Judge Tells Minnesota Vikings & Wells Fargo To Settle Stadium “Photo Bombing” Spat

It’s the first week of baseball season, and pro hockey and basketball teams are making their final pushes for the playoffs, so the last thing on many sports fans’ minds is football. Perhaps that’s why the judge in the “photo bombing” spat between the Minnesota Vikings and Wells Fargo is telling the two parties to stop wasting everyone’s time and just work something out.

A quick recap of earlier action: The Vikings sued Wells Fargo right before Christmas, alleging that the bank is attempting to squeeze free on-air visibility with signs placed on a pair of Wells buildings in Minneapolis, adjacent to the site of the team’s new stadium — which just happens to be sponsored by U.S. Bank.

Figuring that the new venue will get significant screen time in the coming seasons — especially when it hosts the Super Bowl in 2018 — the Vikings made deals with real estate owners surrounding to site to limit their signage so that it wouldn’t compete with the branding that U.S. Bank paid millions for.

That includes the two recently constructed Wells Fargo buildings. The Vikings say that signs placed on the roofs of these buildings violate their agreement with the team, and that they are a deliberate attempt score free on-air marketing in aerial shots of the site.

The signs in question can not be seen from the ground, but are illuminated 56′ x 56′ Wells Fargo logos that can only be seen from above. Even though football season is months away, the Vikings asked the court to order Wells to immediately cover the signs with tarps.

It's not the "Wells Fargo" logos on the side of the building that are in contention, but the flat, square logo on the rooftop.

It’s not the “Wells Fargo” logos on the side of the building that are in contention, but the flat, square logo on the rooftop.

Wells Fargo lawyers responded by mocking the Vikings’ urgent tone and questioning the validity of the team’s claims that these rooftop signs would do anything to undermine the value of the branding on U.S. Bank Stadium.

It’s made for good off-season headlines — poking fun at both the Vikings’ self-serious claims of damage and Wells Fargo’s unquenchable desire to slap its logo on every surface it can — but the judge in the case seems to have had enough.

On Wednesday, the court ordered [PDF] both sides to have serious settlement talks… presumably so we can all move past this matter an onto more important things, like fretting over the NFL draft.

And just in case either side wants to drag things out, the judge makes it clear that “Counsel who will actually try the case and each party, armed with full settlement authority, shall be present” at the April 26 settlement conference, meaning “Don’t send a paralegal and Jimmy from the mailroom.”

Additionally, any other parties that might be involved by the settlement — insurance providers, other companies — they must have a representative on hand who is empowered to make decisions on that party’s behalf.

The team and bank can avoid the settlement conference — for which they “should plan on spending the entire day and evening” — by reaching a deal on their own before then. If they don’t do that, they will have to provide detailed explanations in writing to the judge as to why they can’t hash out a settlement over a couple of signs.

This is the second NFL photo bombing dispute in recent months. Just before Super Bowl 50, Verizon and Visa got in trouble with the city of San Francisco over building-height ads put in place with the apparent intention of being seen on camera during all the coverage of the big game (even though the Super Bowl was many miles away in Santa Clara.

[via StarTribune.com]

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