For Super Bowl 50, NFL courts LGBT businesses

By John Coté, San Francisco Chronicle

Published: Sunday, November 9, 2014

It’s not quite painting a rainbow on the logo for Super Bowl 50, but it’s a step in that direction.

The National Football League is showing a more inclusive side with its landmark 50th anniversary Super Bowl, which will be played at the 49er’s new Levi’s Stadium. The league and event organizers are set to announce Monday that, for the first time, the NFL will expand its outreach on contracting opportunities for the 2016 event to businesses owned by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“I think it’s incredible history that’s being made right here in San Francisco, and what better place for it to happen?” said Robb Fleischer, president of the Golden Gate Business Association, the nation’s first LGBT chamber of commerce. “I think it sends a message nationwide.”

Super Bowl 50 will be played at the stadium in Santa Clara, but about 10 days of lead-up activities, including parties and the Super Bowl Village, will be in San Francisco, with its rich history of gay-rights activism.

The NFL’s move comes as a stream of court rulings have come down in favor of same-sex marriage and a week after Apple CEO Tim Cook, revealed he was gay.

The NFL already targets small businesses owned by minorities, women and disabled veterans in its effort to line up local vendors through its Business Connect program for the lead-up and production of the Super Bowl. Bay Area LGBT business owners were thrilled about being added to the list.

“We want to see all small businesses that are part of Business Connect get a larger piece of the action,” said Paul Pendergast, owner of Pendergast Consulting Group, an LGBT-owned company that specializes in public affairs consulting on major construction projects. “From an LGBT standpoint, it’s history making. It’s being invited to the dance, so to speak.”

Companies that participate in the program don’t get preference in contract bids, but they learn about the procurement process for the Super Bowl and participate in networking events, including presentations from representatives of the NFL, its main contractors, Super Bowl 50 Host Committee staff and corporate sponsors.

The available contracts are expected to include event planning, promotion and all aspects of production, as well as transportation, security, staffing, janitorial, entertainment, hospitality, and food and beverage services.

Exactly how much the contracts will be worth is unclear until the event is closer and plans are firmed up, but combined they are expected to value millions of dollars, said Nathan Ballard, a spokesman for the Super Bowl host committee.

“This is a new frontier for these types of supplier outreach programs — not just for the NFL, but throughout the business world,” Ballard said.

The goal is to spread the event’s benefits, including to African American, Chinese American and female-owned businesses, said Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of San Francisco Travel and member of the Super Bowl 50 host committee.

“Oftentimes these businesses get neglected. They get ignored. We don’t want that to happen this time,” D’Alessandro said. “We want to make sure it benefits those in the community that need it the most. … I’m a gay man. I think my people being included in these opportunities is tremendous.”

Dawn R. Ackerman, owner of OutSmart Office Solutions, an office design and supply company, said she’s not looking for an advantage, just an opportunity.

“Do I think at the end of the day I’m going to win a contract just because I’m an LGBT owner of a business? No,” Ackerman said. “I have to compete. I have to be good at what I do.”

John Coté is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: jcote@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @johnwcote

Super Bowl business workshops

Bay Area businesses interested in learning more about the Business Connect program for Super Bowl 50 should attend one of two Kickoff Workshops to learn about certifications, qualifying business categories and the procurement process. Representatives of the NFL and its key contractors, Super Bowl 50 Host Committee staff and corporate sponsors, will make presentations.

1:30 to 3:30 p.m., Nov. 17 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

7:30 to 9:30 a.m. Nov. 19 at Moscone Center in San Francisco

To attend a workshop, register on the Super Bowl Host Committee’s website at www.sfbaysuperbowl.com/business-connect. The workshops are free, but registration is required.

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