Christen Press is Angel City's first official signing (Photo courtesy of Angel City FC)

Angel City Football Club is teaming up with Ritual, the Los Angeles-based personal health brand which will serve as the club’s official protein through the 2024 season. 

The sponsorship is the first-ever for Ritual. For Angel City, it’s another unique partnership the expansion club has secured ahead of its debut NWSL season in 2022. 

According to Jess Smith, Angel City’s Head of Revenue, it all started with a phone call between the two California neighbors earlier this year.

“We had reached out as a LA-based company and just said, ‘Hey, we just want to get to know you,’” Smith says. “Then they were the ones that said, ‘Hey… we’re actually coming out with a protein product.’ That’s when it got super interesting.”

Launched in 2016, Ritual first made a name for itself as an online retailer of multivitamins and nutritional supplements for women. Earlier this year, the company announced a new protein powder called Ritual Essential Protein. 

Because Angel City won’t just be repping the brand but also using Ritual’s products in their training and recovery, an extra level of diligence was needed to ensure that the protein would positively impact player performance. 

“Anytime you can find high-quality products that are going to help serve our players, that’s very exciting,” says Angela Hucles Mangano, Angel City’s Vice President of Player Development and Operations.

“[It was important] from a brand and business perspective to have alignment there, but ultimately this is something that we want to be able to put in our locker rooms and be something that’s utilized by high-performing athletes.”

Angel City players will be using Ritual’s Essential Protein Daily Shake as part of their everyday training. The plant-based shake contains 20 grams of sustainably-sourced pea protein, as well as key essential micro and macro nutrients. 

“With the launch of our new traceable plant-based protein, we set out to challenge an industry and create a product that could both hold up to the standards that a professional athlete demands while also supporting people in their everyday routine,” says Katarina Schneider, Ritual’s Founder and CEO, in a release. 

“This partnership brings that mission to life.”

As with all Angel City partnerships, 10 percent of the sponsorship revenue will go toward a local cause. In this case, the recipient is Food Forward, a nonprofit organization bringing fresh surplus fruits and vegetables to people experiencing food insecurity in South California and tribal lands in Arizona and New Mexico. 

According to Smith: “[We asked ourselves], how do we focus on food recovery and how do we focus on making sure we’re utilizing the food that’s available in our local community?”

“Wanting to give back and serve has always been a part of our DNA at Angel City,” adds Hucles Mangano.

Angel City previously announced DoorDash as its front-of-kit sponsor in a partnership that will bring an estimated 250,000 meals to those in need. Another deal with Heineken likewise funneled 10 percent of revenue to the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

The club’s unique approach to partnerships is part of a broader mission to both re-define what it means to be a sports franchise and set the standard for a women’s soccer club. 

Because of its outspoken ambitions and aspirational vision — as well its various high-profile investors (including Natalie Portman, Serena Williams, Mia Hamm and many others) — Angel City FC finds itself in a unique and perhaps unprecedented position: Despite having yet to play a game in the NWSL, the club is already being considered a model franchise for its community engagement and big-picture mindset. 

It’s a position Smith embraces, acknowledging that Angel City is “not just another sports property.” 

“We’re a brand built on purpose,” she says. “We were derived from Natalie Portman having really honest conversations in the marketplace about how to make sure we’re doing our part to push [women’s soccer] forward for the athletes, teams and leagues.”

To Smith, part of pushing the sport forward means signing big-name sponsors to bring them into the space. Smith knows the interest (and money) is there. Now it’s about showing the rest of the world.

“Us generating this type of revenue, us having this type of partner portfolio that competes with the men’s teams — it shows leagues across the world, regardless of sport, that with the right plan and the right vision and purpose, the brand support is there. The consumers are there,” she says.

“People are watching and paying attention, and then we are actually able to make it actionable.”

The flurry of sponsorship activity speaks to the strength of the Angel City brand, its backers and its location in L.A., and comes even as the club has only one official player: USWNT star Christen Press, who was acquired from Racing Louisville FC in August.

Angel City will add more players in December during the expansion draft alongside fellow upstart San Diego NWSL. In the meantime, Freya Coombe has signed on to be the club’s first head coach. 

Hucles Mangano says it’s been “fast and furious” since she arrived in June with the draft on the horizon. A former professional player herself, Hucles Mangano won two Olympic gold medals with the USWNT and was also a founding investor with Angel City before stepping into the front office. Her focus, at the moment, is getting training facilities and equipment prepared while also ironing out internal processes and building club chemistry with the coaches and staff who are already in L.A.

Both Hucles Mangano and Smith know it’s a whole new era once the team takes the pitch. But that hasn’t stopped them or Angel City from wanting to change the game now.

In her role overseeing player development, Hucles Mangano is determined to create a holistic program that addresses players’ health both on and off the field. This involves not only partnering with nutrition companies like Ritual, but also building career development initiatives to help players capitalize on their platform. 

As proof of just how comprehensive her approach is, Hucles Mangano is already creating processes to help players transition out of the sport when they decide to retire.

All of it, Hucles Mangano says, is geared toward equipping players with the necessary tool box for them and the club to succeed.

“I liken it to when one part of the spoke is a little bit broken, or a little bit off — it affects the turning of that wheel,” Hucles Mangano says.

For Smith, the focus remains on creating innovative partnerships with big-name brands who are looking to invest in women’s sports. Angel City may currently be making a name for itself with its forward-thinking sponsorships, but Smith knows that fans’ attention will soon shift to the pitch. 

“Nobody even knew what our brand was two months ago,” she says. “Now we’re like, oh yeah, by the way, here’s Christen Press. And we’re also going to play incredible soccer. But in the meantime, here’s all the other things we’ve done.”

Smith believes those other things, including this Ritual partnership, will not only benefit Angel City but also open the door to greater investment across the NWSL. 

“Until someone’s done it, unfortunately, people don’t know it can be done,” Smith says. “The ‘see it, be it’ [idea] is at a different level with our organization. And I know a lot of us take pride in continuing that everyday.”