With the Raiders in Las Vegas, 49ers Launch New Campaign to Expand Fan Base

The nod to the bay is "not trolling" their former in-state rivals

"Faithful to the Bay" is aimed at drawing new fans. San Francisco 49ers

After an appearance in Super Bowl 2020, there’s never been a better time to be a San Francisco 49ers fan.

Dubbed The Faithful, 49ers fans have almost always been awash in good fortune (see Joe Montana and his four Super Bowl rings). Released ahead of the 2020-21 football season kicking off Thursday night, the team has a new slogan and campaign underway titled “Faithful to the Bay,” a love letter to the team’s legions of fans.

While nearly every professional sports team creates some sort of hype video to fire up their fans before the start of a new season, the 49ers’ latest campaign is a bit more meaningful: Its emphasis on geography is a clever nod to its now lone standing as the only team in town. Last season marked the Oakland Raiders’ final game in California before moving to Las Vegas this summer.

“We’re not trolling the Raiders; that was one of our key tenets internally,” said Alex Chang, CMO of the 49ers. “We don’t have a plan or a strategy to convert Raiders fans—sports fans are inherently loyal, as they should be. We, as a team, respect that loyalty.”

Still, the 49ers are expanding their marketing investment in the East Bay in addition to broadening the franchise’s community outreach programs.

“Are we trying to use the totality of our brand to cover everywhere? Of course. That means extending into the East Bay,” Chang added.

But Raiders fans aren’t the target of that outreach: Young fans and new residents will be the most likely converts. “Flat out, we have no intention to convert Raiders fans to 49ers fans,” insisted Chang.

To his point, the Raiders had bounced between Oakland and Los Angeles beginning in the 1982 season up until 1994. And the Niners aren’t without controversy, leaving San Francisco’s famed Candlestick Park in 2014 to move to Santa Clara.

For now, the team won’t be admitting any fans old or new into the 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium, which leaves the team’s branding partners without their usual in-stadium activations.

Because of the lack of fans in seats, the league has gotten inventive, taking a page from the playbooks of Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League. The lower levels of most stadiums will feature seat coverings and advertisements visible during game broadcasts, adding new inventory for local partners.

“When you think about partnerships and why people partner with sports teams, it’s because of the loyalty that the consumer has to that sports team,” Chang said. “That extends well beyond the 70,000 that are in Levi’s Stadium.”

@RyanBarwick ryan.barwick@adweek.com Ryan is a brand reporter covering travel, mobility and sports marketing.