The Raiders Kick Off Inaugural Season in Las Vegas
Photos Courtesy Michael Clemens, Las Vegas Raiders
After years of anticipation the Raiders can officially call Las Vegas their home. And while a global pandemic has led this first year to look admittedly different than envisioned, the team has already established roots within the community and put Las Vegas on a pedestal in the eyes of the world-famous Raider Nation.
“The greatness of the Raiders is in its future,” said Marc Badain, President of the Las Vegas Raiders, echoing the words of legendary owner Al Davis. “We have a tremendous history that we celebrate. The move to Las Vegas is in that future.”
Badain began his career with the Raiders as an intern in the early 90s and has stayed with the team ever since. The search for a new stadium and a place to truly call ‘home’ has been top-of-mind for his entire career. Now, nearly 30 years later and at the helm of the organization, Badain is happy for that goal to finally be met.
“This project is the culmination of the Davis family’s decades-long search to find a long-term home for the Raiders,” he said. “We had to solve our stadium issue. We couldn’t remain a tenant of an old building. Today’s customer demands a better experience and we need to be in control of that.”
Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium is set to deliver that elevated experience. And even though fans will have to wait to enjoy the in-person experience, Badain sees the new venue as a key to taking the team’s performance to the next level.
“[Allegiant Stadium] is going to help the organization in terms of being competitive. What we’re all about is winning football games. This new building is about putting the best product on the field,” he said, referring to the team’s performance.
Much of the Raiders’ impact, however, is off the field as well. When an NFL franchise moves into a new hometown, it’s not just there on Sundays. The players, coaches and staff and their families, as well as many alumni whose lives have been shaped so significantly by the organization, now call Las Vegas home.
“[Owner] Mark Davis said multiple times, ‘you’re not just getting a football team, you’re getting an army,’” Badain said. “Our team, our staff, our Raiderettes, you’ll see them all over the community. They’re all going to live here, their families are here, they’re going to build lives here. [Las Vegas] is such a nice place to live, very affordable, with an incredible standard of living.”
“A lot of our players have foundations, and are here to give back to the community. There’s a lot of places here that can use our help. One cause close to the organization’s heart is domestic violence. In California we’ve been able to make an impact and we’re going to do the same in Las Vegas. We’ve gotten involved with Veteran’s Village [Now Share Village, dedicated to providing housing for the homeless]. Philanthropy has always been a basic tenet of the organization.”
While the team has already gotten its feet wet in giving back to Las Vegas in a number of ways, the Raiders Foundation will also continue to serve as the organization’s central outlet for philanthropic causes.
The exchange is somewhat mutual. While securing the team’s move was by no means easy, Badain credits the city of Las Vegas for making the process a positive, results-focused experience.
“What we found in Las Vegas from the first meeting we had here was how coordinated the business leaders and the government were. People can make decisions quickly. There’s not a lot of red tape. When they saw this was an economic win, there was a lot of support from all parties…Las Vegas is a ‘get to yes’ town rather than a ‘get to no’ town. It’s very refreshing and encouraging.”
In addition to welcoming the Raiders to town and the building of the stadium, the city is supporting the gameday experience by closing the Hacienda Bridge—which connects the Strip to Allegiant Stadium—to vehicular traffic, allowing people to walk from the Strip to the stadium…once they’re allowed into the stadium, that is.
Even amidst the pandemic, Badain sees the possibility of tailgaters parking outside the stadium (in a safe fashion) while the game is going on to be as close to the experience as possible. When live events do open up once again, the Raiders have partnered with virtually all major resorts to artfully integrate elements of Las Vegas Boulevard into the stadium experience. He also hinted that artwork from local artists will be featured throughout Allegiant Stadium’s corridors.
Strip resorts are just the beginning of the Raiders’ myriad of new partnerships. Beer and football are as iconic of a duo as steak and fine wine, but like any pairing, the right match needs to be made for perfect harmony. So as the Raiders planned their opening year in Las Vegas, choosing a beer to go with the team became critically important. After substantial deliberation, Modelo will be the official import partner of the Las Vegas Raiders.
For the Raiders, Modelo was a natural fit. “If you’ve ever been to a Raider tailgate, you’ll see that there are plenty of folks whose beverage of choice is Modelo,” Badain said. “When you analyze the data around our fan base and how they feel about the brand, there’s a strong correlation.”
“Since Modelo is the No. 1 beer in Las Vegas, it felt right to pair with the newly arriving team that closely identifies with our mantra: beer brewed for those with the ‘Fighting Spirit,’” said Steve Gomez, Regional Development Manager at Constellation Brands, which owns Modelo.
To commemorate the partnership, Modelo is coming out with a limited-edition Modelo Especial 24oz can on Sept. 9, which will be available wherever beer is sold; as well as a co-branded tap handle that will be seen on draft towers wherever Modelo is poured. When the in-stadium experience resumes, attendees can expect to interact with the brand in many different ways, including the Modelo Cantina Club, a 26,000-square-foot space overlooking the 50-yard line with three branded bars, and the Modelo Tailgate Zone, a dedicated location outside of the stadium that will be home to Raider tailgates during the season.
“When it came to building plans, we weren’t only planning for how to activate our partnership at retail from a marketing standpoint but how our brands would be represented and visible both inside and outside of the brand-new stadium for years to come,” Gomez said.
Modelo and the Raiders are working under the same common goal of ‘New Home, Same Fighting Spirit.’
Gomez, who hails from the Bay Area and grew up as a Raiders fan himself, sees Modelo as working to “drive both excitement for current loyal consumers and fans as well as recruit new consumers and fans into the [Raiders] family.”
“If you have any knowledge of the history of the Raiders, we have what I and many would consider one of the most loyal fan bases in all of professional sports,” Gomez said. “Raider fans are passionate and extremely loyal.”
Badain noted that while 60% of season ticket holders are Nevada residents and 20% live in California, a whopping 20% come from across the country. Couple a fan base that broad with one of the planet’s top travel destinations, and you’ve got a football team that’s appealing to both the travel and local market on a massive level.
“The job that the team has done to market themselves here as Las Vegas’ team has been awesome. Two great legacies coming together for what is certain to be an even greater future,” Gomez said. “There is no doubt that there will be even more loyal fans here in Las Vegas and the entire state of Nevada to join the ranks of Raider Nation. Does it get any better? Just talking about it gets my juices flowing.”
Both Modelo and the Raiders have faced no shortage of challenges launching their partnership during the Coronavirus pandemic, but remain optimistic about engaging fans as much as possible while the in-game experience is paused, as well as what’s to come when Allegiant Stadium opens to the public.
“Our focus is to engage consumers through a large retail marketing presence such as local consumer-focused programs at displays and point of purchase, co-branded giveaways and activations with retail partners where allowed and within local, state and CDC guidelines,” Gomez said.
While Badain and the Raiders are disappointed that they can’t play out their first season with fans in the stands, he’s “keeping things in perspective,” and is extremely grateful “for the construction teams that went above and beyond” to complete the stadium for the 2020 season. He also noted that the NFL has lifted a few restrictions on how players can engage with fans digitally, allowing the fan experience to reach a higher level.
And in trying times like these, Badain takes a step back from his role as an NFL franchise leader and looks at the Raiders in the same scope as any other sports fan. He’s reminded of the incredible things the sports world does to lift society.
“Sports teams can help galvanize communities in a lot of ways,” he said. “When things are bad, people can turn to their sports teams as a place of hope.”