2015 Eagles calendar, 2013 Lions calendar made by same company
Any company that owns a trademark can issue a license to another company to make products using the trademark. It happens all the time, with the company owning the trademark getting paid often considerable sums of money for, essentially, doing nothing.
But there could still be a cost to the brand, as the NFL has now learned the hard way with calendar manufacturer Turner Licensing. Twice. Most recently, the company opted to make receiver Riley Cooper the player whose image accompanied Black History Month in the Eagles’ 2015 calendar.
The Eagles pointed a finger at the league: “We do not oversee the production of the annual team calendar. We do not provide any input about the players who are featured or where those pictures appear in the calendar. The NFL licenses the production of that calendar to a third party and we do not have an opportunity to review the material.”
But the NFL already knew, or should have known, that Turner Licensing doesn’t pay the closest attention to detail when it comes to making football calendars. In 2012, Turner Licensing produced the Lions’ 2013 calendar, which contained multiple bizarre choices -- including but not limited to the placement of receiver Titus Young on the cover.
So who’s reviewing the calendars before they are produced? It’s not a difficult process; Turner Licensing easily can email the 345 Park Avenue a file with the proofs of the 32 calendars, and the NFL easily can assign someone making far less than $35 million per year the task of reviewing the calendars for any unusual choices or other glaring errors.
The NFL also can easily forward to each team the proofs of their own calendars, giving them a chance to speak now or forever shoulder the blame if any issues arise later regarding the contents of the calendar.
Moving forward, it’s safe to say the NFL finally will make that simple change to the process. It’s a change that already should have been in place, and it’s another tangible example of the league’s failure to solve problems before they become problems.
In a recent interview with Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal, Jaguars owner Shad Khan called on the league office to be more proactive and less reactive. A little proaction could have avoided what ended up being a well-covered embarrassment for the NFL and the Eagles. Given that the same company that made the 2015 Eagles calendar also made the 2013 Lions calendar, the NFL actually failed to be reactive in this case.