Ina Fried

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Intel Looks to Sponsorship Deals With FC Barcelona, and Now 49ers, to Boost Brand

Intel spent billions of dollars to make itself a household name and a must-have component when purchasing a new PC.

But, in a world where consumers are buying lots of mobile devices — most of which have other companies’ chips inside — Intel is looking for new ways to energize its brand. One key piece of the strategy is the signing of a handful of new sponsorship deals.

Last week the company announced a sponsorship deal with Spanish soccer team FC Barcelona and, later on Wednesday, the company will announce it is joining the roster of sponsors for Levi’s Stadium, the new home of the National Football League’s San Francisco 49ers.

The 49ers deal makes a lot of sense, Intel says, what with the new stadium being built just a semiconductor’s throw from the company’s Santa Clara headquarters.

“In my eyes it is a natural partnership,” said Courtnee Westendorf, a former Apple executive who now serves as director of Intel’s brand experience marketing group. “We are two of the most iconic brands in the Valley.”

Westendorf came to Intel in 2012 to help with Intel’s likely-to-be-jettisoned pay TV unit and quietly shifted a month ago to this new role heading partnerships for the chipmaker. Although Intel spends a fortune on advertising, the emphasis on sports deals is relatively new, though the company did sponsor a Formula One team some years back.

“It really shows a shift in how we want to reach consumers,” Westendorf said.

The 49ers, meanwhile, have done an enviable job of recruiting tech names to both sponsor and outfit their stadium with high-tech gear. Team boss Jed York and Sony CEO Kaz Hirai talked about some of the plans earlier this year at our D11 conference.

In addition to Intel and Sony, tech companies SAP and Brocade are also among the ten major sponsors of the stadium.

For its part, Intel will get its name on one of the main plazas surrounding the stadium and serve as a technology partner helping with servers, storage and that sort of thing. In the plaza, the company plans an experience center to show off not only products with its chips, but also concept products from Intel Labs.

Westendorf said she is trying to find ways to make the sponsorships more than just about splashing the Intel name everywhere. With FC Barcelona, for example, the Intel brand is only on the inside of the players jerseys. When they pull up their shirts after a goal, the Intel Inside logo is revealed.

No word on whether the 49ers will have to play their home games in one of Intel’s well-known bunny suits.

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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google