Two organizations prove that a business can prompt social action through judicious wielding of its distinctive brand. Representatives of the organizations shared missions and actions in a virtual event hosted by Grant Thornton. “Our objective,” said Deborah Newman
, Grant Thornton’s National Media and Entertainment practice leader, “was to shine a light on how these two organizations are changing our world one step at a time, creating social change, which is so very important during these unprecedented times we are living in.”
Los Angeles Football Club
is a Major League Soccer team that kicked off in 2018 and began using the game as a ”force for good.” The club provides a platform for people’s voices to be heard and to encourage them to take action in their communities for causes important to them. It also actively engages Los Angeles youth by training at-risk high school students to organize and coach year-round soccer programs. LAFC is not only a community-minded organization, but also a winning team that has managed to capture the hearts of Los Angeleans in a short window, selling out every home match going into their third season in 2020.
is a leading media company that was founded in 2004 by Jeff Skoll, based on his mission of inspiring audiences to engage in positive social change through storytelling. The organization builds awareness of vital issues by bridging the gap between art and activism. Participant has produced numerous well-received, award-winning content including Spotlight, American Factory, Roma
and When They See Us
Executives from the two organizations described how they use their brands to give their customers a voice and support for social change. Both are involving fans and audiences in an immediate national concern — voting.
Inspiring voting activism
LAFC’s website features detailed voting information including how to register, key dates and candidates. Participant’s website features partnerships to end gerrymandering, with an interactive map showing effects in individual states. Additionally, Participant released the movie John Lewis: Good Trouble,
an inspiring movie that explores 60-plus years of social activism and legislative action, as well as the importance of voting rights.
Rich Orosco, LAFC Executive Vice President of Brand & Community
“We had an opportunity to be a sports team in LA that's known for being a force for good. Our approach is we're very clear about our identity within the community and beyond sports. From day one, we packed the stadium. But what was next? How do we make a real impact? If we truly are a force for good in LA, how are we going to provide a platform for people to have a voice?
"We went deep within the voting platform to holistically tackle it from our end and be a service to the community."
– Rish Orosco
Executive Vice President
Brand & Community
Los Angeles Football Club
“In supporting the voting message, we're taking a whole new depth to it. Our stadium is a polling location; we're going to encourage all of our fans to go to the home they haven't been able to visit [due to the pandemic], and vote. And we're providing paid time off for staff to be poll workers at our location.
“[In addition], we're partnering with voter registration groups, Reclaim Our Vote, LeBron James’ More Than a Vote, and Rally the Vote. We’ve said to outside organizations: ‘You're up to good. How do we amplify your message with our platform and through our community?’ Adidas is a key partner of ours, they're providing ‘LAFC Vote’ t-shirts to staff and players. A big gamers event we're going to support is a nonprofit called Gamers.Vote. There's also Golden Group, which in a number of venues around the country is going to showcase exclusive voting artwork. We're going to be promoting visuals that promote voting and making sure our fan base knows about them. We went deep within the voting platform to holistically tackle it from our end and be a service to the community.”
Jim Hu, Participant Senior Vice President of Strategy and Business Development
The founder of Participant, Hu said, believes that “a story, well told, can really change the world.”
"There is an element of trying to get people out to vote and be active, to build the American utopia we all want — an inclusive country."
– Jim Hu
Senior Vice President of Strategy
and Business Development
“Voting is a key part of what we're doing on the social impact side. Voting is fundamental and core to a lot of our library of content, and so critical in 2020. We packaged a number of our film releases this year and consolidated them around driving people toward registering to vote, getting more information about where to vote, and making it easier for people to rally around getting out to vote. One film was a documentary called Slay the Dragon,
about the issue of gerrymandering. Spike Lee’s American Utopia
premiered in October 2020. It’s a documentary, a celebration of music, multiculturalism and plurality, but there is an element of trying to get people out to vote and be active, to build the American utopia we all want — an inclusive country.
“Within our company, we are giving people time to volunteer around voting efforts, and a volunteer day that's paid. The day of the election, everyone has committed to having no meetings that day, and we're encouraging people to volunteer at a poll or another type of organization.
“It’s a timely moment in our nation's history for organizations to start to have a conversation around how we get more involved, especially around voting, and have authentic conversations to get people to think more about ways to change the social fabric of the country.”
Standing out from the competition: Brand and strategy
Deborah Newman, Grant Thornton National leader of Media and Entertainment
“Both of you are involved with brand and strategy business development at your organizations. How do you compete in such a crowded marketplace with so many film and sports companies? We are living in unprecedented times right now, and companies have had to learn how to engage with their customers and “fans” in different ways; what is your organization doing to engage them in a meaningful way?”
Jim Hu, Participant
“We bring both film and episodic short form into the market and to our audiences, to give people the ability to find their pathway to take action, and give leaders the tools, with our content, to help them spread awareness or create pathways for people to create change in the world.
“We felt this is the right time to give organizations the tools to use storytelling as a way to bring employees closer, to start to explore their experiences and how they identify themselves in the world.”
– Jim Hu, Participant
“We felt this is the right time to give organizations the tools to use storytelling as a way to bring employees closer, to start to explore their experiences and how they identify themselves in the world amidst all the things happening on the outside. But having that conversation internally is hard. How do you begin to understand and evolve your culture, and build that level of empathy among your employee base, around their experience, and how does that translate into what you've got to do as a company?
“Whatever we can do to help in terms of using storytelling as a way to foster those conversations and that exploration within organizations, that's an important part of what we want to be doing more of in the future.”
Rich Orosco, LAFC
“You have to be really clear about your purpose as an organization. The hardest thing is to stay consistent with it, especially as you grow.
“You have to be really clear about your purpose as an organization. The hardest thing is to stay consistent with it, especially as you grow.”
– Rich Orosco, LAFC
“Every single new employee, staff member and player had to be shared what we are about in our identity. We had to onboard them about what our purpose was. We've been consistent about what we're about and who we are, and that's what creates the word of mouth that this team and this organization and this club and this community stand for something.”
Jim Hu, Participant
“It's critical to have an organization that stands for something. The younger generation of consumers engages in brands that believe in something. Having your values front and center is admirable in terms of your values and what your purpose is, and what your consistent promise is.
“We're so divided right now, and there's a yearning for cross-silo conversation. We don't have the ability of having one-to-one conversation with our fans directly through our content. Instead, we use our social impact as a way to have those conversations. We use our content as a way to give organizations, leaders and activists a storytelling tool to begin to mobilize their constituents, start conversations, begin the hard work of confronting some of these broader issues, and start to do stuff.”
Rich Orosco, LAFC
“Number one, be courageous in who you are and what you're about. If you're courageous with your product and authentic about what you've produced, and everybody's proud about the product, keep doing it, and keep being who you are, and stay consistent. The magic, no matter what company or organization or business you're in, is to have that courage to take a stand. With so many consumer choices these days in any business, it's important to make a real impact with people and to have people become your ambassadors.”
As these two executives have shown, an organization can stretch beyond its core business activities to bring together employees, fans and other constituents, and engage with them to effect both immediate and longer-term social change.
Is your company interested in or already inspiring social change? Reach out to Deborah Newman for information about future events. In addition, sign up to receive media and entertainment events, thought leadership and industry updates.
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