Are the 49ers a good fit for Levi Strauss?

Nose tackle Ricky Jean Francois #95 and tackle Anthony Davis #76 of the San Francisco 49ers lead their team on the field for introductions prior to the NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Green Bay Packers at Candlestick Park on January 12, 2013 in San Francisco, Calif.

The San Francisco 49ers announced their latest corporate partnership today: $220 million over the next 20 years from Levi Strauss, the denim manufacturer. In return, the Niners will start the 2014 season playing from the brand new “Levi’s Stadium.”

Levi’s is getting plenty of attention with the announcement, but will it pay off in the long run?

“Most companies realize today that putting your name on a stadium doesn’t get you much value for it,” says Debra Kaye, partner at the consulting firm Lucule and author of "Red Thread Thinking." 

“If you think about all the times it’ll be viewed on TV,” during the games, “they’ll probably get their money’s worth in TV impressions,” she said.

Will that translate to jean sales? Probably not.

“Today, just putting your name out there really doesn’t work in general," she said. "What people really want is involvement with the brand and engagement.”

Levi Strauss might have another motivation behind the deal, beyond just jean sales.

“Their brand’s lost a little bit of its luster, Silicon Valley’s a center of innovation and some really cool folk and it’s a center where a lot of people wear a lot of jeans," Kaye said.

Levi’s might be hoping some of that “cultural mojo” rubs off on their brand.

“It’s kind of risky but I think what’s really happened here is you’ve got two brands that really come from that area and probably some good government officials that said, 'Come on guys, we gotta put something together here.'”

Now the two brands, Levi Strauss and the San Francisco 49ers, will revel in something they both share -- a history tied to the California Gold Rush and a proximity to Silicon Valley.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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