NWSL club Angel City FC made quite a splash when it came on the scene in 2020. Although much of the buzz surrounding the team was due to its roster of celebrity owners, sports marketers also took note of a unique component of the expansion franchise’s corporate partnership program.
Ten percent of the revenue from each ACFC sponsorship is directed to meeting a need in the Los Angeles community. For example, the club’s newest Founding Partner and exclusive mass market auto manufacturer, Chevrolet, will provide funds to transport at least 100 fans to every home game next season. The club’s other partners—including DoorDash, Birdies, Klarna and more than 20 other brands—have all made similar commitments.
While making the community benefit a requirement of each sponsorship has received much attention—including speculation about whether other rights holders will follow ACFC’s lead—the club’s initiative is about much more than how partnership agreements are structured and what prospective sponsors will agree to.
The model is indicative of the importance for both brands and properties of using sponsorship to make definitive statements about who they are and what they stand for. Partnerships have become a primary way to make values explicit and communicate them authentically through highly visible and relevant actions.
Most importantly, ACFC is among a handful of rights holders that are taking the lead in ensuring their sponsors activate their partnerships effectively and achieve corporate social responsibility goals.
Consider the background to the Chevy/ACFC community program. ACFC first identified that “transportation is one of the key barriers to access faced by large swaths of our LA community,” said Catherine Dávila, the club’s head of community, in the press release announcing the sponsorship. ACFC then teamed with “impact partners”—local organizations serving youth and families in traditionally underserved areas of the city—to help implement the program.
The end result is a turnkey program for the automaker to be a local hero by ensuring a minimum of 100 community members will attend each home match, free of charge, with full transportation provided to and from the stadium.
The club’s proactive approach is not limited to the community investment program. ACFC also will create “Cruisin’ LA,” a five-part content series featuring the team and players, produce match day “Drive-Up” content, and a “surprise-and-delight parking benefit for limited and select fans at home matches.”
By providing more than standard sponsorship inventory and benefits, ACFC is living up to the expectations of an increasing number of brands that property partners will take an active role in ensuring that partnerships are engaging and meaningful to fans and deliver value to all parties involved.