Chargers fans: Mission accomplished. After weeks of negotiation and intrigue, Jim Harbaugh is the officially new head coach of the LA Chargers. Harbaugh was the hottest head coaching candidate in 2024, having won the latest NCAA Championship with the Michigan Wolverines, and currently having a 44-19-1 NFL record in 3 years of coaching the San Francisco 49ers, whom he led to three consecutive NFC Championship Games and Super Bowl XLVII. Harbaugh is famous for changing team cultures, taking them from decline to success and competing for championships.
This is what we expect Jim Harbaugh to accomplish. Having had one of the best rosters over the last 10 years (under former general manager Tom Telesco), the Chargers underachieved, making the playoffs only 3 times in that timeframe.
A lack of experienced, proven coaches was the main issue, and Brandon Staley was the latest example of this philosophy, having spent only a year as a Defensive Coordinator in the NFL. Harbaugh is expected to maximize QB Justin Herbert's potential, and lead the Chargers to strong seasons due to his leadership, winning record, and experience.
However, the Chargers will not only benefit from his hiring on the football side, especially in a league as successful and business-oriented as the NFL.
Jim Harbaugh will make the Chargers a relevant brand in LA
Bringing together both a star head coach and quarterback (and other star players on the current roster), the spectacular SoFi Stadium and the new facilities in El Segundo, make the Chargers an attractive product within the Los Angeles and Southern California markets. Fox Sports analyst Colin Cowherd is right in that LA is a very "distracted" city, and that its residents do not care about a losing franchise. Just like in Miami, where I live, sports compete against other sources of entertainment, such as the beach, nightlife, casinos, and concerts.
On the other hand, as you can see in the tweet below from The Herd, almost every franchise in Los Angeles has been more successful than the Chargers. The clearest, most perfect example is the Rams, who recently won a Super Bowl, and whom they share a stadium with.
The Chargers also compete with huge sports brands like the Lakers and LeBron James, the Dodgers and Shohei Ohtani (and the rest of their stars), and even today with the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC), who were the 2022 MLS Cup champions and 2023 runner-ups.
Jim Harbaugh will make the Chargers a relevant NFL franchise
The new LA/Southern California sentiment will show in different ways and will bring positive financial results for the Spanos family and the franchise as a whole. As of now, according to the Los Angeles Times and Survey Monkey, 26% of Los Angeles residents are Rams fans, and only 5% root for the Chargers, Raiders, 49ers, and Cowboys, combined.
That survey shows the current margin between the two Los Angeles teams. From now on, the Chargers will sell more season-ticket memberships, and raise the price of these and single-game tickets. Chargers fans' demand for tickets will also increase, and opposing team fans will outbid us no more. New fans and those reinvigorated by Harbaugh's arrival will not only buy more game tickets, but also team jerseys and apparel.
Finally, the Chargers will become a more popular team if they become a Super Bowl contender under Harbaugh. That will not only be reflected in the amount of time the media talks about the Chargers, but also in the number of new fans.
Interestingly enough, according to Samford University's Keegan Sullivan, the Chargers were the second team with the fewest fans in 2022, only above the Jacksonville Jaguars, so they can only look up in the ranking. Last but not least, the teams whose fanbases grew the most from 2017-22 were the Buccaneers, the Chiefs and the Rams, who had these two things in common: 1) they were successful (each winning a Super Bowl and 2) they had star players in key positions.
Jim Harbaugh's hiring excites fans like never before, as it could mark a crucial point in franchise history, where we could witness a growing popularity both locally and nationally. Although Harbaugh has done it before, it remains to be seen if he can turn the team around in 2024, or if he needs more seasons to turn the Chargers into Super Bowl contenders.