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They’re paying you to say Surface! Why the iPad won the NFL

Microsoft and the National Football League agreed to a five-year deal for $400 million in 2013, under which Microsoft provided teams with Surface tablets to watch replays and design new formations. The goal of the deal was to make the Surface a known brand, but it seems ‘iPad’ has become the name for any device larger than a smartphone without a keyboard and trackpad.

In the first game of the 2015 season between the Patriots and the Steelers, NBC commentator Al Michaels referred to the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 as an iPad. Not a great start for the new custom-built Surface Pro 3, which was even produced with a new ruggedized design for the teams.

The word iPad has come to represent more than Apple’s tablet for those not interested in technology, as can be seen by a comment last season on Saints Quarterback Drew Brees using “iPad-like tools” to study replays. The complete disconnect between the commentators and the Surface brand name is astounding, since commentators usually run through a list of adverts in the broadcast without any slipups.

Related: Can’t wait for the Surface Hub? MondoPad 2.0 is available now

Some commentators refrain from the iPad word, stepping back to tablet, but still fail to say the Surface Pro 3 or even Microsoft tablet. At best, Microsoft is making viewers confused, forcing them to search for its tablet on forums. At worst, they’re losing a potential sale because the commentators claim the tablets are iPads.

Microsoft originally lost $900 million on the Surface, but sales have been on a steady incline over the past two years. The Surface Pro 3 has been accepted by a lot of new customers, but it is still of course far behind the iPad. That is why Microsoft needs to push harder on the network broadcasts of NFL games. In the last half of the 2014 season, we noticed a small push to stop using the word iPad.

The launch of the iPad Pro is only going to make it harder for Microsoft to gain ground with the Surface Pro 3. Microsoft still has until 2018 before this contract ends, but at this rate the $400 million will be another write-off to go alongside the Nokia acquisition and the original Surface.