49ers Embrace Local With New Partnerships, Including Gold Bar Whiskey

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The San Francisco 49ers are embracing the team’s gold rush heritage with one of the team’s latest sponsorships.

Before the team’s home opener on September 22, the Niners announced that San Francisco-based Gold Bar Whiskey would be the team’s official whiskey. With the partnership comes a Gold Bar Whiskey Bar in the stadium and an official cocktail at Levi’s Stadium, the Gold Bar Mule.

“It just makes too much sense; they’re local, gold rush and San Francisco roots,” 49ers CMO Brent Schoeb said. “At the first meeting, there was such a natural connection.”

The whiskey brand will activate outside Levi’s Stadium as the official whiskey of the San Francisco 49ers at events and across other marketing channels, and in various liquor stores and grocery chains.

Beyond this season, there’s plenty more to come from the Gold Bar-49ers relationship, as Schoeb said the team likes every partner to embrace the Niners iconography. The most likely scenario will be limited edition 49ers-branded commemorative bottles. Other possibilities include co-branded glasses and coasters and LED bar lights.

The local alcohol partnerships are flowing for the team, as in the last year they also partnered with Tahoe Blue Vodka as well as with Los Angeles-based Golden Road through its overarching Anheuser-Busch deal.

The partnership with Gold Bar was possible because of an NFL rule change that loosened the rules around spirits partners, so the shared San Francisco home and gold rush-related names made plenty of sense. But it’s also a part of the team’s larger trend of moving toward local partners. For starters, the stadium’s naming rights belong to Levi’s, the denim lifestyle brand that was founded in San Francisco in the 1850s.

The Niners aren’t alone in the trend toward going more local, for a number of reasons, said Dan Rascher, director of academic programs and professor for the University of San Francisco Sports Management Program.

“There is a push in sports to have more local partnerships in sponsorship and concessions and even merchandise as a way to show that the organization cares about their local community,” Rascher said. “Second, the fit can be stronger because the local brand desires to grow quickly and the local market is often the best place to do that.  The activation at events by the brand can be more tailored and feel genuine. 

“Genuineness is increasingly more important to fans, especially when trying to cultivate younger people into the franchise’s fanbase.”

Likewise, two other new sponsors were announced just before the home opener with local roots. The team recently signed a deal with the Cache Creek Casino Resort, and is currently on a Silicon Valley-inspired journey to build an 8K ecosystem within Levi’s Stadium.

The Cache Creek Casino Resort deal includes presenting sponsorship of the 49ers pre- and post-game radio shows throughout the 49ers Radio Network, as well as game-day activations. Cache Creek also has sponsorships with other Northern California teams, including the Oakland A’s, Golden State Warriors, San Jose Sharks, and Sacramento Kings.

Schoeb is especially excited about the 8K ecosystem, a partnership endeavor led by Foxconn industrial internet. While Foxconn’s U.S. operations are based in Wisconsin, Schoeb said the initiative is spurred by the team’s proximity to the technology hub of Silicon Valley. A major partner of Foxconn is Apple, as the company helps manufacture the iPhone.

The deal rebrands portions of the Levi’s Stadium, with a multi-year plan to integrate 8K technologies into the stadium and team’s video production practices. The “Fii” brand will be the presenting partner of the 49ers Press Room and the East Field Club becomes the Fii Club.

More importantly, however, will be the team’s integration of the 8K video technology, beginning this season with the post-game press conferences. In the future, Schoeb said the 8K technology will also hopefully be integrated into the stadium’s replay system. Likewise, the team hopes to film practices in 8K.

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“One of the pillars of the Niners and Levi’s Stadium is innovation and technology because of Silicon Valley,” Schoeb said. “We’ve been working with Foxconn and Fii for quite some time, and made us think about what is our technology roadmap for the Niners.

“They knew we were willing to dive in on pilot without it being a big concept. We love to pilot items, but like following through in a big way.”

With those new partnerships in mind, Schoeb said the strategy moving forward really is two-fold.

“When we moved to Levi’s Stadium, we looked to partner with the biggest brands, but also local California brands,” he said. “We love to partner with local brands and we obviously like to have celebratory moments. For us, we have a less is more strategy. We look for better qualities vs. quantity of partners.”