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San Francisco 49ers fans can be forgiven for feeling rather happy with their lot at present.
Thursday’s 28-25 win at the Arizona Cardinals means the 49ers, along with the New England Patriots, remain the only undefeated teams in the NFL this season.
Indeed, the 49ers’ record now stands at 8-0 for the season, with Thursday’s match being preceded by more good news for their loyal fanbase.
The 49ers last week continued the organisation’s focus on fan satisfaction at Levi’s Stadium by announcing that they would include certain food and beverage (F&B) items as a benefit for their season ticket members.
The 49ers claim the ‘Member Inclusive Menu’ venture, which will debut in the 2020 season, represents a first for a sports team.
“The rationale for the 49ers Member Inclusive Menu was to provide additional value and convenience to our season ticket members,” Alex Chang, the 49ers’ chief marketing officer, tells us. “We know the food and beverage experience is a key driver of satisfaction for our fans, so enhancing that area of their gameday is a priority for us.
“Our organisation has a history of innovation and our fans have embraced these changes. We are confident the Member Inclusive Menu will be positively received much like our early adoption of mobile ticketing and the 12-month season ticket payment plan.”
Simplifying the F&B experience
Building on five years of previous innovations implemented in an effort to make the Levi’s Stadium experience the most fan-friendly in professional sports, the new service will seek to simplify the concession experience for members.
The benefit will only be available to 49ers season ticket members and their guests, with single game and secondary market ticket buyers continuing to purchase food and beverages à la carte.
The Member Inclusive Menu will feature the most popular concession items based on fan surveys and in-game purchase patterns.
While the full 49ers Member Inclusive Menu will be announced this offseason, the team has said more than 15 of the most popular food and non-alcoholic beverage items will be available, having already given an indication of what the menu is likely to contain.
Chicken tenders, hot dogs (beef and vegan), sausages and hot links, nachos (regular and loaded), fries (regular and garlic), pretzels, popcorn, peanuts and candies are set to feature amongst the food offerings.
On the drinks front, Pepsi products, Aquafina water, Peet’s coffee and hot chocolate will be available with the 49ers working with hospitality partner Levy and its technology and analytics company E15 Group to curate the menu and fan experience.
Jim Mercurio, the 49ers’ vice-president of stadium operations and Levi’s Stadium general manager, says: “We have been discussing the feasibility of providing a member-inclusive menu to our fans for a couple of years and we will take the next 10 months before the start of the 2020 season to finalise the operations of how we will execute the system in a way that is as frictionless as possible for our valued members.”
Fan consultation will be a key part of how the new venture is rolled out, with Mercurio stating that issues such as limits on the amount of food and drink available to season ticket holders are currently up for discussion.
He says: “From RFID-enabled season ticket member credentials, to wristbands, to the bar code on a fan’s digital tickets, we have identified a number of options for implementing this system in a seamless way for our fans and we plan on providing education to our season ticket members on the ways the program will work once we get closer to next season.
“That includes the specifics around how many items a fan will be able to claim per concession stand visit while enjoying unlimited food and beverages from the dedicated menu over the course of a game.
“To strike a balance between delivering an outstanding experience for fans while minimising food waste, fans should expect some sort of per-visit limit to be enacted.”
F&B is a key revenue stream for event organisers of all descriptions and Chang maintains the 49ers have done their homework when it comes to this aspect of the new venture.
He adds: “We believe providing value and enhancing the fan experience are the best ways to keep our customers happy – and ultimately maintain our strong renewal rates. Without getting into specific numbers, we believe it’s important to invest in our fan experience and are comfortable with the financials of this venture.”
Since moving into Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara five years ago, the 49ers have sought to leverage technology, data, and analytics to break new ground in the gameday experience.
The 49ers were among the first teams to deliver mobile-only ticketing and real-time, multi-angle replays to hand-held devices.
Meanwhile, Levi’s Stadium is the only venue with the capability to simultaneously monitor up to nine core stadium operations functions and get real-time updates on a single dashboard through its Executive Huddle presented by SAP.
In May, the 49ers claimed another landmark by becoming the first major league sports team to offer fractional ownership of multi-game ticket packages via Season Share.
The proprietary ticketing technology – of which the investment arm of the five-time Super Bowl champions, 49ers Enterprises, is an equity partner – grants teams the ability to offer a new solution to multi-game ticket package purchasers who wish to split and share tickets with either friends and family, or with other fans using private groups.
Season Share’s app and website has been providing 49ers fans with ‘game-drafting’ capabilities, whereby they can pick their own games without the issues often associated with sharing multi-game ticket packages.
Commenting on how the venture is progressing, Brad Dugan, the 49ers’ director of ticketing, says: “Having worked with a large portion of the Ticketmaster Certified Partners and APIs here at the 49ers and Levi’s Stadium, the Season Share integration has been as clean and easy as any we have implemented thus far.”
Evolving stadium experience
Dustin Albertson, the 49ers’ director of membership service, says the franchise has “happily conditioned” its fans to expect annual improvements to the stadium and customer experience.
Reflecting on the evolution of the fan experience at Levi’s Stadium, Albertson says: “By investing in more than 200 enhancements to the venue and gameday operations during this time, we have found many unique and innovative ways to augment the overall experience.
“We have received tremendous positive feedback on the changes we have made over the last year, including the introduction of a season ticket member credential worn on a lanyard around the neck that provides expedited entry to fans at security entrances and into their seating section.”
“This year we also increased the quality of our gameday giveaway items – including adding a second bobblehead game – and continue to see strong value placed on those items by our fans”.
“This year we also expanded access to training camp as an added reward for our members, which has greatly enhanced the atmosphere around those practices – something our general manager and head coach seem to appreciate.”
Moon Javaid, 49ers vice-president of strategy and analytics, adds: “We are proud that changes like these – guided in large part by the nearly 500,000 pieces of feedback we receive from fans per season from our HappyOrNot integration in the stadium, post-game email surveys, and end of season focus groups – have helped to improve our organisational standing in the annual NFL Voice of the Fan survey to the top-five in the NFL in fan service.
“As an organisation, we will not rest on our laurels and we will continue to look for ways to improve our fan experience even more.”