It seems everybody wants a piece of theSoutheastern Conference, but even a presidential candidate can get carried away.
The SEC has negotiated with officials from Jeb Bush’s campaign to modify a logo that closely resembles the conference’s and make other changes in how the campaign aligns itself with the conference.
“The Southeastern Conference does not endorse candidates for any political office,” SEC spokesman Herb Vincent said Wednesday in a statement to USA TODAY Sports. “The SEC has spoken to the Bush campaign to ensure that their activities are within the bounds of our trademark requirements.”
As part of efforts aimed at Republican primaries March 1 in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas that are collectively being called the “SEC Primary,” Bush recently has appeared at tailgating events prior to football games at theUniversity of Georgia and the University of Tennessee. He’s scheduled to do the same before games in November at the University of Alabama and Mississippi State.
Earlier this week an item on the Bush campaign website from September that described the events and the schedule was titled “SEC Tailgating with Jeb.” On Wednesday, the item was titled “Tailgating with Jeb.”
In addition, as of Wednesday morning, the campaign’s online store was offering a drink koozie for $5 that featured a campaign logo resembling the conference’s circular SEC logo but instead using the letters “JEB.”
By Wednesday afternoon, the item had been removed from the store — and the “JEB” logo apparently will be gone or altered soon.
The campaign design — one version of which used blue and yellow, a la the SEC logo — was visible on signs and stickers at the campaign event this past Saturday inKnoxville.
“We’ve been speaking with the SEC conference about that logo and ensuring that there is no trademark issues,” campaign spokesman Tim Miller said in an interview.
Asked whether that means the campaign will be ending its use of the logo or substantially altering it, Miller said: “I think that’s what folks are talking about.”
The Bush campaign website also has been carrying a video titled “Jeb’s SEC Favorites,” in which the candidate discusses — among other topics — mascots, rivalries and his pick for which teams will play in the SEC championship game. As Bush speaks, the logos of Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Florida and LSU alternately appear in the background.
Miller said the campaign’s use of the logos was “well within the fair use” principles that apply to political campaigns’ use of brief TV clips and other items in their advertising.
University of Alabama spokesman Chris Bryant provided a statement saying the university “was not aware its logo would appear within a campaign video. No one should consider the use of the logo as an endorsement of any candidate.”
University of Mississippi spokesman Tom Eppes said via e-mail the school’s logo “appears to be an incidental backdrop for a fun, upbeat conversation about the SEC, one that portrays the university in a positive light. … We would encourage the Bush campaign and other campaigns to follow appropriate procedure in the future, contacting our licensing office in advance, but we’re not concerned about this usage and don’t intend to make an issue of it.”
Bush is running in the middle of the pack of GOP candidates behind Donald Trump andBen Carson in most national polls.