San Diego Loyal SC Collaborate with Local Residents to Build its Identity, & Capture The Hearts And Minds of San Diego

Market Research Case Study for Sports Sector
Client: San Diego Loyal SC
Category: Professional Sports and Entertainment
(New product/category exploration)

The Business Issue

The United Soccer League (USL) was expanding into the San Diego market – a market with a rocky relationship with professional sports franchises over the years. The objective was to establish the club with intentional authenticity in every element of the franchise’s development; this meant building both an authentic brand and a strong local San Diego area following for the team and the USL itself. The most immediate challenge was building out the brand’s ethos and personality, including all factors that would contribute to a passionate and communal fanbase. With these guideposts, San Diego Loyal SC was born in late 2019.

In conjunction with Red Door Interactive, the USLSD team partnered with Stitch Marketing Research to understand the challenges of bringing a new professional soccer organization to San Diego and determine what it would take to create a loyal, diverse, and inclusive soccer community, on and off the pitch.

The Techniques

Stitch developed a comprehensive in-person qualitative research approach via roundtable discussions with core target audiences. The framework for this approach included:

  • Identifying the drivers of professional sports fandom in San Diego

  • Specifically, identifying drivers of interest in professional men’s soccer in San Diego

  • Determining the factors of fandom that can be impacted and activated by a new USL franchise.

  • Understanding what minimum and hope-to-have elements of a new professional men’s soccer
    experience should be satisfied with the launch.of the franchise and the inaugural season.

  • Evaluating potential directions for USL the franchise ethos/brand platform.

SD Loyal

The Results


Through thousands of hours of conversations — from listening sessions to surveys to one-on-one interviews, San Diegans told us what they love about San Diego and what they want from a soccer club. Working with Stitch, the USLSD team came away with certainty that the team needed to show up “of San Diego” which affected all areas of the brand. The name — San Diego Loyal — shows 100% commitment to San Diego with a focus on being 100% “of the future” of San Diego. The research also showed the importance of sourcing players that had San Diego connections, developing community programs (while sensitive to the clubs that already exist), and creating a supporters club, a separate entity in leadership, financing and function. Their goal is to strengthen and provide a culture of inclusion and a world class supporter’s community. Research also contributed inspiration to the naming process for the club – “SD Loyal” speaks to that core ethos that the team is more than just entertainment – it is a club and community of, for and by San Diegans.