Stephen Colbert has some pretty epic Superbowl coverage this year, and it’s not just guests like Drew Brees and Nate Silver (whose Big Data talk at SXSW last year inspired a series of social listening posts by yours truly) upping the ante.  Colbert has called out the NFL for their old-school trademark mentality, and what it highlights is that the NFL is still suck in an old monologue marketing model – i.e. one in that doesn’t take into account the value of word-of-mouth marketing.

The NFL aggressively punishes anyone using the word “Superbowl” in advertising, which is why we see so much football-themed advertising right now about “The Big Game.”  So, Stephen Colbert did what any good old-fashioned smartass with a team of Intellectual Property lawyers would do: he’s calling his coverage Superb Owl XLVIII, complete with mascot owls.

Here’s a video that explains it:

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

What struck me when I watched this video (other than how much I would really, really love to have drinks with Stephen Colbert) is how much opportunity the NFL is missing by enforcing their trademark this way.  When brand are spending millions of dollars to advertise around an event that you’re throwing, what is there to gain by trying to enforce an old-school licensing model?  Is trying to strong arm people into paying you to use the term “Superbowl” really worth the missed opportunity of earned media that would be gained by having the world “Superbowl” all over the universe via other brands promoting your event?  These smaller brands are, already, getting around the trademark by using “The Big Game,” and most everyone knows that “The Big Game” probably isn’t referring to the Celebrity Cricket match on Sunday.

Good social media strategy leads to social marketing ROI – and the latter is based on the share.  That social share gives brands potentially exponential earned social media on social networks that are based on personal relationships within social communities, and those relationships lead to a sort of attunement that random marketers will seldom get without the introduction from someone within that community.  (And this is why influencer and brand advocacy strategy are so important.)

And so I’m left to shake my head and wonder what the NFL is gaining by discouraging marketers from just using the world “Superbowl” in their advertising.  With so many brands looking to resonate in their Superbowl marketing and crafting legitimate dialogue marketing campaigns with solid social media strategies, one would think that the NFL would be happy to have their event shared, promoted and discussed as much as possible.

As the marketing landscape has shifted to make social conversations the new target message, people like Stephen Colbert understand that getting folks talking about you is a good thing.  It would seem that the NFL, on the other hand, has fumbled the ball on this one.