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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Tech Companies, Eager to Be Loved, Bought You a Super Bowl

Posted By on Wed, Jan 20, 2016 at 11:59 AM

click to enlarge FLICKR/KATHY DRASKY
  • Flickr/Kathy Drasky

Even as locals and city supervisors fume about the Super Bowl’s $4.8 million price tag — an expense San Francisco is footing without much help from the Super Bowl Host Committee — tech companies are eager to get a piece of the action...and steal a piece of your heart.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, Alphabet, Yahoo, and Apple, among others, have raised $50 million for the Host Committee. This differs from Game Days elsewhere, where local governments and tourism organizations kick in a significant chunk of coin. (Not to mention stadium costs; Arizona taxpayers paid for 68 percent of the $455 million University of Phoenix stadium, home to Super Bowl 49, according to Market Watch.) The Host Committee won’t disclose how much each company gave.

WSJ suggests that tech is keen to sponsor the Super Bowl or its Host Committee to curry favor with local governments, which, after all, often need to rubber-stamp campus expansion plans. There's also the matter of tech's bad press, what with income inequality, sexism, and displacement running rampant in Silicon Valley. Financing America's most beloved sports extravaganza — and a cultural tradition that's a de facto national holiday — might win friends and influence people, right? 

Alphabet, parent company of Google, apparently thinks so. The company has offered up its ubiquitous tech shuttles to transport an estimated 5,000 fans to and from Levi’s Stadium. Fan Express, as the service is called, promises a “roundtrip luxury bus ride” for only $55 per person.

Per WSJ, Alphabet won’t receive a cut of the ticket sales.

Apple, meanwhile, reportedly provided products and equipment to the Host Committee but chose not to include its name or logo on any marketing materials. A post on Yahoo (also a sponsor) speculates that Apple wants to score brownie points with local sports fans.

Keith Bruce, CEO of the Host Committee, told Yahoo:

Our sponsors will get a lot of attention in the Bay Area because they stepped up early to be a part of this. Apple was the very first company of all our sponsors to step up. And the reason they did that is because they realized that it was important to Silicon Valley. It was during a bit of a transition time from Steve [Jobs] to Tim [Cook], and they told us, ‘This is the right thing to do. We're building a mega campus that will be a stone's throw from the stadium.’ They have no interest in the marketing rights, they have no interest in using our logo. But they’re promoting the partnership a lot internally to their employees.

WSJ notes that not every tech firm is being so charitable. Uber is the only ride-hail service permitted to drop off and pick up passengers near the stadium. The Host Committee reached out to Lyft who “didn’t want to go through with it.” According to Business Insider, however, Uber actually bought the right to be the Super Bowl's exclusive ride-hail service, reportedly shelling out $250,000 to $500,000 for the privilege. This is the first time the Super Bowl has allowed a ride-hail company access to the stadium.

Typically, competitors in the same industry can’t sponsor the Host Committee. Yahoo points to the example of Pepsi and Coca-Cola — only one can be on board. Host cities (or, in this case, a host region) offers exceptions to major industries in their own backyards. For Super Bowl 50, the exception is tech, which means rivals such as Microsoft, Google, Apple, and HP all get to be sponsors.

Also worth mentioning: The Host Committee advisory group includes several tech bigwigs from Google, HP, Intuit, Intel, Yahoo, and Apple.

If Silicon Valley behemoths really want to make friends with San Francisco, they should cut a check for $4.8 million.

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Jeremy Lybarger


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