Meet the 49ers and The Faithful: Craig Martin & Nate Racela
Say “The Faithful” anywhere along the West Coast and people know exactly whom you’re talking about. The San Francisco 49ers fanbase is 5.6 million people strong and the fans are well known for their loyalty and faithfulness — a spirit that has truly persisted for decades.
We sat down with Craig Martin and Nate Racela of the 49ers, to chat about the team and our partnership that first began one year ago.
“People just have an unwavering love of the team, win or lose,” said Martin, Manager, Partnership Sales at the San Francisco 49ers. “The passion behind the brand there is unbelievable.”
The 49ers have won five Super Bowl championships since their 1946 start; four were achieved in the 1980s and the fifth in 1994. Those five incredible wins in less than 15 years may have something to do with The Faithful’s loyalty, but there’s also more depth behind their devotion.
“They were so good for so long—it’s a little bit of cultural iconic status in there,” said Martin. “What Bill Walsh did there with changing society through sports. It’s something a lot of people know but can’t articulate.”
Bill Walsh, head coach for three of the team’s Super Bowl championships, popularized the “West Coast offense,” and he was also a strong advocate for African American head coaches. He helped change the NFL into an equal opportunity league for black coaches and leaders. Unlike many other football coaches of the time, Walsh also connected with his players. He knew the importance of community and the relationship between a coach and players, and that’s something fans still appreciate today.
It’s the shared message of social good and community that aligned Orig3n with the 49ers and brought our partnership to fruition.
“If you dropped a pin in the center of Silicon Valley, that’s where Levi’s® Stadium is. So, for us, we talk the talk. We want to be the first to do a lot of things. We are constantly challenging ourselves and we are held to a different standard. We want to be the gold standard of what we do. Partnering with companies like Orig3n truly makes us walk the walk.”
The team’s dedication to innovation and social good makes Orig3n’s partnership with the 49ers a natural fit. We set up a customized pod along the Faithful Mile route (known as “the pregame fan zone” according to Racela), with plenty of interactive giveaways for fans during the 49ers home games at Levi’s® Stadium. Fans can take selfies at the booth, learn more about genetic testing and DNA, donate blood, and enter to win signed helmets, 49ers memorabilia, and DNA Tests like FITCODE.
At the beginning of our partnership, the 49ers were uneasy about blood draws. “It was just because it was different at the time. There’s no other partnership in sports like ours,” Racela said. “It made its rounds around the office about what you were going to do on Faithful Mile, and everyone said, ‘Who would donate blood at a sporting event?’ That was their first reaction. Of course, it blew everyone’s expectations. The way you guys interact with fans and educate everyone so well. [Orig3n] blew our expectations out of the water.”
Racela still hears the same reaction today when he tells others about the partnership. “They say, ‘You guys really take blood? You have partners taking blood?’” He heard this recently while in Atlanta for a club-led activation summit where he spoke about Orig3n and shared photos of the pod with other NFL teams. “Everyone was really surprised and shocked but it all comes down to brand ambassadors and how they educate fans.” The pod turned out to be wildly successful.
Along the Faithful Mile, fans flock to our booth, intrigued and interested to learn more about blood cell donation, the future of regenerative medicine, and human genome analysis. “I’ve never seen that,” said Martin. “Two brands coming together in a marriage that way with the #FaithfulDNA hashtag. It doesn’t matter much on the East Coast but anywhere in the West, The Faithful is a very tangible real thing.”
The stories people share at our booth are truly inspirational, and they remind us why we do what we do and about the incredible potential of regenerative medicine. Martin recounted one experience he had along the route. He was helping a woman set up along the Faithful Mile when she saw Orig3n’s unique pod and asked about us. “Her story is that she had an uncle with ALS and watched him basically disintegrate into nothing. She literally went over and asked to donate before Orig3n even opened,” Martin said. “No one asked her to. I just told her what the cause was. She was sitting in the chair before the phlebotomists were ready. She has no tie to the 49ers or to the brand, but it’s just the mindset of ‘Oh yeah, why wouldn’t I?’”
Racela added, “If you provide the understanding that this is going to the greater good, that this could help you in 10 years, people are inherently very apt to donate.”
We are so grateful for The Faithful and the entire 49ers community for helping advance the future of health by donating blood. Orig3n has been able to build the world’s largest blood cell repository with the help of passionate and engaged people like them. We love being part of The Faithful, and we’re happy to hear the feeling is mutual. As Martin said, “We’re at a whole different pivotal point now…there’s a lot of things that excite us about the future of this relationship.” Next football season, expect to see even more from the 49ers and Orig3n and stay tuned as some mind-blowing events may even extend outside of the Faithful Mile.