A $250m stadium. Now where can you get a scarf?

LAFC may not know exactly what the team will be called, but they know where they will be playing when they begin in Major League Soccer in 2018.

A cathedral in the City of Angels.

While they exist, they exist only by the loosest of definitions. But as has been evidenced through the construction of other franchises, nothing is more important in the big picture than stadium development. Nothing. Stadiums are the lifeblood of long term fiscal health  they convey a permanence which is critical.

Ignoring that the project came in $100 million more than was initially projected (at a total cost of $250 million), it’s easy to see why it was green lighted – with gusto – by the city of L.A. Firstly, it is to be built using private investment, not publicly funded; job creation will be in adundance pre-during–and–post-construction of the 22,000-seat, natural grass venue which will anchor a retail and commercial complex and house a first-of-its kind world soccer museum.

You can sense the creation of a true mini community with lasting benefits.

So, that’s stadium done, but it does comes with the price of a delayed entry to the league until 2018.

#LAFC – the brand

Now they can move on to other business – their identity. What they’ll call themselves, their logo, the colors they’ll wear.

All of this will no doubt begin in earnest. It has already started to drum up fan support to become a ‘LAFC original’ – spurring fans to secure a season ticket three years in advance of play.

Worth taking note of NYCFC’s branding piece they undertook with ad agency, Droga5, of getting fans to actively contribute to the creation of their team’s brand identityhttp://www.campaignbrief.com/2014/02/new-york-city-football-club-la.html

The brand is critical, but brand is only part of the equation. It’s product is more important in the scheme of things.

A neighbourhood of Galaxy’s.

Not for the first time, the LA Galaxy will have neighbours. LAFC need to make it worth their while.

Now it took heavy hitters to bring this team to life (the 24 person ownership group look like a who’s who of L.A. representing the best the city has to offer – sports and entertainment mogul Peter Guber; Tony Robbins; Mia Hamm; “Magic” Johnson; Club President Tom Penn; lead by Henry Nguyen; and then not least, the Premier League’s own Cardiff-City-cartoon-villain Vincent Tan). They will be looking to attract heavy hitters to launch the club.

Already media speculation is focussing on Cristiano Ronaldo becoming the major signing when his Real Madrid contract expires in 2018. He will be 33 so certainly makes sense. But also of consideration – Messi? Wayne Rooney? Suarez?

It doesn’t matter. There will not be any shortages – they just need to be huge.

Not only MLS fans, but fans on the World stage will drool over a big name gracing the team and the league, They need to be David-Beckham-joingin-L.A.-Galaxycirca–2007-esque huge.

Once all that’s in place, the next goal is simpler: start to win.

The greatest sports town in America just got even better

So a number of moving pieces, but that’s part of the dynamic with a growing league.

The item of most importance is that this forward movement in L.A. is not only a tremendous gain for the city, but the league in general. It is this type of ‘extra-curricular’ press which is fuelling the league’s growth off the field.

These stadium plans will likely be the first domino in a long line of major announcements to be made by the MLS-expansion-franchise-brigade in the coming weeks and months.

So while the scarf doesn’t have a confirmed colour, badge, or name for that matter – it really doest matter. Yet.

2 replies to “A $250m stadium. Now where can you get a scarf?

  1. Good piece, Dan. I think you’ve hit on many of the critical issues that LAFC currently faces now that they have secured a site (which I believe was far-and-away the most important piece of their strategy….. the incremental value of this particular location was so richly superior to anything else available in LA County that I doubt there was really much of a “search” at all). The price tag doesn’t surprise me particularly, and I expect that when all is said and done, the finished product probably comes in around $300 million. And they’ll spend it without a second thought– this thing needs to be impressive, distinctive, and utterly ready-to-go on day 1.

    So now it’s on to branding, and much like the stadium, the ownership will be likely to focus first-and-foremost on “succeeding where they Galaxy have failed”. As an Angeleno who has followed the Galaxy since day 1, there has been no doubt that the team has an enduring and perplexing identity crisis. Chivas noticed this, but delivered an execution so bad that it can scarcely be assessed. But make no mistake— Mr. Vergara and his Chivas pals made a very tidy profit off this “effort”, and the purchase price plus stadium commitment tells us just how serious the perceived opportunity is.

    LAG has a strange problem for a team that has consistently delivered championships and signed the biggest players in the league, while also funding many youth development programs throughout SoCal and making a conscious effort to connect with the soccer community in LA. Seems like that’d be good enough to win a favorable brand in an attractive soccer market

    But AEG have ultimately have failed to connect the brand to LA sports culture, a critical missed opportunity for a sport attempting to grow in a big sports town, with competition that is about to ramp up considerably. Their successes are footnotes in the local sports coverage (probably, you would’ve been more likely to see David Beckham on TMZ than on local sports programs during his best years here). And they have not managed to resonate consistently with the Latino population convincingly, which may consider to be a core need for soccer brands in this region. LA loves a winner, but outside of the existing fanbase, their success on-field is not producing new support amongst casual sports fans, most of whom never go anywhere near Carson and would prefer not to figure out how to actually watch Galaxy games on TV at home (which they probably can’t anyway, given the terrible TWC cable contract). Really, what have the Galaxy gotten out of their championships besides trophies?

    One might counter by asking whether building out a successful new sports brand even possible in a town saturated by sports (which may soon include the NFL)? Absolutely yes. The Kings showed they could do this over the last few seasons, in spite of a modest local hockey culture and a forgettable history since being transplanted to LA. Heck, even the Clippers have shown they can build momentum and fan revenue through competitive improvement and better management. Conversely, the Dodgers haven’t won a title since 1988, yet they boast the best attendance in the game every year without exception. But the Galaxy haven’t joined this club, and the failure to do so is perception. They don’t reflect “LA” in the way these teams do. THAT is the problem. And for LAFC, that is the opportunity they paid $100 million for.

    SO you want to be able to answer the following questions:

    1)Who are our fans? Who are they right now, and who will they be going forward?

    2) What unifies our fans? Simply living in LA? What can we do that is more? What is the culture of our organization that differentiates

    3) How do we value “success”. Championships? Profits? Global recognition?

    Unfortunately, the Galaxy have struggled to deliver a product that convincingly answers any of the above. It’s a geographically and demographically dispersed group of gsnd who have loosely bonded together through the general theme of competitive successes, and the lack of alternative options. This is not the Green Bay Packers, whose fans would sell out Lambeau field for a decade if they staffed the team with musicians and lepers. Indeed, I think most teams whose strategy is predicated on success will ultimately find that that will not sustain the brand nearly as well as a strong and well-aligned community. For example, I’m LAFC, I’m looking seriously at how I can leverage the partnership with USC to develop 18-25 year old fans by giving away vastly discounted seats to these games. Those are ideal fans and a chance to build a lifetime relationship at a very low cost.

    As for DP spending, I would shun the big name, 32+ crowd and see what could be done to make the roster look less like a European “yard sale”. It’s been done, and the results are inconclusive at best. The Beckham deal was great for the team and league at a time when they needed it, but they got the exact right guy (and at an unrepeatedly high price). But I’d avoid any former Euro star with any hint of limited engagement or injury concerns. I’d think Ronaldo is probably “can’t miss” in this way (and his reputation for work rate is unmatched), but he might be the only current Euro star I’d take as a primary DP. Soccer is just a contract sport– Loyalty does not exist among anyone but the die-hard fans. Signing a guy who vanishes in 6 months is exactly the sort of embarrassment LAFC can’t afford. Focus on Homegrown, local, CONCACAF type players, and supplement with well-priced individuals you think can lead the group. Have a couple of .500 seasons and find out what your fans want to see before you binge spend,

    I’d be scanning the ranks of up-and-coming US and Mexican talent, with a huge premium for guys with SoCal roots or connections. Hard to say who that might be in 2018, but you are far better off building team that the fans identify with as “their own”, and augmenting it over time with well-chosen foreign DP’s, than doing an NYCFC job and signing players with minimal thesis about how they will function as a group. That’s just a guess, and when your guess is wrong, you have no salvage value. You have David Villa, who is being held together by duct tape and balsa wood, and won’t impress anybody who isn’t already a knowledgeable fan of global soccer.

    LAFC needs to look at this like Apple vs. Microsoft. Microsoft has a successful product suite that everybody uses and will exist forever. But it is a mature brand with an expectation that relies on a near-monopoly to sell this product to a hardly-passionate group of customers. They haven’t found and communicated a culture that makes their consumers proud Good company, great history, but most people wouldn’t be caught dead lining up around the block for a new Microsoft product they would for an Apple product.

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    1. Thanks Nigel – love this. Brilliant narrative defining what success looks like for this club.

      I agree with you in terms of the sensitivities around how they integrate a DP – i.e. more focus on football as the product akin to Kaka’s impact in Orlando Vs tabloid coverage for being a celebrity. But also baring in mind how the right player can make the difference – like ‘a’ Kaka has. And in the case with L.A., this would be especially so if the signing is made in advance and support is anchored around this for the right reasons.

      This past year has been a long and defining one for the league – following the national team’s success at the World Cup energising and upping the dial on the soccer bug. Taking that fact into consideration and considering that LAFC will launch during the year of the 2018 World Cup finals – the role of the DP, if timed and selected right, can become a very critical one.

      But as you made clear, brand is the machine which drives everything. They need to establish their raison d’être above just being a soccer team – which taps into the cultural fabric of L.A.

      This will be an interesting journey to watch unfold.

      Again – thanks. Love your work; really appreciate your commentary.

      Like

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