The NCAA national men’s basketball tournament will begin on March 19, 2019, and end with the men’s final on April 8, 2019, at the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The women’s tournament will begin on March 22, 2019, and end with the women’s final on April 7, 2019, at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.

Broadcast stations often plan to conduct promotions tied to these extremely popular tournaments. Although these promotional events can be quite successful, especially if local teams advance, they can lead to expensive litigation and damage awards if the NCAA’s intellectual property rights are not respected by your station.

Use of NCAA Trademarks

The NCAA diligently protects its copyright and trademark rights associated with the NCAA basketball championships, and exclusively licenses its trademarks, logos, designs, and other protected terminology for substantial fees. Only licensed parties are authorized to use this intellectual property. The NCAA does not hesitate to take legal action to protect its rights. Activities that create the appearance of a relationship between the NCAA and its tournaments and your station or your advertisers (known as “ambush marketing”) are therefore extremely risky.

Any unlicensed use of NCAA intellectual property for the sale or promotion of any product or service is unlawful and can expose your station to charges of trademark infringement, unfair competition, false advertising, and/or misappropriation of goodwill, for which you can be held liable for significant monetary damages. Note that the use of a disclaimer, such as “not an official sponsor of the NCAA Tournament,” will not provide adequate protection against infringement claims. We strongly recommend you avoid any use of the NCAA’s intellectual property in any station promotion (as opposed to news reporting, as discussed below) unless explicitly authorized to do so by the NCAA or its authorized agents.

For example, unless specifically licensed, you may not say or use in print the following in connection with station promotional events:

  • “NCAA” or any NCAA logo
  • “Final Four,” “Sweet Sixteen,” “Elite Eight,” etc.
  • “The Road to the Final Four,” “The Road to Minneapolis”
  • “March Madness,” “March Mayhem,” “Midnight Madness”
  • Any team name or nickname (such as “Hoosiers”)
  • Any NCAA or team logo

You may, however, say or use in print:

  • “The college basketball championships”
  • “The national semifinals of the college basketball championship”
  • The dates of the games
  • The names of the colleges that are competing, but not the team names

For your reference, a representative list of NCAA marks is included below.

Contests Involving Unauthorized Distribution of Event Tickets

The NCAA and its authorized agents are the only legal sources for the distribution of tournament tickets. Your station should not run any promotion where tickets to a tournament game are awarded, even if your station validly purchased the tickets. The only exception is if your station conducts a promotion with an official sponsor that has written permission from the NCAA to allow tickets to be given away in contests or promotions. In such cases, be sure to confirm with the sponsor that it has the required written authorization, and retain a copy of this authorization for your files.

News Reporting on the Tournaments

The NCAA also holds the rights to all live accounts and descriptions of the tournament games and events, and licenses these rights to television and radio stations. Unless your station has obtained appropriate press credentials, do not broadcast reports on an NCAA game from the venue while the game is ongoing. This includes not only live radio and/or television reporting from the venue, but live blogging, as well. Once a game has ended, you can report the “news” of the game, such as a winner and the score.

Your station must also obtain prior consent from the NCAA or the local rights holder to use recorded highlights of the games and pre- and post-game events that occurred inside the venue in station newscasts and on station websites. Although the First Amendment allows the media to report news on athletic events shortly after the event, it does not protect a station that broadcasts footage or sound clips of an event, the rights for which, in this case, are controlled and licensed by the NCAA or the local rights holder.

The NCAA must grant approval before the use of any NCAA trademark or logo, including the following list taken from the NCAA website:

68 TEAMS, ONE DREAM™

NCAA Championships®

And Then There Were Four®

NCAA Hall of Champions®

Beyond the Baseline™

NCAA Photos®

Champions Play Here®

NCAA Sweet 16®

Champions Win Here™

NCAA Sweet Sixteen®

College Cup®

NCAA Team Works™

College World Series®

NCAA Ticket Exchange®

CWS™

Next Generation Sunday™

Dribble™

Pinnacle of Fitness®

Eight at the Plate™

Protect the Game®

Elite 8®

Read to the Final Four®

Elite Eight®

Road to the Final Four®

Elite 90™

Selection Sunday®

Experience It Live™

Share The Experience™

F4™

Stagg Bowl®

Final 4®

The Big Dance®

Final Four®

The Final Four®

Final Four Friday®

The Greatest Show on Dirt®

First Four®

The NCAA Experience®

Four It All™

The Pinnacle Awaits®

Frozen Four®

The Road Ends Here®

History Happens Here®

The Road Starts Here®

It's More Than Three Games®

The Road to Atlanta™

Make it Yours®

The Road to Frisco™

March Madness®

The Road to Indianapolis®

March to the Madness™

The Road to Minneapolis™

March Mayhem™

The Road to New Orleans™

Midnight Madness®

The Road to Omaha®

Men’s College Cup®

The Road to Tampa Bay™

Men’s Elite Eight®

The Road to the Final Four®

Men’s Frozen Four®

Women’s College Cup®

National Collegiate Athletic Association®

1Women’s College World Series®

National Collegiate Championships®

Women’s Elite Eight®

NCAA®

Women’s Final 4®

NCAA After The Game®

Women’s Final Four®

NCAA Basketball®

Women’s Frozen Four®

The 2019 Corporate Champions & Partners currently include:

AT&T

Capital One

Coca-Cola

Buffalo Wild Wings

Buick

Geico

Google Cloud

Infiniti

Intel

Lowe’s

Marriott Rewards

Nabisco

Pizza Hut

Reese’s

Unilever