Due to the San Francisco 49ers long standing history of success, the organization has become one of the most recognizable American sports teams. The fandom has grown globally, especially in the United Kingdom, and in early 2022 the 49ers earned access to activate in the market as part of the NFL's initial activation of its International Home Marketing Areas (IHMA) program.
Just before the 49ers playoff run, a group of UK Faithful traveled across the pond to get a behind-the-scenes tour of Levi's® Stadium led by 49ers manager of fan engagement Nick Clarke. On the tour, the international fans experienced some of the most premium spaces of the stadium such as the Citrix Owners Club, Levi's® 501 Club and the field-level BNY Mellon Club. Overall, the Faithful enjoyed a fun-filled day full of exploration and exclusive photo opportunities.
Just like fans living in the United States, each international fan had a unique story as to how they became Faithful to the 49ers. Sam, a fan from Colchester, England, was introduced to the San Francisco team through the 49ers Gold Rush.
"I saw a documentary about the 49ers cheerleaders when I was 13 years old and that was the only team I knew, so that's who I supported," Sam said. "And then of course, I saw Joe Montana and I fell in love."
Mike, a fan from Northern Ireland, has been a 49ers fan since 1983. This year's trip to Levi's® Stadium was his fourth and he's visited San Francisco's former stadium, Candlestick Park, around 20 times. Mike started following the team when an Olympian became a 49ers wide receiver back in the early 1980s.
"I followed a guy called Renaldo Nehemiah," Mike said. "He was a 110-meter hurdler and he had a chance to win the gold medal, but he gave it up to sign for a team called the San Francisco 49ers, and that's how it all started."
John, a fan from Leeds, England, became Faithful from watching 49ers legends in action.
"I found out about the 49ers back in the early 80s," John said. "NFL coverage was very limited in the UK. We used to get a one hour highlight show each week. In the early 80s, obviously the 49ers were a very successful team, so they tended to get a little bit more coverage than other teams in the NFL. The fact that they had Joe Montana and Jerry Rice was the thing that persuaded me to be a 49ers fan."
Some of the international fans have traveled around the world to see the 49ers play.
"I took any chance I had to see them live," Mike said. "They used to come to Wembley Stadium for preseason games, so I would go to see that. From there, I ended up going to the first Super Bowl that I went to see in 1989 against the Cincinnati Bengals in Miami, Florida."
For others, the Levi's® Stadium tour was their very first NFL experience.
"I've never been to the States before," John said. "This is the first time I've been lucky enough to see them and I just loved it. I've seen it on TV a lot of times, but you don't quite appreciate just how great the atmosphere is until you get here."
No matter how near, far, or different the time zone, the Faithful have always found a way to cheer on their team.
"I've watched all their games for so long," Sam said. "I've got Game Pass, so I watch them every week and try to stay up for the late games, but definitely through playoffs I'm always watching."
While in the Bay Area, the UK Faithful experienced a gameday at Levi's® Stadium as the 49ers faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 14. The fans were in for a treat as rookie quarterback Brock Purdy took his first NFL start and San Francisco defeated a Tom Brady-led Buccaneers team 35-7.
"It was great to see them beat Tom Brady because he is the G.O.A.T.," Mike said.
"The game was just fantastic," John said. "We didn't know what to expect of Brock because we had not seen him yet, but I thought he played great."
As the international fans wrapped up their U.S. trip, they cherished the moments where they felt even closer to their 49ers family.
"It's a dream come true," John said. "It's a great experience to come see the team and the stadium that I've only seen on TV. It's something I'll always remember."