49ers Finding Success in Tech-Rich Silicon Valley

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  • The 49ers are successfully selling uber-VIP suites and field seats to tech execs and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley.
  • 49ers have generated more ticket resales on Ticketmaster's official ticket exchange than any other NFL team.
Photo Credit: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY SPORTS

The San Francisco 49ers have the advantage – and challenge – of playing in one of the world’s richest metro markets.

On the one hand, playing in the heart of Silicon Valley makes it easier for the 49ers to sell the type of uber-VIP packages that would be difficult for the Green Bay Packers to market in blue-collar Wisconsin.

On the other hand, there are so many sports and entertainment temptations in the surrounding Bay Area, it’s easy for fans and corporate clients to skip 49ers games at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

That happened all too often as the 49ers missed the NFL playoffs the past five seasons. The team’s on-the-field nosedive also coincided with the opening of the new $1.3 billion Levi’s Stadium, which has been met with mixed reviews from fans.

John Madden used to say winning is the great deodorant. Guess what? The 8-1 49ers are the hottest thing in Silicon Valley this year. Home games are attracting a Who’s Who of tech billionaires, venture capitalists, and celebrity fans. Chief among those is former star quarterback Steve Young, who co-founded a private equity firm in nearby Palo Alto.

Before their wild 27-24 overtime loss to Russell Wilson’s 8-2 Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football, QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s 49ers were the last undefeated team in the NFL. 

The 49ers front office credits the team’s ability to super-serve new fans from Silicon Valley, with longstanding fans from San Francisco, for their off-the-field success amid the on-the-field boon.

The 49ers, for example, sold out their 22 Citrix Owners Suites this year quicker than any premium space at the facility. Billed by the team as the “most exclusive season ticket in the NFL,” these all-inclusive suites cost $500,000 per year. 

For that, you not only get food and drinks, and access to the private Citrix Owners Club, but tickets to every event at Levi’s Stadium. That’s $11 million in VIP suite sales before the 49ers even started selling the rest of the stadium. 

“It’s really loaded with Fortune 500 companies and VC shops. An alumni player is in there as well,” said Brent Schoeb, the 49ers chief revenue officer. “It’s really the place to be if you’re buying a suite in our building.”

Then there are IdentoGO Field Seats. These 64 seats are located in the end zone, where players launch their “Levi’s Leaps” into the stands after scoring a touchdown.

At a cost of $15,000 per season, or roughly $1,500 per game, they’re also sold out. They’re the NFL equivalent to the feet-on-the-court NBA floor seats preferred by Hollywood celebrities like Jack Nicholson and Spike Lee.

“They’re full-on recliners you sit back in, and we deliver food to the seats,” said Schoeb.

Photo Credit: 49ers Photo

The country’s biggest, most affluent tech companies surround Levi’s Stadium in all directions. 

The San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara, Calif., area was named the richest city in America, according to a recent survey. Silicon Valley’s per-person GDP of $128,308 is higher than Monaco and Singapore, according to the Mercury News. If the Republic of Silicon Valley were its own country, the region’s total economic output of $275 billion would rank 42nd in the world, ahead of Finland. 

If you sit at the top of Levi’s Stadium, you can see the headquarters for Google and Facebook. Cisco is practically across the street. But that alone doesn’t guarantee success, Schoeb noted.

“We’re in a great situation where there’s personal wealth. We’re the second-largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies. We obviously have the VC shops,” he said. “Then you have the legacy of the team’s brand in general. It’s a generational fan base. We’re very fortunate. We call them our ‘49ers faithful’ fan base.”

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Naturally, ticket resale outfits are thrilled with the five-time Super Bowl champion’s comeback season after a 4-12 campaign in 2018.

The 49ers have sold more resale tickets than any other club on the NFL’s official ticket exchange, according to Ticketmaster spokeswoman Ashley Dos Santos. Before the 2019 season kicked off, the team ranked 17th.

The team’s secondary average ticket price, or ATP, is now $220, she said. That’s the highest it’s been since the 2014 season that followed then 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh’s narrow loss to brother John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.

StubHub is seeing similar increases. Ticket sales for the first three home games of the 2019 season were up 95% vs. the first three games of 2018. Average ticket prices rose 64%. 

“We are seeing a significant increase in both ticket sales and average ticket prices from the 49ers in 2019,” said Jill Krimmel, general manager of sports at StubHub “So far this season, ticket sales are up 95% and the average ticket price is 64% higher, proving that their undefeated season has fans particularly excited.

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Over at SeatGeek, 49ers ticket prices rose 60% over the past month. Average ticket prices for the Seahawks game hovered around $210, according to SeatGeek spokeswoman Amanda Ramos. Field-level seats were going for $350 and $2,000, depending on where they were located. 

“Ticket listings for this game were up 62% in the last month so those that bought their tickets ahead of time got a great deal,” she said.