SBJ/April 3 - 9, 2006/World Congress Of Sports

Finding the path to Hispanic fans

The changing face of the U.S. market

Soccer has long been perceived as the sport that garners the most affinity among Latinos, but it’s baseball that is best positioned to reach the Spanish-speaking market, a panel of sports marketers said.

Bank of America’s Cathy Bessant, A-B’s Peter
McLoughlin (center) and Taco Bell’s Bill Pearce
“Baseball is still the quintessential American sport,” said Richard O’Leary, MasterCard account director at McCann Worldgroup. “When you think about a lot of ethnic groups, whether it’s Hispanic or another one, there’s an affiliation with something that’s distinctly American and also appealing to your ethnicity. That’s going to be a huge asset for MLB to leverage.”

Bill Pearce, chief marketing officer at Taco Bell, added that the passion shown by teams during last month’s World Baseball Classic illustrated its ability to reach a diverse audience. “For that event,” he said, “to have that much credibility coming out of the gate for the first time was truly amazing.”

The U.S. Hispanic population rose to 41.4 million in 2004, making it 14.1 percent of the entire population. To tap into that market as Hispanic youths grow older, marketers including Peter McLoughlin, vice president of corporate media at Anheuser-Busch, plan to use platforms outside of standard, Spanish-speaking channels such as Univision.

This year, Anheuser-Busch considers its package with ABC and ESPN for the FIFA World Cup part of its Latino plan because of Hispanics’ strong soccer affinity, McLoughlin said.

Pearce said Taco Bell has a similar strategy. “We look at it from the standpoint of who has the most affinity for the sport,” he said. “Your idea of buying English-language to reach Hispanics is spot-on because you can get both.”

Though Hispanics may represent the fastest-growing market segment, the aging baby boomer generation possesses 50 percent of the nation’s disposable income, said Becky Saeger, chief marketing officer at Charles Schwab.

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