On-field success leads to sales wins for NFL teams
An ongoing mission during our 35-plus years at the intersection of sports and commerce has been correlating — or at least attempting to correlate — professional teams’ on-field performance with off-field sales success, whether through sponsorships, media or hospitality. It’s doubtful that anyone selling those assets is so unenlightened as to attempt doing so primarily on the basis of wins and losses, but those certainly don’t hurt, as we learned by canvassing sales-types at NFL teams with the best records in the league.
For the San Francisco 49ers, the top seed in the NFC playoffs, sales have never been more robust. The team’s 13 wins this season have only been exceeded once in the franchise’s golden history. Add the power of a legacy brand located in one of America’s most affluent areas, as well as the creature comfort of a home stadium that is still relatively new, and the result is a fertile sales ground even in underperforming on-field years.
What 49ers CRO Brent Schoeb defines as “core local revenues” — the combination of tickets, suites and sponsorships — is the best since the team moved into Levi’s Stadium in 2014 and “the highest in our 74-year history,” he said. That’s even before a playoff game (or two) is added. A strong on-field performance is described by Schoeb as the “best fuel to stoke an already-burning fire.”
As is often the case, sales get moved up. “Multiple” 10-year leases on suites have been renewed earlier, Schoeb said. And there have also been early sponsorship renewals, including ones with Black Oak Casino Resort, Mountain Mike’s Pizza and Vivid Seats. “Our stretch goals have become our goals now,” he said with a laugh.
The 49ers started the season with two road games, which turned out to be an advantage. After winning both, en route to an 8-0 start, the team was able to dynamically price the less than 10% of home game tickets that were still generally available. The result was a seven-figure bump in ticketing revenue buoyed by the three largest crowds in team history, including a record 71,500 for a 37-8 win over the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 24, a figure which may be eclipsed in this year’s playoffs.
Similar to the 49ers, a great season in Baltimore, where the Ravens set a franchise record by winning a league-high 14 games, has led to a boost in interest. “It’s all about new business and we have a lot of them knocking on our door now,” said Kevin Rochlitz, the Ravens’ senior vice president and chief sales officer.
Suites in Baltimore were already sold out, but the team’s success catalyzed early renewals there also, meaning “we’ll sell out again, but much earlier,” said Rochlitz. “When you have two losses and it’s already December, you’re just better organized to have a jump on all of next year.”
The Green Bay Packers totaled 13 wins this season for only the third time in the team’s storied history — six more victories than in 2018.
“We don’t sell results,” said Chad Watson, the team’s director of sales and business development. “In real time, we don’t have much inventory remaining, but this kind of season just gives us sales momentum we wouldn’t have otherwise.”
As with any team, a lot depends on when and which prior deals are expiring. Many of the 49ers’ biggest went for five years from the stadium’s opening, so they had already been renewed or replaced. No huge renewals are pending for the Ravens or Packers, either.
■ NUTMEG ON ICE: SportsNet New York is sidelighting in the event business with the first “Connecticut Ice” hockey festival Jan. 25 and 26 at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn. Cadillac, Nissan, the Hospital for Special Surgery, Travelers, PC Richards and Town Fair Tire are among the principal sponsors for the event, which will include youth and prep games clinics, and a tournament matching four local collegiate hockey powers: Quinnipiac, Sacred Heart, UConn and Yale. All four of those games will be televised on SNY.
■ COMINGS & GOINGS: Fanatics has named Gina Sprenger its first chief strategic retail officer. In this role, Sprenger will lead all merchandising, inventory management and field operations for the company’s strategic retail division, which includes flagship stores, stadium and in-venue retail locations as well as special events, including the Kentucky Derby and the NHL Winter Classic. Sprenger, who joined Fanatics in 2016 as senior vice president and general merchandise manager, will oversee 175 flagship, venue and event properties across professional and college sports, which also includes oversight of merchandising, field operations, and inventory management.
She will continue reporting to Jack Boyle, global co-president of direct-to-consumer retail. Sprenger also joins the executive leadership team of CEO Doug Mack. She replaces Mike Martin, executive vice president of retail, the former head of retail at Staples, who left Fanatics in December after a little more than three years. … Andrew Fishkin joins Connect Partnership Group, Dallas, as director of corporate partnerships, after five years with Navigate. He’ll continue to be based in Chicago.
Terry Lefton can be reached at email@example.com.