Oh, the Los Angeles Chargers. The NFL team that no one really wants. On the first edition of The Fix-It Files, I take a look at this franchise and come up with the best solutions to fix their biggest problem: RELEVANCE.
The Chargers are one of two National Football League teams in Los Angeles. However, they may, at best, be the the 8th most popular NFL team in the southern California area. I would say 1st through 7th consist of: Rams, Raiders, 49ers, Cowboys, Packers, Broncos, and Steelers (and probably in that order).
Now In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm a Los Angeles Rams man. The Chargers are my 5th favorite team (behind the Rams, Bills, Buccaneers, and Ravens), because when L.A. didn't have any football teams, the San Diego Chargers were the geographically closest to me, so... proximity allegiances kick in.
Back to overall popularity, in a region that has no less than 10 professional teams in a multitude of sports, the Chargers bring up the rear. The stank of irrelevance is upon them.
How did we get here? Well, a doctoral dissertation can be written on this sordid backstory (and many wonderful pieces have been written about it), but in a nutshell, the Chargers wanted a new stadium in San Diego with the city pitching in sizable chunk of change. San Diego voters said no, so owner Dean Spanos said, "Deuces... we outta here!" Standard professional sports owner power play. However, the Chargers sort of shot themselves in the foot here, because they left the only town that loved them (who now feel rightfully jilted), and came to a town that was in NO WAY clamoring for them to come. Seriously, there was no demand for this.
When the Rams moved back from St. Louis, they were regularly selling out 78,000 seats at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Meanwhile, the Chargers were playing their home games in the 27,000 seat Dignity Health Sports Park (the home of my beloved LA Galaxy), and in almost every game at the "Diggity," the visiting team had more fans in the stands than the Chargers did. How bad was it? The most recurring commentary on this situation was that the Chargers were the only team to be playing 16 away games. During the Steelers game, the Chargers stadium crewed inadvertently played the Steelers songs over the PA (look it up).
This year, SoFi Stadium opened and is clearly the most hyperbolically spectacular sports stadium in the history of man. Both the Rams and Chargers moved in as its joint tenants. However, while it is being billed that they are partners in this venture, the fact is that Rams owner Stan Kroenke paid for this place out of his pocket. The general sentiment is that this palace is the Rams' place, and the Chargers are crashing on the couch for now.
But let's not stray too far off from what The Fix-It Files are about. We're not here to linger on the past, but to examine what the Los Angeles Chargers can do, right here right now, to win the hearts and minds of the citizens of this fair city, and truly make themselves a valued part of Los Angeles.
Before we go any further, let's dispense with the idea of owner Dean Spanos selling the team, and/or the team being forced to move back to San Diego. The Chargers are in Los Angeles now, so I'm just looking at what they can do to improve their fortunes here?
The Fix-It Files for the Los Angeles Chargers consist of five easy solutions (ok, four easy, one moderately difficult) to take control of the narrative, get their public image on the right track, and become... relevant.
5) Physical Stores to Push MerchandiseIf you walk into any store that sells sports apparel in the Los Angeles area, like Dick's Sporting Goods or Macy's, you will be hard pressed to find Chargers shwag. There might be a rack in the corner, but not much of a selection. It is going to be hard for fans to fly your flag, if they can't even find a flag... metaphorically speaking.
How to solve this problem? Open official Chargers stores in malls.
This isn't even an original idea. If you find yourself at Universal CityWalk, you will find both the Dodgers Clubhouse store and The Raider Image store, owned by their respective franchises. That's right. The Raiders don't even live in this state anymore and have a dedicated store here. I remember seeing more of them when the Raiders called L.A. home for a bit, but not so much now.
The Dodgers opened Dodgers Clubhouse stores at CityWalk, Hollywood & Highland, and The Shops at Montebello.
For the Chargers, as their headquarters are located in Costa Mesa in neighboring Orange County, California, they should open dedicated Chargers shops in South Coast Plaza in Santa Ana, as well as at Fashion Island in Newport Beach. Obviously, the question is: are their enough fans to sustain such shops? Maybe not, but any good marketing shill will tell you that you have to actively put your product in front of consumers. Having physical stores (in areas where you believed your fans were) could create the fans you need to sustain these stores... and the team.
With this easy solution, the Chargers get to control the narrative on how some of their merchandise (and their message) gets to the people in a captive setting.
4) Make the Team PersonalQuick! Name five Chargers. I'll spot you one: Justin Herbert. Anything?
Before the next season rolls around, the Chargers need to focus their advertising on their players. The fans need to know who they are really cheering for. It can be as simple as billboards with a player's unhelmeted face and their name emblazoned across the background. Joey Bosa, Austin Ekeler, Keenen Allen, Joshua Kelley. Make them famous to the common man in Los Angeles!
These billboards need to be everywhere: on sides of buses, on high-rises along Sunset Blvd., in the paper, etc.
Right now, I am seeing ads on television for the Chargers, but they are hyping the new stadium, which no one can go to. You know... Rona.
Charger fans who actively follow the team obviously know who their players are, but apparently, there aren't many of those fans. The Chargers should tell the stories of their players to build that rapport with the general public.
With this easy solution, the Chargers plants the seeds of connection with the public, by humanizing the team, making it personal and more human. And the Chargers need all the connections they can get.
3) A Supporters SectionThis is a very soccer thing, but they are all the rage now. Imagine a group of "ultras" behind one of the end zones who stand, sing, and chant for the entire game to lift their team's spirits, while unnerving the opponents. Major League Soccer has seen the growth of supporters groups in almost every franchise, and when you watch a soccer broadcast (when fans are in the stands) you hear a lot of coordinated noise which builds atmosphere and creates a true "home field advantage." The Chargers needs this, if simply to prove they have fans (pardon any harshness).
Truth be told, there are a couple of examples of something similar in the National Football League. The Raiders had "The Black Hole" up in Oakland (which I'm sure will resurface in a post-Covid Las Vegas), and the Browns have the "Dawg Pound" in Cleveland. They are exact facsimiles of the soccer supporters group, but as people outside those cities know of them, I would call them effective.
I honestly believe that are enough Charger ultra-fans that would come together and help create a rollicking atmosphere and help prevent the 16 away game situation. I know I'm getting ahead of myself, but can you imagine a Chargers tifo being unfurled behind one of the end zones? For this to work though, the Chargers have to help them out. Team leadership should definitely consult with the LA Galaxy and LAFC to see how they work with their supporter groups to keep the place rocking and festive.
There are no greater ambassadors for your team than your supporters groups. Trust me. Easy solution.
2) A MascotDo they Chargers have a mascot? I had to Google that, and I'm not sure I found a definitive answer. It doesn't look like Boltman came with them from San Diego, but he always gave me the vibe of a beer mascot anyway (like Duff Man.... oh yeah!).
Nonetheless, the Chargers need a mascot. Cute, cuddly, and a hit with the kids (which will lead to increased merchandise sales... what... I know how the sausage gets made).
Look at some of the local mascots: Cozmo for the Galaxy, Rampage for the Rams, and Bailey for the Kings. These mascots are beloved parts of the teams, because even though players come and go, the mascots are always there (honestly, I have considered getting a Kings jersey, but with Bailey's name and number as opposed to a player, because Bailey is forever).
Did you know that Bailey had a rivalry with CM Punk of all people? That's good wholesome fun that everyone can get on board with.
But what should the Chargers mascot be?
Having used a horse in their logo before, do they go with a horse mascot (being the 3rd NFL to do so)?
Do they do what the NBA's LA Clippers did and go with a mascot based on location; in their case, Chuck the California Condor?
Do the Chargers pull a Gritty?
In any event, having a mascot is a must. Any community event? Mascot. Visits to a children's hospital? Mascot. Fun videos on Instagram and TikTok? Mascot.
I mentioned promoting the players to humanize the team, but when you need an identity and a face of a franchise... MASCOT! Such an easy solution. Seriously, if they have any questions, the Chargers should ask their roommate, Rampage, for help.
1) Win. Often.Ah. The big solution. The Fix-It Files best solution for the Chargers to obtain relevance. (the previous four solutions were easy - this is the moderately difficult one I mentioned). In order for the Chargers to truly establish themselves in the Los Angeles sports landscape, they must win Super Bowls. Multiple Super Bowls.
Look at the New England Patriots. For the first 40 years of their existence (before their dynasty began in 2001), they were pathetic also-rans who only touched relevance by getting their hats handed to them by the Bears in Super Bowl XX. Then in the 20 years that followed, they rattled off 6 titles in 9 Super Bowl appearances. Even if they stumble again for a prolonged period of time, their legacy is secured, and they will always be part of the football conversation. Case in point......
Look at the Dallas Cowboys. They have won five Super Bowls in eight tries in a span of 25 years. However, the Cowboys haven't won one since 1995. To put it in perspective, the franchise went through their first 10 years as struggling newbies, then had a quarter century of success, and then another quarter century of fails. Yet, their insufferable fans will always ask, "How 'bout dem Cowboys?!?!" The Cowboys rise to prominence has kept them relevant despite not winning anything in this millennium.
You don't have to be consistently good, but you do have to dominate for a bit in order to gain and maintain relevance. The Chargers must win several Super Bowls to truly own this town, and to insert themselves permanently into the national conversation. That's the best solution to the Chargers problem. This is THE FIX.
When the Chargers first came to Los Angeles, their tagline was "Fight for L.A." It fell flat, because it didn't resonate with the fans. What they really should have said was that they were going to "Work for L.A." Ideally, the Chargers organization should implement some, if not all of these fixes, for if they truly wish to make Los Angeles their own, they are going to have to work for it.
P.S. To the Chargers, all these ideas are free of charge. Use them and find success. You're welcome.
Thanks for visiting. Love, Demosthenes Spiropoulos