What if you could turn the concept of localization on its head and use a distinctly foreign culture and language to make a local product look even cooler? Sounds far fetched and counter-intuitive? Well, it’s exactly the kind of reverse-localization tactic the trail blazers at the Los Angeles Chargers seem to have pulled off.
Most will agree the release of a 17-game football schedule, four months before the start of an NFL season, is not the most exciting marketing material. It’s understandable that in the middle of the spring, while there are no games, social media teams can be desperate to keep relevant. It’s therefore even more amazing that the Los Angeles Chargers not only came up with relevant content, they also showed us that localization can be used in delightfully unexpected ways.
Over the last decade there has been a noticeable increase in the popularity of anime which has a particularly high appeal for young demographics. Up until now, however, this trend primarily only translated into corporate communication campaigns in Japan. The LA Chargers, however, found a way to also harness this artform and create a powerful American marketing campaign.
Last week, they released their traditional May schedule announcement in an anime video spoken and narrated exclusively in Japanese. With references to popular Japanese series like Attack on Titan, Food Wars, mecha anime, and appearances by One Piece, Naruto and the American series Avatar, the southern California outfit managed to embrace and connect Japanese culture to America’s number-one sport.
Of course, there likely is also an element of traditional smart marketing involved with this campaign. According to Statista as of October 2020, about 67,500 Japanese residents live in Los Angeles. Los Angeles therefore has the highest number of Japanese inhabitants among cities outside of Japan. In the same year, the United States was also by far the country with the highest number of Japanese residents.
Judging by the reactions on Twitter, the Chargers initiative has yielded an overwhelmingly positive response from sports broadcasting greats like Ian Rapoport and Pat McAfee to rival Kansas City WR Juju Smith-Schuster. The social media team under the direction of Jason Lavine has done a remarkable job of combining sports, culture, and language into an effective campaign.
Note: This post has been edited to clarify that Avatar: The Last Airbender is an American series.