The 49ers have made excellent progress on their new stadium, but one thing we have not heard about is naming rights. The franchise is putting up a lot of money to pay off the financing, and naming rights will be a key part of paying down the debt. There has been some discussion about the team entering the new stadium without a name, but following the Super Bowl run, one has to imagine interest might be increasing.
We now have some naming speculation that might be more than just speculation. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Andrew Ross put together an article today speculating on Levi Strauss potentially purchasing the naming rights. Ross discovered that domain names for Levi Field, Levi Stadium and Levi Strauss Park all were recently registered by the San Francisco-based company.
Levi Strauss indicated they could just be protecting their brand in the digital age. The 49ers said that naming rights for the stadium was generating "significant interest in the marketplace." It is not surprising neither would come out and completely confirm or deny anything.
In our stadium posts here, and in discussion on Twitter, people have suggested some kind of tech company would be most likely to get involved. The 49ers are looking to develop the most high tech stadium in the world, and it is based right in the heart of Silicon Valley. Of course, outside of an Apple coming in, a lot of tech companies change names to the point that it makes naming a stadium after such a company a fool's errand. Just ask the artist currently known as Overstock.com (also O.co) Coliseum. At one point it was McAfee Coliseum, but that was switched to Network Associates Coliseum. Talk about a mess!
Some sort of name involving the Levi Strauss company makes sense in multiple ways, and you can connect the dots to why the 49ers and Levi Strauss could very well be talking.
Why they might be talking?
I did a little research, and we can connect a few dots between Levi Strauss and the 49ers. The Chronicle article talked about how some speculation thought the various stadium domain names could very well connect them to the Oakland A's, who were once owned by Levi Strauss president Walter Haas.
That being said, there are enough interesting connections between Levi Strauss and the 49ers. This does not mean a deal will be done, or is even in the offing, but I think it is safe to include this in the list of things that make you go hmmm.
The current head of the San Francisco Super Bowl committee is Daniel Lurie. For those not aware, Lurie is also the step-son of Peter Haas. The now deceased Peter Haas spent his life working at Levi Strauss in a range of positions, including board member, president, CEO and chairman of the board.
That in and of itself is a modest connection. However, we can connect this further from a relationship perspective. In 2005, Lurie founded a charity called Tipping Point Community, which is designed to support programs that help battle poverty in the Bay Area. Lurie serves as CEO of the San Francisco-based charity. 49ers owner and CEO Jed York is deeply involved in Tipping Point, serving as a board member and frequently tweeting about the work Tipping Point does. Take what you want from that relationship.
Why it makes sense from historical/regional perspective?
Prior to developing the signature jeans, Levi Strauss founded a wholesale dry goods business in San Francisco during the California Gold Rush. Although the jeans came after the gold rush, there is still that connection between Levi Strauss and the "49ers" of the California Gold Rush. Most of the time stadium naming rights are sold to the highest bidder, with no connection to the team. This would actually provide a pretty cool connection.
None of this means Levi Strauss Stadium (or whatever you want to call it) is a lock to happen. That being said, these connections will at least keep it on my radar. In April 2011, the 49ers hired Creative Artists Agency (CAA) to begin the search for a naming rights partner. Some stadiums have opened without a name (Giants/Jets and Cowboys being the best examples), but given how well the rest of this process has gone, I have a hunch the 49ers are going to be able get a deal done with somebody before the stadium opens for the 2014 season.
Maybe we will be talking about Super Bowl 50 as hosted by Levi Stadium.