Are The New York Giants, The New York Jets, And MetLife Stadium Misleading Consumers About Their Connection To New York? – Advertising, Marketing & Branding

Are The New York Giants, The New York Jets, And MetLife Stadium Misleading Consumers About Their Connection To New York? – Advertising, Marketing & Branding

This time of year, I spend a lot of my time working on Super Bowl related ads. So it seems like a perfect time to blog about football.

Is it misleading for the New York Giants and New York Jets to have “New York” in their team names when they actually play at MetLife Stadium, which is located in East Rutherford, New Jersey? And is it misleading for MetLife Stadium to use an image of the New York City skyline in its logo? These were some of the main issues in a recent false advertising lawsuit in federal court in New York (yes, actually New York).

The Giants have played in New Jersey since 1976 and the Jets have played there since 1984. Despite this, two consumers — both New York City residents, by the way — sued the NFL, the Giants and the Jets and MetLife Stadium, alleging false advertising and other claims, on the grounds that they didn’t realize the teams played across the river in New Jersey and that MetLife Stadium was actually in New Jersey. Plaintiffs also asserted additional false advertising claims related to statements that appeared on the stadium’s website, including that it is “the number one stadium in the world,” that it “hosts the biggest events in the world, on the biggest stage largest in the world,” that it “sets the standard for venue excellence,” that the stadium is less than 20 minutes from New York City, and that the stadium is accessible from Penn Station.

To state a false advertising claim under New York law, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant engaged in deceptive acts or practices or deceptive material. It is not enough to claim that a statement “could conceivably be misunderstood by some consumers.” Rather, a plaintiff must allege that the acts or practices “were likely to deceive a reasonable consumer acting reasonably under the circumstances.”

The defendants here moved to disprove the false advertising claims, arguing (among other things) that the alleged misrepresentations were not misleading to reasonable consumers. And the magistrate judge, in a report and recommendation to the District Court, agreed. That is why.

First, the court ruled that “no reasonable football fan, ‘acting reasonably under the circumstances,’ would infer from the names and logos of the Jets and Giants that their stadium is within the five boroughs of New York City.” . The court explained that it is common for professional sports teams to be named after the city they call home, even when they play in the suburbs of that city (or even further away). The court gave, as examples, the Washington Redskins (who played in Maryland), the San Francisco 49ers (who played in Santa Clara) and the New York Giants themselves (who played in New Haven, Connecticut for two years). The court concluded, “As these and similar examples demonstrate, there is nothing deceptive — in the professional football context — about the old Giants and Jets names and logos.”

Second, the court also didn’t think the MetLife Stadium logo — which features a version of the New York City skyline — was confusing. The court pointed to a number of examples on the stadium’s website that indicated the stadium was located in New Jersey. For example, the site indicated that there was a “NJ Transit rail station” located in front of the stadium, and there was a map link on the site that indicated that the stadium was located just off the New Jersey Turnpike. The court explained, “A reasonable consumer (even if she doesn’t click on Google Maps) would understand that New Jersey Transit goes to New Jersey and that the New Jersey Turnpike is in New Jersey.”

Third, the court determined that the statements that MetLife Stadium is “the number one stadium in the world” and that it “sets the standard for venue excellence” are unactionable because they are each a “general claim of superiority over comparable products “. it is so vague that it cannot be understood as anything more than a mere expression of opinion.” The court also held – without much explanation – that the statements, “the hosts of the world’s greatest events”, “have the most largest in the world” and “has topped the industry charts every year since opening” were also inflated (though I could imagine another court fighting these specific claims a bit more).

And, finally, the court also found that the claims that the stadium is “under 20 minutes from New York City” and that it is “accessible to Penn Station” were also not misleading. The court said the website did not promise a 20-minute travel time, but instead estimated that the trip would take less than 20 minutes (which the court thought was apparently very close to the actual 30-minute travel time the plaintiffs experienced). . The court also wasn’t bothered by the claim that the stadium is accessible at Penn Station, since all customers had to do was change trains in Secaucus.

Is there an important takeaway here — or is this just a fun case? It’s probably mostly just a case of fun, but here are some things to think about.

One of the things that strikes me about how federal courts often approach false advertising class actions is that they often seem to bring a fair degree of skepticism to them. Without saying it explicitly, they often seem to be asking the question whether the case deserves to be heard (or whether it’s just a silly case), regardless of the potential legal arguments that can be made if the particular claims are misleading. Here, it seemed pretty clear that the court didn’t see much merit in the claims, and without much reasoning, was comfortable enough to throw out the plaintiffs’ claims. For example, the court appears to say that the MetLife Stadium logo is not misleading because one can review the stadium’s website and figure out from clues on the site (such as that it is near a transit station in New Jersey) that stadium is in New Jersey. Jersey. Leaving aside the question of whether the logo is actually misleading — or communicates specific claims at all — if it did indeed communicate claims, there is really no basis in advertising law to suggest that a false claim can be cured by seeking to data on the meaning of the claim on the advertiser’s website. As another example, the court rejects the plaintiffs’ claim that it is misleading for the stadium to advertise that it “hosts the biggest events in the world,” holding, without any real explanation, that the claim is inflated. Regardless of how I come across this question, having recently been to The Big House, I would have at least struggled a little with the fact that MetLife Stadium is not the largest soccer stadium in the world or even the largest stadium in soccer in the United States. the states.

Another thing that struck me about the decision was that it focused more on whether the claims were misleading to reasonable consumers than whether the claims were materially misleading. This is not unique to this decision. Often, it seems to me, when reviewing potentially problematic claims, regulators and others often fail to sufficiently consider whether a claim, even if misleading, is simply not material to a consumer’s purchase decision. Looking again at the statement, “hosts the world’s largest events,” for example, whether or not this may be a false claim, could it be material to a consumer’s choice to attend a Giants game whether the stadium holds 80,000 or 100,000 fans?

Finally, an important takeaway from the decision is that the court — when assessing whether the team names were misleading — considered the claims in context. In other words, advertising claims should not be judged in isolation, regardless of who the intended audience is and what that audience will understand the claims to communicate. Here, the court was convinced that sports fans in the United States understand—based on their experience as sports fans here—that a team’s name does not necessarily tell you where the team actually plays its games. Ever since I was a little kid, I remember driving over the George Washington Bridge to go to Giants games — and the court’s decision here supports the idea that advertising claims must be interpreted in light of actual consumer experiences and understanding of them in the real world. those claims.

Suero v. NFL, 2022 WL 17985657 (SDNY 2022).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the topic. A specialist’s advice should be sought for your specific circumstances.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *