Play is moving off the pitch, and into our personal lives. On Monday, the San Francisco 49ers announced an exclusive deal with Silicon Valley tech giant Yahoo. Under the terms of the ten-year contract, fans will gain access to a “Fantasy Football Lounge” featuring live feeds from NFL games around the country. Yahoo will be named “the exclusive online sports content, social networking and photo and video sharing partner” of both the upcoming Santa Clara stadium and the 49ers themselves.
Thanks to its proximity to Silicon Valley, Santa Clara’s new 49ers stadium has attracted considerable tech industry interest. Yahoo is to join Violin Memory and Brocade as a top-tier “founding partner,” a move that sets it above fellow contributors and industry competitors Apple and Google. It’s not just tech that sees opportunity: other sponsor firms include Bud Light, NRG Energy, Sony, and SAP. Levi Strauss is the lead sponsor, donating $220 million for the chance to brand the finished sports ground as “Levi’s Stadium” for the next twenty years. It’s the effect of concentrated tech investment, however, that could be transformational.
Yahoo is hoping to drive 49ers fans to its Fantasy Football service, and sees targeted branding as a fine vehicle to achieve this. Some 27 million Americans spend an estimated $800 million per year playing fantasy football, according to Ipsos. It’s becoming a lucrative business for web companies who can handle the server load. It’s also a great vehicle for driving traffic to related services: the Fantasy Sports Trade Association reckons the total market impact is around $5 billion each year.
Faced with the choice between attending a game at a cost and watching a game for free, 49ers fans need extra motivation to make the trip up to Levi’s Stadium. Yahoo – along with 49ers CEO Jed York – is hoping that the Fantasy Football Lounge, replete with screens, “fan zones,” and Yahoo Sports “fantasy experts,” will reignite fans’ passion for in-person attendance. Yahoo has also pledged that its photo-sharing service, Flickr, will display fan snaps on the stadium big screen. Again, the hope is that increased engagement will get fans off the sofa and into the stands.
Construction of Levi’s Stadium is nearing the halfway point, with a projected total cost of $1.3 billion. It will open by August 2014, just in time for the 2014 San Francisco 49ers schedule to kick off in September.