Some of the best sports matches are when your favorite team lines up against their biggest rivals. I am talking Yankees v Red Sox, Lakers v Celtics, LA Galaxy v LA Football Club. Wait, what? Galaxy v LAFC? Two MLS teams? Well, actually, only one MLS team. LAFC hasn’t played a game of soccer yet and wont until 2018, when they finally join the MLS. So how could a club that hasn’t played soccer yet already have a rival? Recently some LAFC supporters have started trying to build brand awareness for their soon-to-be local club. Their chosen strategy? Create a vicious rivalry with LA Galaxy by starting a graffiti war!
This whole scandal started when a mysterious group of LAFC supporters vandalized a billboard advertising their city counterparts, stealing the corner from it as their prize. They then posted their spoils on a newly created Instagram that was quickly deleted. Since then, several other billboards across the LA have fallen victim. Not to be outdone, Galaxy fans responded by attacking a mural advertising LAFC, defacing it and painting on the Galaxy logo.
The rivalry really kicked off at the first meeting between teams from the two clubs – LAFC U12 v LA Galaxy U12. Probably overwhelmed by the opportunity to actually watch a team from their club play, LAFC fans descended on the game, bringing flares and drums to create a once-in-a-lifetime atmosphere (and tension) for their young players.
This rivalry has been a huge success for the LAFC brand as a whole. Though many rightfully question how a club that hasn’t played any games yet can have a rival, overall the press surrounding these recent stunts has helped put LAFC on the map and add to the excitement already brewing around the team.
Putting hooliganism aside for a moment, overall LAFC has done an incredible job in developing their brand strategy despite having no long esteemed tradition to step off of, and no actual soccer being played.
Key to this is their social content, which perfectly reflects the brand identity they are trying to create and engagingly reaches out to their target audience. A commonly used caption on Instagram is “Street by street, block by block, one by one,” evoking the image of a community building together. The accompanying pictures mirror this, with warm shots of local neighborhoods often used.
LAFC clearly knows they can’t build a large dedicated fan base overnight, and instead is starting off by trying to create a hub of intense support. Their content’s tone is consistent across their channels with their voice having heart (a word also used a lot in recent posts) and appearing genuine. Thanks to this social content and a new stadium currently being built, the excitement around LAFC continues growing, with a family of 16,000 supporters already passionate about a team that does not even exist yet.
The message coming from social media is also being reflected by club president Tom Penn, who in a recent interview said, “We’re more about just authentically representing our brand and delivering in our promise. And then we’re very community-focused, in trying to create the local campfire that everyone wants to come gather around and arm-in-arm sing songs around. Sounds a little hokey, but it’s true.”
With a strong, committed and ever-growing fan base, a new state of the art stadium being built in the heart of LA and now a local rivalry that can hopefully match the greats, LAFC has set the standards on how to build and develop a brand from scratch.