Written By: Beth Atlas, Manager & Curator, 49ers Museum
Contributor: Joe Hession, 49ers Museum Historian
In August of 1992, Nikki Hawkins was a recent college graduate in need of employment. Little did she know that her introduction to the 49ers was a cartwheel away in the San Jose State University gymnasium.
"I was a gymnast at San Jose State, and my coach's husband (Jerry Walker) was the PR director at the time for the 49ers," Nikki said. "I got a call out of the blue asking if I was still looking for a job and if I'd be interested in doing some keying and filing in the business office during the season."
It proved to be a perfect fit for both Nikki and the 49ers. Two short months later, the team's then-CFO Keith Simon asked if she would be interested in staying on full-time, and she accepted.
Nikki's role in the business office expanded to accounting-related work. She handled accounts receivables, reconciled hotel and shipping bills and helped with the annual audit. She even kept the books for the 49ers Foundation, the team's community-oriented non-profit organization. Like the 49ers Foundation, Nikki will also be celebrating her 30th year with the team in 2021.
In three decades with the 49ers, Nikki has held several roles and seen many changes to both the front office and the wider sports business industry. After seven years in the business office, Nikki moved to sales and marketing which at the time consisted of herself and two other people. Despite the small work crew, Nikki had the skills needed to accomplish goals and complete projects.
"Be someone who is dependable and reliable, doing what you say you're going to do so others in the organization know they can count on you," she said." That goes a long way when you need help getting things accomplished later on from other departments."
The 49ers Sales and Marketing team is currently composed of several separate departments occupying the entire 200-level office space in Levi's® Stadium. This slate includes Partnership Activations, which Nikki now oversees as director. Activations is included in the larger corporate partnerships team, a facet of the sports industry that has grown over the years and allowed the 49ers to venture into businesses beyond the game of football.
"The major upswing in the business of sports, the whole landscape of the front office in a sports organization has changed drastically," Nikki said. "Every department has definitely grown and evolved over the years."
This is especially true for an organization like the 49ers that manages its home venue for both football and third-party events. The 49ers oversaw the design and construction of Levi's® Stadium on behalf of the Santa Clara Stadium Authority. The new venue was designed to become the premiere outdoor destination for sports and entertainment on the West Coast. As a key part of the partnerships team, Nikki worked with the founding corporate partners to bring the new home of the 49ers to life.
"Building out Levi's® Stadium with all of the partner spaces was a huge highlight," she said. "I really enjoy planning and attending our partners' events along with creating fun and engaging activations for them."
Nikki Hawkins has the ability to forge long lasting relationships with our partners and continues to devote herself to making sure all our partners feel a part of the 49ers family. She is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to both Corporate Partnerships and our organization as a whole. If you want something to happen everyone knows to go to Nikki. Kevin Hilton, Vice President of Corporate Partnerships
Early on, Nikki proved to be great at establishing relationships with her colleagues, including 49ers legends who had transitioned from the field to the front office.
"When I first started with the team, Dwight [Clark] oversaw the Scouting Department. I had a chance to get to know him pretty well during those first seven years prior to him leaving for Cleveland in early 1999," Nikki said.
Nearly ten years later, Dwight returned to the Bay Area, ultimately becoming an Alumni Coordinator and serving as an ambassador for the team. Nikki was right there to help him out, escorting him around the stadium (first Candlestick, then Levi's®) on game days for suite visits and other appearances. Dwight was happy to contribute, as Nikki describes.
"Dwight was literally the nicest and most gracious guy, willing to do whatever we asked of him and he always seemed to have fun while doing it," she said. "He was such an open book and would tell anyone anything, which is what I think made him so endearing. I feel blessed to have been able to spend so much time with him."
Working with Dwight for so many cumulative years seems to have added to Nikki's aspiration to continue making strides with the 49ers and go the extra yard for her teammates. In her current role, she manages the team's relationship with its two biggest partners, Levi's® and SAP. These companies sponsor, respectively, the homes of the 49ers: Levi's® Stadium and SAP Performance Facility (business headquarters and practice facility). This is fitting for Nikki, who has certainly found a home with the 49ers.
"People sometimes ask if I've ever thought of going anywhere else," Nikki said. "But when it comes right down to it, I love what I do and I love all of the opportunities and experiences I've had over the years. So, why would I leave such a great organization just to try to go do the same thing somewhere else?"