The San Francisco 49ers are struggling on the field, and the franchise's problems are slowly being reflected in the fans. During Sunday's loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, shots of the crowd showed plenty of empty seats. It's my understanding that the weather was a bit chilly, so I imagine some portion of the club-level crowd stayed inside to stay warm. But I also don't think the 49ers announced attendance of 70,799 reflects how many people were in the stadium.
One reason this is the case comes from rumblings among 49ers sponsors. Virtually every sponsorship deal includes season tickets. Whether a sponsor has some basic advertising in the official game magazine, sponsors one of the clubs, or has naming rights for a major portion of the facility, their deal includes any number of season tickets. These sponsors will use the tickets as rewards for employees, a sales incentive, or a variety of other reasons. Some of these sponsors usually have a wait-list to give away tickets, but it is my understanding that some of the sponsors had trouble giving away their corporate seats for the Bengals game.
Sponsors spend money on a variety of things, and for many of the sponsors, the tickets are just a drop in the bucket for them. Nonetheless, when you can't even give away tickets, there's a problem. It's not surprising given that the team is playing bad football, but given that this is the first time some of these sponsors have not had a waiting list, Sunday's game strikes me as a potential watershed moment this season. Some might not think it's a huge deal, but given how this season has gone, it's certainly something.