&ASIAN x Angel City FC: Sitting Down With Creative Producer John D. Aguon

&ASIAN got the chance to delve into the mind of Angel City FC's John D. Aguon as he talks to us about women's football in the USA, developing Los Angeles' first National Women's Soccer League team, and how the club connects with the community.
Behind the scenes at Angel City FC. Photos provided by John D. Aguon. For more of his work, go to Audio producer: Joa Siqi Yang.
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&ASIAN x Angel City FC: Sitting Down With Creative Producer John D. Aguon
A transcript for the audio can be found below the audio player.

My name is John Aguon. I'm a creative producer at Angel City FC. And my life, if I could sum up the blurb, I would say I like to tell stories and I like to be creative in my life and live it. And so, in order to tell those stories, you have to go experience those things in life and I think that's what I love to do, is go experience life and be able to tell the stories of others and tell people stories of myself. So yeah, I think that's where I would start.

I feel like everybody who calls themselves a storyteller or who calls themselves a creative in some way, all have a very individual journey that has got them to that point where they take ownership where they're like, "Yeah, I am a creative person. I'm a writer and I create things."

What's your journey? How did you get to this point? 

I always kind of had this imposter syndrome that I was like, not that person. So up until recently, I really have figured that out. And I think it's just by having these life experiences and putting myself into a position where I can tell these stories really confidently. 

So on your website there is a video where – of course, you work for Angel City FC, like you mentioned and we will get into that later  – but there is such a wonderful video with these young female soccer players.

I watched it on loop like two or three times and what stood out to me was how it is so full of hope. I feel like that's something that Angel City FC is trying to put out there.

I was curious, is there a story behind when you were creating that little video?

That's Ava and Olivia [Penn], they're twins and they're amazing. The way I approach these videos is like, I don't want to just tell the story of somebody who, like little girls who just want to play soccer, I really want to get into why, you know, what really motivates them? And instead of approaching it like anybody would, I really just sit down and have a moment with them and talk to them and get to know them outside of like the producer questions that I would normally ask them.

So, I spent like 15 minutes prior to the interview just talking to them and their parents and what they like to do and why they like to do it without having them be on camera. So, that's the way I like to approach these things. I like to get to know these people outside of the story that we were trying to put on camera, you know, like on video. I challenged myself to tell the story that nobody gets to see, and to really feel what they're trying to tell the audience; what they're trying to achieve. 

I don't know if that really sums that up, but I really do approach all of these stories – anything that I work on – that's a narrative of like, what are people not seeing that I want them to see. I wanted to show that these girls really do have this competitive relationship, but also are very different, but also love soccer.

What does the day to day look like for you? How if you had to break down what your average day – work day – would be like, how does it look?

At Angel City there's like a thousand things that we're doing all the time. My work day in Angel City is pretty eventful, I would say. I have a great team led by Jen Pransky who's our Head of Content, and we're always... like every week is new. We're always doing, trying to figure out the story that we're going to tell that week or the social media posts that we're trying to get out that week, but we have to do that weeks in advance or else we're already behind.

We're constantly working. Since I started last May, I've worked weekends, I've worked holidays, we're constantly moving because we all really do love this thing that we're building, right? In order to do it, you have to have content, so I came on as a producer. But, normally I shoot video, I shoot photos, and I edit these all together.

A lot of the stuff that you see on social media is stuff that I've put my fingerprints on. My days are very busy, you know? Like right now, I'm thinking about what we're doing next week, but I'm also trying to get things done that we need to get done today, that kind of thing. So it's just constantly moving. It's never a dull moment for sure.

You have some amazing names on board in both the investors' team and the actual squad and that coaching team.

It's a massive deal what you guys are doing and I was so astounded by how big your kit unveiling campaign (in 2021) was.

Can you tell me a little bit about your involvement with that and what that's been like?

We spent a lot of time prior to the kit launching, devising a plan about how we wanted to showcase this to our audience. We thought that community was very important. We wanted to showcase people in our community, but we also wanted to be notable with our investors. We wanted people like Natalie [Portman] and Eva Longoria to be a part of it. But also, like I said, having people like our supporter groups and people like Renata Simril, who is part of the LA84 Foundation, we just wanted people from LA and all different types of people [to be] part of this campaign. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out what that would look like, and our creative director, Amedea [Tassinari], was really interested in this 360-video campaign.

We wanted to show every element of the sponsors and the design, so we decided to shoot this 360-video, which you saw on our social media, where it sort of rotates around our jersey and all the different people in the jersey – wearing the jersey – like you can see the Birdies' logo, you can see the Sprouts' logo, and all the cool elements of the design. I think that was a big focus. 

We wanted to show our audience and our supporters that we put a lot of thought into every element of the kit. We didn't post this publicly, but we had a supporter group reveal where we showed a select – I think there was about 300 of them – and we brought them into the room and showed them each the jersey. We had groups of 15 come in and they all just sort of reacted like we thought they would and that it was really cool. 

But yeah, so things like that, you know, we wanted to make sure it was community driven, as far as our campaign went. We wanted to involve these really strong notable faces – people like Natalie Portman and Jennifer Garner, and our soccer investors like Julie Foudy and Cobi Jones – we wanted to showcase these people so that people really recognize the importance of this jersey.

I've been working for Angel City since the inception, and when you see all the iterations and all the things that our designers and our front [office], like Julie Uhrman, all the stuff that they put into coming up with why this jersey means something, [it's] just like... I think it's so hard to explain to people that it's not just a jersey, it's much more than that, you know? Between the crest, all the specific sponsors that we have, and our little tagline "Volemos", which means ‘to take flight’ in Spanish, they're all so subtle, but at the same time, it means a lot.

With your job and with social media being basically a global platform, interacting with people around the world, seeing what their responses are like, what has that been like for you; putting your content out there and seeing different people from different walks of life interact with it in different ways? 

What's interesting about soccer is the intense fandom that comes with it and it's not just local... It's not just [in] LA that people care. It's people in Brazil, I'll look in our mentions and there's Portuguese being dropped in about our player being signed, or like people from Mexico. And it's just amazing that you can see not only women, but men, and all different types of people from everywhere in the world, liking our stuff and resonating with our content and our team and I think that's an interesting thing too.

Yeah, for sure. I mean, so for me, I always say I was a Manchester United fan from birth. My entire family is Manchester United. They are such a big team in the UK and globally, so I grew up watching them.

I think you're totally right, though, that soccer is one of those sports that people will live and die for, and they will rearrange their entire weekly schedules around watching a game or going to an away match. 

And yet, for a game that kind of transcends boundaries, the inclusivity in terms of gender… it's been actually really kind of late in coming. For you, seeing and being such an important part of the development of a new women's football team in as big a city as LA, what has that journey been like for you?

When Julie Uhrman asked me to work here, I honestly didn't understand… I always thought that women's soccer was huge and here's why: I grew up with Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, and Abby Wambach. In the US, like US Soccer, to me, has always been the women. And I guess it's different, right? When you're in the UK, like yourself, where like you guys have Robbie Kea… not Robbie Keane, wrong person. But you have other soccer players that you idolize, and most of them are men. For me, it was all women. So I always came to it thinking that it was a very equal sport.

When it comes to gender, that being said, I've seen LA resonate with the fact that we are building women's soccer in the same way that we tried to do in 1999 – or the world tried to do in 1999 – when the women played in the World Cup. So it's the continuation of that story. Here in LA, we've sort of grasped that, between the LAFC and Galaxy teams. They're like, "Okay, we need women to represent us," and I truly think that that's what we're doing here and the fans are really catching on to it.

When creating a campaign for Angel City FC, what things do you think of, that a team that is male dominated or male centric, might not have to think about?

So that's a great question. Prior to working at Angel City, I worked at a MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) company called Bellator. And one of the big lessons I learned – Scott Coker, the president of the company – he was so known for building women's MMA by building up Ronda Rousey. And one thing that he told me that always stuck with me is, I used to call Ronda Rousey "The woman's bantamweight champion.” He's like, "No, just just call her the bantamweight champion, because the minute you emphasize 'woman', you create this divide." 

For me, as a male, I try to approach everything that we do, as equals. I don't want to show something that you wouldn't show in a male sport, like, we're going to show the whole thing we're gonna we're gonna show it like we would if they were male soccer players. I think that's strategic on our end where we can, you know... we want to show the world that these women are equals. 

Absolutely and something I'm super interested in as well is, the more and more globalized we get, the more we want to try… or, I think a lot of different sports governing bodies want to try and showcase their sport in countries that wouldn't necessarily have done so before.

So that might be, you know, the World Cup being hosted in Qatar, Formula One races are going to like new tracks around the world all the time. And what sometimes comes with that is, I guess, cultural clash; where there might be things going on in other countries that don't necessarily align with, say, the values of the Western, or I guess… the countries that the sport might originate from.

Given you create content that you know is going to go out to people around the world - and I'm sure you have to be really careful about that kind of stuff as well - I'd love your take on how we can still be responsible with sports as we keep globalizing? 

Well, I mean that's a loaded question too, because there's a lot of elements to it, right? So like, in the US, not everybody's for gay rights. And so when you think about that, you think about what we do at Angel City, one of our big communities is the gay community. We don't shy away from telling those stories, because we think it's important to talk about. 

Say we were going to another country, and people had an issue with the fact that we support gay marriage, or gay rights, or any of that ;I think it's important as a human being to voice these things and not shy away from [them]. That being said, like yes, you have to be careful at certain things. We're very careful at the things that we put out, but I think it's important to use the platform that you're on, especially [with] something like Angel City. Otherwise, you're just perpetuating the issues that we have in the world.

Big agree and I think something I've really enjoyed about your campaigns in general is that… LA is obviously such a diverse melting pot of a city, there are so many little... I guess, subgroups and subcultures that exist and have really made a home in LA, and you've spent the time to really raise a light or at least showcase and give space to a lot of those different communities.

It must be so hard to make sure that you give time and recognition to all these different groups and identities? How have you managed to do that?

That's a good question. We've actually spent a lot of time in our community. And we have a great community team led by Catherine Dávila and Nicole Moreno, but the entire Angel City [FC team], we are aware that LA is very diverse, and has all these different subsets of types of people. And we want to speak to all of them, because, you know, we hope to see them [at] our games, right? So in order to do that, you have to connect with them. And like I said, our community, we spent a lot of time dissecting all the different types of people like we, as a content team, like we try to be diverse in the stuff that we put out.

It's hard because like you said, there's so many different types of people, right? And some people might go like, "You know, I'm from Guam”... there's no Guam Day, right? To answer your questions, the people in our community team talk to people in the community to try to figure out what's important to them [the community]. And we, as a team, we are very tapped into, like, what's going on in the world; like, who could use the help of our platform.

Social media is great, because it gives you access to so much, but it's also a pain, because it gives you access to so much that it's hard to [know where to] begin.

How do you stay in touch and know that you're getting in touch with the right things around the world?

Yeah, that's a tough one. I think it comes from having a good collective team, right? We hire people who have this ingrained in them, because we have no time to teach somebody to care about the world, right? We look for people who already are passionate about changing the world. our social team, we have people who care about these things and I'm already watching and looking for content that I think would resonate with all the different types of people. We are headed by Jennifer Pransky, who's one of the more aware of people that you would meet. 

We set ourselves up in the beginning by hiring good people to think about these things already. So that's what I would say, if anybody was trying to replicate this, don't hire people who just like are good at the job, hire the people who are good at the job and just care. And like, want to do these things, because [it] will show in the work that is being put out.

I'm sure you could think of a million answers to this questions, but where do you hope to see ACFC [go in the future]?

The obvious answer is like, you know, you definitely want to see them like succeeding. It's great. But I would love to see, like, I'd love to be walking… maybe I'm like, just on the street somewhere and some little girl is like, or a little boy is wearing an Angel City kit and is like trying to show his dad some moves… or I want it to be on a TV show like, I don't want it to be just what we're trying to do here locally, I want it to be worldwide. I want it to resonate past the sports world and be part of pop culture. That's where I hope Angel City would be in 10 years. 

I talked about how Julie Uhrman asked me if I wanted to work for this team, and I didn't know what I'd expect; I always wanted to, like I told you before I wanted to be a director, to be a writer or whatever. I didn't know that I had this attachment. When you work at a company like Angel City, inherently, you become a fan, right? I've worked for this company for almost like, you know, going on two years.  This is a part of me. You know, like I want to see this thing grow. it's like a little baby. I want to see it become like this super successful thing. And whether I'm with the team in 10 years, or not like this will be something I'll always remember and always want them to succeed. 

For people who will be hearing about ACFC for the first time, what would you want to tell them in terms of what Angel City is trying to do, but also what they've already done in terms of being a force for change? What would you like people to know?

We're not just a soccer team. Like, we're not just a women's soccer team. We're a group of people who really care, and we want to change the world. It's easy for me to say, right, but I can tell you right now, like everybody whether it's the you know, the social team, or the ops team, or the people who are working for the soccer team, for the soccer field, or pitch or whatever… everybody cares.

Then it permeates into the city, right? And so what I can say is Angel City is not just here to be a women’s soccer team and win a couple championships, we're here to change the world. Then hopefully — that sounds very ambitious — but honestly, I think we can.

Do you see this kind of force for change happening in other sports? Do you see it moving at different paces in other sports? What's your take on that?

I do. Actually, I do think that there's — especially here in America — I do think that there's a force for change. I think that there's a lot of people in the front office thinking about their fans and what the team means to the fans. I do think that some leagues [are] faster than others, like you can see like, in basketball, there's a lot of crossover with the WNBA [Women’s National Basketball Association] nowadays, right? Like you see, like Candace Parker in the in the game, NBA 2K, and things like that. Yeah, I would say it's moving. Things are happening. But I wouldn't say it's happening as fast as we want them to.

A lot of our readers are from the Asian continent as well. When it comes to making sure that you tap into the Asian audience, and of course, soccer is huge over there, as well as other things that you think about, in particular, to make sure that you connect with the Asian American community or the Asian community around the world?

Definitely. I think it starts though, here, local in LA, like supporting the Filipino American society, the Korean American societies, you know, Japanese, Chinese, everyone, I think. We've done a lot of cool things in the community, [by] doing that from the onset, but I do think we could do a better job.

I would love to spend more time trying to understand Asian soccer fandom, right? I think that's probably our next step. Right now, it's really just spending time in the community. But as far as thinking forward, eventually, we will spend more time, especially if we have more Asian players. I think it'll just sort of evolve in its own way.

For all our younger readers that might be inspired - whether that's through what Angel City is doing or through what you're doing as a creative, as a writer, as a producer - what message would you like to leave them with? What would you like to tell them?

Don't let anybody tell you, "no, you can't do it." I know that's like such a cliche thing, right, but it's true! I think it's one of the things that I've always ended up [doing]. Don't let anybody tell you not to do it… and that includes yourself. Because it's something I struggle with, telling myself that I can't. But you can, and you just have to go and do it.

John D. Aguon can be found on his website here. Tickets to watch Angel City FC play are available here.