College Football Trend to Trademark Nicknames – What’s Behind it?

Jameis Winston and other college football athletes have started a trend to trademark nicknames.
April 8, 2015

The nicknames “Famous Jameis,” “Johnny Football,” and “Beast Mode” have become household names in the sport industry. More and more athletes, specifically football players, are trademarking their nicknames to get ahead of the game in an attempt to maximize their personal brand. Recently on February 5, The Legal Agency, the firm that represents former Florida State Quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, filed the trademark for the nickname “Famous Jameis.”[1] Many different entities have already profited from the name over the past two years since Winston’s popularity grew after his undefeated season.[2] Now, Winston will be able to decide who can use the phrase and profit from its use.

Winston is not the first athlete to do this. Former Texas A&M Quarterback, Johnny Manziel, trademarked his nickname “Johnny Football.” Manziel even set up a corporation, JMAN2 Enterprises, which filed the trademark and was able to sue for damages to protect the trademark during his college seasons.[3] It was estimated that Texas A&M generated $37 million during his Heisman season, so it was understandable that Manziel tried to restrict his brand as much as he could until he was able to profit as a professional.[4] At the same time, many professional football players have also taken to trademarking their nicknames. Current examples are Marshawn Lynch with “Beast Mode” and Robert Griffin III with “RGIII.”[5]

Why is this becoming a trend? Athletes aren’t able to patent or copyright their talents and performances. They are left with the ability to trademark their popular names and phrases, which if done properly can be very profitable. An early trademark application can allow an athlete enough time to figure out his merchandise plans and limit others from benefiting from his fame while his college career prevents him from doing so.[6] The average career of an NFL player is only three to four years, so most have a short window to make an income.[7] With the amount of money that the NCAA brings in every year and the low amount of guaranteed contracts in the NFL, this trend will likely continue especially for football players as they try to protect and profit from their own personal image and names.


[1] Prospective Top Draft Pick Winston Files Trademark For “Famous Jameis” Nickname, Sports Business Journal (Mar. 3, 2015),

[2] See id.

[3] Ty Duffy, Johnny Manziel Trademarked “Johnny Football,” Can Profit From T-Shirt Lawsuit, The Big Lead (Feb. 25, 2013),

[4] See id.

[5] Christopher Coble, ‘I Said That. Pay Me!’ Why Athletes Are Trademarking Names, Catchphrases, Tarnished Twenty (Mar. 10, 2015),

[6] See id.

[7] Average playing career length in NFL, Statista,

Dillon McConvey is a second year law student interested in sports law. Past internships include New York Red Bulls and Kentucky Speedway. Aspirations to work in the sport industry on the professional sports level.