What: The Association soccer league has created a new, athletics-based way of networking in Los Angeles.
Why it matters: Big brands like SpaceX and Beats by Dre are already on board in this opportunity for multicultural connections in the diverse Los Angeles market.

Successful sports marketing, especially around the fast-growing business of soccer in the United States, is all about networking, seizing opportunities and the converge of events.

Meet The Association soccer league.

Billed as a place where soccer and culture meet, and partially coordinated by colleague Mario Flores (@LatinoSportsGuyat Sportivo, The Association recently launched in Los Angeles with teams made up of colleagues at a wide variety of brands, ranging from SpaceX (@SpaceX), and Beats by Dre (@beatsbydre), to Red Bull (@redbull) and Jason Markk (@jason_markk). “The Association is not just about soccer. In fact, I think the games play a secondary role in this unique experience. It’s like a social environment where soccer games happen to be going on,” Flores said. “For brands, the opportunity to connect with a truly multicultural audience exists in only a few places like Thursday nights in Los Angeles at The Association.”

Each brand gets a chance to host and tell the latest and greatest, and then take to the pitch for some five-on-five competitive soccer.

Supported by Adidas (@adidas), El Jimador (@ElJimadorand Kia (@Kia), games are played Thursday evenings with every week curated by a participating brand. A DJ lends the soundtrack to the evening while teams play on concrete fields enclosed by pallets that serve as fencing; night-club-style lighting lends a unique ambiance. Games are free to attend and open to all ages.

The five versus five influencer soccer league was built around merging street soccer, art, music, and fashion in a 10-week season at the Adidas soccer L.A. Base, a futsal-style warehouse in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles.

The goal is simple: have a curated group of like-minded individuals come together to talk about what they are doing to build their networks and see if there are common areas of collaboration. Each brand gets a chance to host and tell the latest and greatest, and then take to the pitch for some five-on-five competitive soccer.

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While scores are kept, the real unique value are the potential scores for brand building and networking, with a collaborative passion around soccer and a drive for some cutting-edge business development. Now social networks around curated leagues have existed for years; some of the biggest deals on Wall Street have been forged in highly competitive hoops games in places like Basketball City (@BasketballCity), and pickup soccer leagues have sprung up in urban areas pulling together a unique group of passionate players whose skills extend beyond a field and into entrepreneurship. However, The Association being invitation only with a core of disruptive brands is a little different.

While we didn’t get a chance to attend this time out in LA, it is an idea that can have some very interesting upsides as sports, pop culture, entrepreneurship and art continue to converge, this time on a soccer pitch.

It’s a new type of competitive networking which goes beyond drinks and snacks. While it may not be for everyone, for an engaged group it is certainly something to watch. Let’s see how it plays out not just in final scores, but in some unique collaborative business ideas down the road.

Cover Image: courtesy The Association

Joe Favorito has over 32 years of strategic communications/marketing, business development and public relations expertise in sports, entertainment, brand building, media training, television, athletic administration and business. The Brooklyn, New York native has managed the day-to- day activities in strategic communications for: Two of the world’s hallmark sports and entertainment brands (the New York Knickerbockers and Philadelphia 76ers), the world’s largest professional sport for women (the WTA Tour), the world’s largest sports National Governing Body (the United States Tennis Association) and the world’s largest annual sporting event (the US Open). He also oversaw the strategic planning, investor relations, communications and digital business development of the International Fight League during its two year run as a Mixed Martial Arts venture and a publicly traded company. Favorito serves on the boards of the Weinstein Carnegie Group, New York Sports Venture Capital, the National Sports Marketing Network, the Drexel University Sports Business program, and Columbia University’s Sports Management program (where he is an instructor in Strategic Communications and Director of Industry Relations). Joe also maintains a well trafficked blog on the sports marketing and publicity field, “Sports Marketing and PR Roundup,” on the website joefavorito.com, as well authoring the first- ever text on the sports publicity industry (“Sports Publicity” published in August 2007 by Reed Elsevier and updated in 2012 by Taylor Publishing with a third printing coming in 2018), which is used in over 60 sports management programs in the U.S. He has been a guest speaker on sports marketing, social media and communications at a host of institutions, including Princeton University, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, the University of Florida Law School, New York University, the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and many others. He is also a frequent spokesperson on the industry for publications ranging from Ad Age and The New York Times to NPR and CBS News. A graduate of Fordham University, Joe, his wife and two children reside in River Vale, New Jersey.

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