Johnny Football™ – The beginning of the brand

By: Kerri Phillips

As the college football season comes closer to its end, all eyes are on the games of the most highly ranked teams. This past Saturday, the game of interest was between No. 1 Alabama and No. 15 Texas A&M.

Prior to the game, Alabama was favored to win the game by two touchdowns. However, SB Nation cautioned the Crimson Tide against underestimating the Aggies powerful offense – or else they might lose their coveted BCS ranking.

What happened during the game few fans can forget. All season long ESPN analysts have been mentioning Johnny Manziel, the red-shirt freshman quarterback for Texas A&M, yet most did not think much of him until last Saturday’s defeat of Alabama.

Manziel and the Aggie offense spread the Alabama defense thin from beginning to end. In a hostile Tuscaloosa environment, Manziel did not crumble under the pressure and accounted for 345 yards both rushing and passing.

Now, Manziel is not only being talked about as a Heisman candidate – he is considered by some as the best quarterback in the nation and the front runner to take the trophy in New York.

Almost overnight Manziel has gone from not having his jersey sold in the Texas A&M bookstore to having the country embrace him as a superstar in the Southeastern Conference.

Manziel was given the nickname “Johnny Football” by Texas A&M students and fans before the start of the 2012 season. After last Saturday, Johnny Football is a household name in areas that live and breathe college football – which includes all of the Southern states.

Darren Rovell tweeted on Nov. 10 that both Texas A&M and the Manziel family are working to trademark the nickname “Johnny Football.”  Trademarking Manziel’s nickname is a sign that his family and coaches see a prolific future for the young player.

While Johnny Football is still playing football for Texas A&M, neither Manziel nor the college can profit from the nickname. At this phase in the young quarterback’s career, the trademark will only prevent other vendors from using the nickname for commerce.

Although Manziel and his family may not own the trademark for years, if ever, claiming “Johnny Football” as intellectual property could greatly benefit the young player in the future if his career continues on the path he has set in motion.

The practice of registering nicknames and catchphrases as trademarks among athletes is not uncommon. In 2010, the New York Times published an article about why various professional athletes trademark words as intellectual property and how it has benefited them.

Terrell Owens has successfully trademarked “Getcha Popcorn Ready” and his nickname “T.O.” to market his brand.

High-profile athletes and coaches with registered trademarks include Pat Riley, Darrelle Revis and Terrell Owens. Many of these trademarks are central to the athlete’s brand and successful marketing of that brand.

For the moment, Johnny Football’s brand is weak – particularly since he is not allowed to speak to the media per the Texas A&M policy. Once he steps into the public spotlight and focuses his brand in the direction he wants, Johnny Football™ will be a force to be recognized in the sport marketing world.

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