Angel City Wants to Break the Mold for Women’s Professional Soccer

Powerhouse ownership and leadership are thinking big

Angel City investors Uzo Aduba, Jessica Chastain, Eva Longoria, Natalie Portman and Jennifer Garner
From left: Angel City investors Uzo Aduba, Jessica Chastain, Eva Longoria, Natalie Portman and Jennifer Garner at a USWNT match supporting the team joining the Time's Up movement. Getty Images

Key insights:

Perhaps inexplicably, the highest level of American professional women’s soccer, the NWSL, didn’t have a team in Southern California. The eight-team league is in major markets like Chicago and New York; Portland’s franchise draws north of 20,000 fans per game in a 25,000-seat stadium.

However, sunny, soccer-crazed Los Angeles, with two men’s teams in Major League Soccer, had yet to form a franchise. Late last month, Los Angeles was finally awarded an NWSL franchise to great fanfare—though not for the team, but its ownership group.

Dubbed Angel City, it’s backed by a massive list of entertainment A-listers, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. Prominent figures include Natalie Portman, venture capitalist Kara Nortman, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, Serena Williams, Uzo Aduba, Jessica Chastain, Eva Longoria, Jennifer Garner and Lilly Singh.

Additionally, several members of the 1999 Women’s World Cup-winning team, largely credited with raising the exposure of women’s soccer in the U.S., have ownership stakes. Another owner, media and gaming entrepreneur Julie Uhrman, serves as president of the organization.

To help market the team, Angel City, which will begin playing in 2022, named Battery, R/GA and Plural as its partners. Plural was tasked with social content and support of the launch, while R/GA will focus on social strategy and community engagement. For its part, Battery had the heaviest lift, leading the naming and brand design.

Visually, Angel City’s brand is simple, clean and impactful. According to Battery creative director Andrea Schneider, the goal was to be forward-looking in all aspects. Naming, often a tricky proposition, was particularly interesting as overtly using the city’s name could feel somewhat constricting.

“We wanted a name that we could fill with meaning,” Schneider said. “Angel City immediately conjures up Los Angeles, but it’s also something that one could create a mythology around. It’s also optimistic, in that this is a place where dreamers can turn into creators.”

The simple visuals are an impactful anchor, but also don’t lock the franchise into a pathway that’s difficult to adjust or modify if needed. With that in mind, Schneider characterized the approach as “keeping things orderly” and more of “a system that’s loose enough that we can turn things around quickly,” echoing the entrepreneurial feel of the organization and its ownership group.

Bigger than a game

Over the past several years, brands and marketers began seeing great value in supporting the game, increasing investment and making connections with highly engaged fan bases.

Additionally, players’ profiles continue to rise with the likes of Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach (also an owner) in the spotlight more frequently, promoting the sport and important causes. According to Uhrman, that acceleration and scope of attention fits the Angel City brand, which she said will serve as more of a platform where, as she put it, “soccer is an expression.”

Julie Uhrman, founder and president, Angel City

“We approached Angel City from the beginning as bigger than a game,” Uhrman added. “We believe that we can put an excellent product on the field and be champions off of it with how we engage with the community with, for example, our work with the LA84 Foundation to use sport to address social injustice in Black and brown communities and really become part of the fabric of L.A.”

Addressing the diverse ownership group, Uhrman noted that it was intentional to include those with sports, media and entertainment backgrounds.

“This is a city of stories,” she said. “And we have every intention of telling the stories of these players, the history of soccer and the city. But we also need to win on the field, and that’s where great legacies begin.”

According to Julie Foudy, a member of the 1999 World Cup-winning team and one of the leading voices of soccer in America, getting some of the trailblazers of the sport to join the ownership group was an easy sell. After discussions with Uhrman for months, Foudy aggregated a list of players to contact.

“Within a day, all of them wanted to know where to send the check,” she said.

@zanger Doug Zanger is a senior editor, agencies at Adweek, focusing on creativity and agencies.
Publish date: August 5, 2020 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT