In terms of a brief history – in October 2014, after ten years of operation, Major League Soccer club Chivas U.S.A. ceased operations, and one month later the league announced a new Los Angeles-based successor would be taking their place.
Now, almost a full year since Los Angeles Football Club announced their intensions as a club (but still three years from taking the field as an actual team), the working-title-named LAFC confirmed they would be taking the name permanently.
“This is our Club, and with our voices we will build this Club together”
As this opening line of a letter sent to fans who had reserved a season ticket for the inaugural 2018 season shows, the club have decided they will be built hand-in-hand with their supporters.
They have eschewed the customary approach to club construction and are hanging their future on an audience who have been raised in an America where soccer is ubiquitous: millennials.
We are for the “millennials”
It feels natural to capture this cachet of the L.A. population.
By their definition, they are those born between the early 1980s and 2000s at a time when soccer was beginning to make its mark on the sporting landscape.
But today, soccer’s popularity and participation is growing, and reflected most amongst this millennial contingent by the fact they are 16% more interested in soccer than any other demographic in the U.S.
But it needs to be noted that the millennial crowd are sophisticated and more socially aware, influential and mindful of the World around us, and the one we bequeath to others – they are not going to be fooled by a football club trying to be a brand. So while it makes sense to target them, it needs to be done with authenticity.
“The design aesthetic”
And so, this is how they will capture them, apparently.
An interesting write-up appeared in the LA Times (http://www.latimes.com/sports/soccer/la-sp-la-football-club-20150915-story.html) pitching Rich Orosco as the marketing character behind this millennial strategy and looking to build a story for LAFC greater than just soccer.
This story will centre on a ‘design aestetic’ which he says involves forging to-be-determined relationships amongst the music, art, and fashion World so that fans can associate with something that is bigger than the game – a tough task for any brand, let alone a soccer one.
But it is a sound strategy. Brands today need to be invited into culture and they’re more likely to be permitted entry if they look like they’ll positively contribute in some way.
And the club have already made a step in this direction with an initiative they rolled out recently giving fans a voice in the creation of their team colours and identity through Twitter.
Football, not soccer
So, Los Angeles has another football club, but not the kind of football club Los Angeles (or America) tend to be used to. Which means there could be something in the semantics.
This is a team which will play in a country who labels the sport ‘soccer’, in a league with ‘soccer’ in its title, yet they have chosen to call themselves a ‘football club’.
But as Jason Davis of The Best Soccer Show said (http://nasn.tv/category/the-best-soccer-show/), “Los Angeles isn’t a typical sports town. Soccer isn’t a typical American sport”.
Firstly, L.A. is an entertainment town where image is everything. It is a city built on perception where how you look is almost as important as what you do.
With the name, they seem to have the former locked down. Now onto the latter, amongst other things.