With branded shovels at the ready, labourers, politicians, club owners, celebrities, and even the mayor joined with fans of Los Angeles Football Club to celebrate construction on the club’s future $350m home.
Now this day could easily have passed without notice. It was just another day. An announcement would have sufficed. A simple press release would have done. Simply even a Tweet.
But this day has been a long time coming – and while a lot more left to do before a full debut in 2018 – the club made a point of remembering this day with gusto: August 23rd was an occasion, it was an event to be part of, #LAFCStadiumGroundBreaking day.
When the world zigs, zag.
This is a club that recognises making their gestures matter, really matters. So when others may have announced this as something standard or expected, LAFC made a gesture: they turned a start date into a community engagement event.
Let’s not forget this is a club who not only haven’t kicked a ball yet, they are a club without any players. But that doesn’t matter when you have fans. So this is a club laying out its stall for fans to gather for something bigger than the game, to allow them to feel rewarded for, and part of, the journey so far. This is about building a fan base around building a story for Los Angeles.
And you don’t do that conventionally.
You do it around culture.
That is what this is about – uniting a city, around a culture. In this instance, through an event. And it was an event with real ambition; it was a showpiece.
Amplified in the run up to it on Twitter seeding soundbites around the type of things which will set this stadium apart from the rest of them, and what fans can expect from it. On the day itself, appearances from the worlds of entertainment, sport and big business added some vim – in particular, LAFC co-owners, former basketball star Magic Johnson, and actor Will Ferrell playing for the cameras, operating heavy machinery and joining fans to shovel the first mounds of dirt from the ground. All of this going out on Facebook Live. They had bands, they had speeches, they had branded shovels and branded hard-hats, they had merchandise, they had TV cameras.
As far as marketing tactics go, they mastered it: an event, a comedy show, a performance. It was a culture to be a part of.
If you build it, they will come.
And for a club still only an idea back in 2014, they have come a long way.
They clearly studied the type of culture their fans might of wanted to be a part of and then what it is they could provide that would inspire that culture to invite it in. Because without fans, there is no football.
So LAFC operate on the principle that their fans are the originators of this club in whatever form that takes (last year they gave them a voice in the creation of the team’s colours and their identity through an initiative on Twitter; this year, their fans literally help lay the foundations of their future home).
And in doing this? The club have demonstrated there isn’t a limit to the size of the conversation they can have when they show the positive contribution they can make to that culture and invite their fans to actively participate in it with them.