CHICAGO (CN) – A company that paid Bo Jackson for rights to use his name to push the Bo Burger claims Chick-Fil-A ruined it by running a commercial in which “Jackson’s likeness appeared on the head of a mooing cow, and the subtitles urged viewers to eat more chicken and stated that he ‘never took up burgers.'”
N’Genuity Enterprises claims the commercial, with “cows urging viewers to eat chicken instead of beef,” ruined its multimillion-dollar distribution deal for Bo Jackson Signature Foods.
N’Genuity says it was formed in 2001, as “a Native American-owned business formed and incorporated by Valerie Littlechief and Jackson.”
N’Genuity, based in Arizona, claims to be the 11th largest supplier of food products to the U.S. military worldwide.
In exchange for “the exclusive use of his name and likeness to promote food products, as well as his good-faith efforts to promote those products,” N’Genuity says, Jackson got company stock, a seat on the board of directors, and money.
N’Genuity claims that “by 2007, Jackson-branded products were poised for explosive growth.”
But in 2008, Jackson appeared in the ad for Chick-Fil-A, “a fast food chain that competes with hamburger chains for consumers. Its ad campaign then, as now, featured cows urging viewers to eat chicken instead of beef. … The ad states that when Jackson was not ‘hitting linebackers or baseballs,’ would ‘run over and eat chicken.’ The ad also states that he ‘Never took up burgers’,” according to the complaint.
N’Genuity claims that “Within six months of this commercial, interest in ‘Bo Burgers’ evaporated. Jackson’s endorsement of Chick-Fil-A and disparagement of hamburgers baffled N’Genuity’s existing and prospective customers. The advertisement confused consumers, infringed N’Genuity’s trademarks using his name, and diluted the value of his image.”
N’Genuity adds that the TV spot ruined a multimillion-dollar deal it had arranged with Sysco, a major food distributor.
“In 2004, Sysco proposed making all Bo Jackson Signature Foods exclusive Sysco brands and prepared a contract accordingly,” the complaint states. “By 2008, N’Genuity’s hard work and expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars had resulted in the completion of launch preparations for Bo Jackson Signature Foods as a Sysco brand.”
N’Genuity adds that it spent “tens of thousands of dollars to send Mr. Jackson to the Middle East for the purpose of meeting the troops stationed abroad, and creating favorable brand recognition for Bo Jackson Signature Foods.”
But the cow ad blew N’Genuity out of the water: “sales of N’Genuity’s Bo Jackson Signature Foods products shrunk [sic] to less than $100,000 in the next year. N’Genuity’s business relationship with Sysco Foods fizzled shortly after the advertisement ran.”
Bo Jackson is not a defendant; neither is Sysco. The only defendant in the federal complaint is Georgia-based Chick-Fil-A.
N’Genuity seeks accounting, an injunction and punitive damages for trademark infringement, unfair competition, consumer fraud and trademark dilution. It is represented by Jere Glover with Brand Law, of Washington, D.C.