This Lincoln Heights Warehouse Transforms Into A Free DJ'd Soccer League Thursday Nights
Los Angeles has become a bit of a soccer hotbed, with two professional teams calling it home. Soccer league "The Association" is trying to expand the sport's audience in a different way, hosting four games each Thursday night for free in a Lincoln Heights warehouse.
The events are accompanied by free tacos and drinks (including free beer), as well as a DJ spinning music while you get your soccer party on. The games take place on two courts, with the first round starting at 8:30 p.m. and another at 9:30.
How is all this free stuff possible? The answer: corporate branded sponsorship.
The games are sponsored as a whole by Adidas, and each of the league's teams represent a different brand, from Beats by Dre to SpaceX.
And with all the brand involvement, it took a year and a half to get it all off the ground.
"It didn't take a lot of thinking, it just took a lot of time," the Association's Curtis Brown said. "Because when you deal with these big brands, they have a slow timeline."
Now the Associatoin is in their second season, with a 10-week season currently in progress. Giving the sponsored games some added legitimacy, there are even teams representing pros like the L.A. Galaxy and the L.A. Football Club — though the players are more office employees, less soccer stars.
"Our wish is that every player on the team is directly affiliated," Brown said. "Now the reality has been that it's very hard to do that with the way these companies work, people being out of town."
To balance that out, the teams in the each of the five-on-five co-ed games also include one social media influencer. The league bills itself as "a soccer league built for creatives and tastemakers."
They learned some lessons from the first season.
Lesson 1: It might not be the best idea to leave each week's entertainment up to the brands.
"In season one, we allowed the brands to curate their own night," the Association's Ben Hooper said. "Honestly, some did a better job of it than others. This season, we're curating that space in the middle in between the two fields."
The Association features different curated entertainment each week, such as a turntable battle, photo and art exhibitions, and an upcoming street art battle presented by Secret Walls. They even offered haircuts at a recent event.
Brown comes from a background in basketball, but wants to help people fall in love with soccer using the Association.
"The highlight for me is when I have people come up that haven't ever experienced this before," Brown said," and they're just like, 'Man, this is like a basketball thing, but for soccer.'"
Hooper's background is in soccer.
"When I have people that are in the soccer world come up and say, 'Man, we always hoped we would see something like this exist,' and it makes them that much more proud to be a part of the soccer community — that's been a very fulfilling part of this whole process," he said.
They also added some new teams this season, including bringing on some to represent the local major league soccer teams. They've even had some professional players from the Galaxy attend their events, Hooper said.
According to the Association, they have between 350 and 400 attendees each week (though Hooper noted that many of the attendees are friends of the players or the brands).
"Honestly, it kind of feels like a good cross-section of what L.A. looks like," Hooper said.
It's a fairly even male-female split, Hooper said, with a younger crowd and some older people who also come through. They're hoping that more people will come check it out in person.
"When you see it on social... people are like, 'Yo, this is really cool,'" Brown said. "But I mean, 'cool' — does 'cool' really draw people out of their homes?"
Hooper thinks it does.
"If you think it looks cool, come out and experience it," Hooper said. "Once you do that, you're hooked. No question."
Week 4's games are Thursday night. You can come out to see the games at the Base L.A. in Lincoln Heights on Thursday nights through June 23, with the festivities taking place from 8 to 11 p.m.