brand. BYU’s next attempt at creating a slogan for the branding of its 2014 season, “Rise Up,” should fall more in the line with the message the school wishes to convey.