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Volume 21 No. 1

In Depth

Photo by: Getty Images
Photo by: NBAE / Getty Images
Photo by: Ogilvy Public Relations

It’s sometimes about language, often about nationality, and always about culture.
Those themes, and the questions that stem from them, have percolated time and again over the years as we’ve spoken to teams, leagues, networks and sponsors about their efforts to reach U.S. Hispanics. Who better to address them than those who have the most at stake?

In exploring some of the latest ways sports properties navigate the growing Hispanic market, we went to the front lines and looked at four teams — one each from baseball, basketball, football and soccer — in the four major pro sports markets with the highest percentage of Hispanics: Miami (65.7 percent), San Antonio (55.5 percent), Los Angeles (44.5 percent) and Houston (36.3 percent).

We also went inside efforts by sponsors tied to the two sports most often used to target U.S. Hispanics — soccer and boxing.

You will find their stories in the links below. For additional research, click here.

The San Antonio Spurs play in a market that is 55 percent Hispanic. One third of the team’s season-ticket base is Hispanic. About 45 percent of individual game buyers are Hispanic.

Yet the Spurs say they have few marketing initiatives targeted specifically at the Hispanic market, instead incorporating cultural touch points into what they do more broadly.

“In a market where Hispanics are the majority, the way they are here in San Antonio, we almost have to have a general market approach,” said Frank Miceli, senior vice president of marketing and sales for the Spurs. “When we do a media buy in the general market, we’re hitting most of the Hispanic market. So it really comes down to what you do with that message.”

While the Spurs were one of the first NBA teams to broadcast games in Spanish on the radio and broke new ground last year by airing nine games in Spanish on Time Warner Cable, Miceli said the key to the team’s success in reaching Hispanics has been more about theme than language.

Eighty-two percent of the 1 million Hispanics in the San Antonio metro area were born in the U.S., according to census data (see charts). About that same percentage of Hispanics in San Antonio reported speaking English “very well.” About 42 percent speak only English. In contrast, almost half of the Hispanics in metro Houston were born outside the U.S. Of them, 72 percent — about 600,000 — reported speaking English less than “very well.”

Coming off the lockout in 2011, the Spurs sought a message that would help the franchise re-establish a bond with

The team takes part in the NBA’s Noche Latina program, wearing Los Spurs jerseys, but reaches Hispanics primarily through a general market approach, such as a recent 30-second spot that stressed family.
Photo by: NBAE / Getty Images
its fan base. It chose the theme of the “Spurs Family,” airing a 30-second spot that faded in and out of photos featuring fans and the city they call home.

“You are more than fans. You are family,” the spot closed. “Thank you, San Antonio.”

“Hispanics in San Antonio are third and fourth generation,” Miceli said. “Many of them have extended family living within a mile or two of them. It’s a very strong, family-oriented support system. So when you can talk about family, and do it in a way that’s sincere and authentic and aspirational, that’s something that’s going to be well-received in the Hispanic community here.”

The Spurs also have been a part of the NBA’s Noche Latina program since its inception, wearing Los Spurs jerseys and building out Mexican-themed pregame parties and postgame concerts in the courtyard outside AT&T Center. Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, who is from Argentina, typically delivers an on-court thank you to fans before each game.

“It’s an [NBA] initiative that we get behind and it’s great,” Miceli said. “It’s a chance to pay tribute to the Hispanic culture of this community. But, really, we have to go beyond that and address that culture in what we do in the general market.

“Our ‘Spurs Family’ theme has really resonated. Family is so important in the Hispanic market. That, along with the aspirational messaging we weave into it, is what has really connected for us.”

When Maria Duran began her job with the Houston Dynamo two weeks before the team’s first season, her expectation was that the people at games would look a lot like those she saw on the streets and in the supermarkets.

“My personal expectation, because I’m from Houston, was that I’d see maybe 80 percent Hispanics inside the stadium,” said Duran, who heads multicultural grassroots marketing for the team and also manages Dynamo Charities. “And that hasn’t necessarily been the reality here. Depending on the game, yes, it happens. But for the most part that is not what we see.”

Selling Mexico’s national game in a market that is 36 percent Hispanic, and where almost 80 percent of those Hispanics are Mexican, seemed like the sports marketing equivalent of a penalty kick; an easy conversion.

Turns out it’s not so easy.

While Houston is home to 1.6 million Mexicans, many of whom are devout soccer fans, their allegiance to clubs in Mexico often dates back for generations. They are Mexican, but they are also Chivas, or Pachuca, or Cruz Azul. To support another club would be treasonous, or if not treasonous, simply pointless. Living in the U.S. does not mean severing interest in those teams. Games from Liga Mx are readily available across Spanish-language television.

The Dynamo’s pitch to the Mexican-American community found little traction.

“A lot of the first generation [immigrants from Mexico] are the hardest ones to reach,” Duran said. “Ultimately, it comes down to having a conversation with them. We can be at an event and have our signs up and everything else, but they’re not necessarily open to the idea of coming out and supporting because they’re so loyal to their club.”

The Dynamo estimates that about 35 percent of its fans are Hispanic, which is representative of the Houston market.

The team found out quickly that getting Hispanics to buy into U.S. soccer wouldn’t be an easy score.
Photo by: Houston Dynamo
About 70 percent of those are first-generation immigrants, Duran said. However, unlike the broader Houston market, Hispanic Dynamo supporters are more likely to be from Central America, especially Honduras, El Salvador or Guatemala.

“It’s easier for us to reach Central Americans because they don’t have access to soccer like the Mexicans do,” Duran said. “They’re able to adopt the Dynamo much more easily.”

While dwarfed by the population from Mexico, those pockets are large enough to be worth tapping into, Duran said. Recent census data shows metro Houston has 151,320 Salvadorans, 56,860 Hondurans and 41,816 Guatemalans.

“The great thing about Houston is that it’s very diverse,” Duran said. “So while you have a very large Mexican population, you also have a very large Central American population. We try to find ways to tie in the events that we’re promoting to those communities. It’s really very one-on-one, grassroots.”

The Dynamo have made significant in-roads into that Honduran community of late, in large part thanks to last year’s signing of Honduran midfielder Boniek Garcia, who played for the most popular club in Honduras and has earned 83 national team appearances. With Garcia as a drawing card and ambassador, the Dynamo has converted many Houston Hondurans into fans.

“We’re constantly building relationships,” Duran said. “One thing I’ve found, with the Latino community it’s even more important to be present on a steady basis. So we always try to be there at their different events and try to build relationships with community leaders.”

While several prominent Mexican players have crossed over to play in MLS, none have played for Houston. The Dynamo benefits from an important Mexican connection, though. Soccer United Marketing handles both MLS and the Mexican national team. When Mexico plays in Houston, as it has 13 times in the last 10 years, the Dynamo is involved in the promotion, building out ticket offers that include a Dynamo game and marketing the MLS club at the event.

“There is no shortage of support here for the Mexican national team,” said Jon Schuller, senior director of marketing for the Dynamo. “That’s a great opportunity to get in front of that community and remind them that we’re here.”

When the Miami Dolphins consider the Hispanic market in South Florida, they set strategies for two distinct groups: The bilingual, bicultural, mostly Cubano Hispanics who make up the breadbasket of the broader market, and the more diverse recent immigrants who have come from a vast expanse of Central and South America.

“The thing that is so unique about our marketplace is that you can’t use Hispanic as a blanket here,” said Claudia Lezcano, the Dolphins’ chief marketing officer, who joined the team 18 months ago after seven years in advertising and marketing at Burger King. “I am Hispanic. My mother is Mexican. My father is Cuban. And that is somewhat representative of our community.”

Miami not only has the highest percentage of Hispanics of any major U.S. market, it also is the most diverse of any market that is more than one-fourth Hispanic. Mexicans make up 78 percent of the Hispanic population in Los Angeles and Houston, and 91 percent of the Hispanic population in San Antonio. Nationally, about 65 percent of Hispanics are of Mexican descent.

Miami offers a much broader mix. About half of the 1.6 million Hispanics in Miami-Dade County are of Cuban descent, making it, by far, the largest Cuban community in the nation. But that also means that half of Miami-Dade’s Latinos are not Cuban. There are 114,701 Colombians; 105,495 Nicaraguans; more than 50,000 Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Hondurans and Mexicans; and more than 40,000 Venezuelans and Peruvians.

Half of all Cubans in the U.S. live in Miami-Dade or neighboring Broward County. So do one-third of all Nicaraguans and Venezuelans in the U.S., and one-fifth of Colombians. Miami-Dade also is home to the nation’s largest Honduran and Peruvian communities.

“In our market you have two buckets of Hispanics,” Lezcano said. “You have the bilingual, bicultural Hispanic that

The Dolphins created a monthly Football Fiesta that sets up at a Hispanic mall.
Photo by: Miami Dolphins
was born and raised here and has been here for decades. And then you have the recently arrived Hispanic community … and they’re coming to us from South America.

“It has been an interesting journey trying to craft plans that really target that bilingual, bicultural consumer that has been with us for many years, but then introducing the sport of American football to the newer Hispanic arrivals in South Florida.”

To reach more established Hispanics with deeper Miami roots, the Dolphins craft their general market campaigns to be reflective of the community, casting Latinos and including cultural nuances that will connect with them. They also have increased their grassroots efforts, creating a mobile Dolphins Fan Experience unit that brings video games and locker room displays that can be paired with player and cheerleader appearances. Since launching the unit last July, the Dolphins have reached more than 100,000 Hispanic consumers in neighborhoods and at Latino festivals, Lezcano said.

“Rather than waiting for the community to come to us at the stadium, we’re out in the community interacting in meaningful ways,” Lezcano said.

The Dolphins also created a monthly Football Fiesta program meant to appeal to both bicultural Latinos and new arrivals. Set up at a mall where most of the shoppers are Hispanic, the Dolphins put on a 30- to 45-minute program that introduces football in ways that also can be entertaining to existing fans. For example, couples from the audience compete for prizes in challenges, one of which is a contest that requires contestants to put on 15 pieces of a Dolphins uniform.

“We’ve done a lot in the past, but it was sporadic,” Lezcano said. “We have more consistency and continuity year-round now. We’re doing fewer things, but they’re bigger and better and we’re doing them more consistently.”
The Dolphins realize they are not likely to win over many of the new arrivals through NFL football. So they’re approaching them with the sport they’re already most familiar with: soccer.

Last year, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross launched Relevent Sports, a soccer promotions company that will bring the world’s premier club and touring national teams to Sun Life Stadium. It’s the extension of an effort that began in 2011, when a club friendly pitting Chivas de Guadalajara against Barcelona drew 70,080 people.

Relevent Sports brought in Colombia vs. Guatemala in February and Spain vs. Haiti earlier this month. In July, it will bring in a match pitting popular clubs from Colombia and Honduras as part of a two-day Colombian music festival. In August, it’s hosting back-to-back doubleheaders featuring eight of the world’s premier soccer clubs. In addition to those soccer dates, it’s hosting the Venezuelan independence festival.

The driving factor behind the increased menu of soccer and other events popular with Latinos is to fill stadium dates created when the Miami Marlins got their own ballpark, not to grow Dolphins fans. Still, the Dolphins hope to take advantage of that opportunity. Their mobile unit is part of the setup each time they host a soccer match or music festival.

“There are a large number of people coming to the stadium because of the sport of soccer who have never been here before,” said Todd Boyan, senior vice president of operations at Sun Life Stadium. “There are people who have lived here that whole time [since the stadium opened in 1987] and had never been here before. The great opportunity for us is to have people become more and more comfortable with coming here, and hopefully that will translate with respect to their attendance at Miami Dolphins games.”

Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno was the first Mexican-American to own a major pro sports franchise. The club’s vice president of marketing and ticket sales, Robert Alvarado, is a native Southern Californian who happens to be Hispanic.

The Angels have neither a Hispanic marketing department, a Hispanic marketing agency nor a Hispanic marketing plan — even though they play in a city that is 53 percent Hispanic, a county that is 30 percent Hispanic and a metro market that is 44.5 percent Hispanic.

“When you’re talking about the biggest markets in this country, people of Hispanic heritage have become, in essence, the mainstream in those marketplaces,” said Alvarado, who is in his 13th season with the Angels after six years with Coors Brewing Co. “So we tend to look at a lot of the things we do already in our marketing scheme and strategy and say — ‘Hey, what’s scalable?’”

By scalable, Alvarado means that they ask whether a program or tactic will play across both the Hispanic market and the general market, because if it only plays in the general market, it probably won’t be a broader success in today’s Los Angeles market.

“If we do family Sundays, well, that permeates the [Hispanic] culture,” Alvarado said. “I don’t have to layer promotions above and beyond that, because it’s scalable. Or giveaways. Every kid likes a bobblehead. Or a chance to run the bases. Things like that are all scalable.

“We operate in suburbia, in bedroom communities, and we’re surrounded by a lot of the Hispanic population base. Within a 15-mile radius, we pretty much touch 80 percent of the Hispanic population base of Orange County. They’re all around our stadium. So we’re an institution in this market. People are aware of us. They know what we do here. We have a very favorable perception among that demographic here, and we make ourself accessible to them.”

That hasn’t always been the case.

It’s not that Hispanics in Southern California were averse to the Angels. But, sharing a market with the Los Angeles Dodgers and their history with Fernandomania and the iconic voice of Spanish-language radio personality Jaime Jarrin, the Angels were up against a mighty cultural force.

If you were a baseball fan in Southern California, odds are, the Dodgers were your team. About a dozen years ago, the Angels dug into research to assess their standing among Hispanics. They found that they made up 12 percent of their ticket buyers. Today, they make up about 30 percent.

The Angels have gone from drawing 2 million to 2.3 million fans per year to exceeding 3 million each year for the last 10 seasons.

“We strongly feel that a disproportionate amount of our attendance growth has come from that Hispanic base,” Alvarado said. “Now, I will tell you, winning the World Series here [in 2002], everybody likes a winner.

“My guess is that when we started to disproportionately attract Hispanics to our games, when they finally experienced a game here, I think they saw a difference. You know what? I’m seeing more and more of our brown people here. The more I see brown people in the stands, actually having a good time, the higher propensity that I will come back and bring my family and adopt this team on my own.”

Not to be ignored in the swing is the role of Moreno, who bought the club from the Walt Disney Co. in 2003.

“We don’t often talk about it because our owner doesn’t like to talk about it, but that has an influence,” Alvarado said. “It changes perception. It gives off the perception of accessibility. And it’s aspirational. The aspirational aspect of it is huge in that community, without having to say a word.”

Over the last six years, fight fans in Hispanic neighborhoods in the western U.S. and Texas have grown accustomed to seeing Tecate cans featuring the faces of Oscar De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather and others who headlined pay-per-view boxing cards on Mexican holiday weekends.

Beginning this summer, they will see a new lineup of fighters, this time on Corona bottles, and in a far broader distribution.

In mid-August, Corona rolls out a line of bottles featuring six fighters — Miguel Cotto, Bernard Hopkins, Peter Quillin, Erik Morales, Abner Mares and Danny Garcia — that will be included in 18-packs available in 32 states.
Each pack will contain three commemorative bottles. Corona distributor Crown Imports is expected to produce at least 300,000 cases, distributed primarily to Hispanic accounts. The promotion runs at retail through October.

It will be the first major in-store promotion run by Crown since it signed on as a sponsor of Golden Boy Promotions last year.

While Corona has sponsored boxing in both Mexico and the U.S. for years, most of its stateside buys have been primarily brand plays: A logo on the center of the ring for televised fights. Corona has sponsored ESPN’s “Friday Night Fights” since 2011 and has been on the mat on many fights on premium cable. This is the first time Corona will build a retail promotion around boxing.

It’s also an example of how boxing’s new front-line sponsor is adapting the tactics that worked for Tecate in the sport to fit its brand and its strategies.

“Tecate was a great partner that did things in boxing that really nobody else was doing, but they really started to focus on only four states,” said Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions. “Corona has the ability to activate in 50 states, which gives us potentially a far bigger reach.

“As they activate more and more, it’s going to be a monster.”

While built to climax on Mexican Independence weekend (Fiestas Patrias), when Mayweather is scheduled to face

Bottles featuring fighters will be distributed primarily to Corona's Hispanic accounts.
Mexican star Canelo Alvarez at the MGM Grand, the promotion also will tie to Hispanic heritage month, meaning it could align with Cotto’s next fight. Though it hasn’t been locked down yet, Golden Boy is holding Sept. 24 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn in the hopes of making a deal with Cotto.

“The fight that’s going to happen in mid-September is the launching pad, just a beginning,” said John Alvarado, senior director of brand marketing for Crown Imports. “We wanted to have an idea that had legs across September and October. What’s a longer lasting idea that’s not just tied to the fight? That’s where we came up with the idea for this special package that not only allows us to merchandise Corona and the fighters but also tap into the cultural pride that’s taking place during this time period.”

Corona positions itself as a premium beer, so it wanted to highlight its bottles, rather than cans. It will use a shrink-wrapping process that it used with success last year on bottles featuring Mexican soccer clubs.

Interestingly, the promotion will not include the two fighters featured in Golden Boy’s Sept. 14 pay-per-view.
Alvarez would have been a no-brainer, but at age 22, he is three years too young to appear in advertising under U.S. beer industry guidelines. Mayweather had no interest in appearing on the bottles, boxing sources said.

The fighters Corona did get offer a diverse cross-section that will play beyond the Western, Mexican-centric states that Tecate targeted with its retail promotions — Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada.

There are two Mexicans: Morales, in the twilight of a career that included title belts in four weight classes; and Mares, a Mexican Olympian who has won titles in three weight classes in three years.

There are two Puerto Ricans: Cotto, an icon; and Garcia, who is unbeaten and on track to take over Cotto’s mantle as the island’s favorite son.

And there are two African-Americans: Hopkins, who at age 48 makes history each time he defends his light heavyweight championship; and Quillin, a New York fighter who has been exciting in the ring and charismatic outside of it.

“We’ve built the program from the ground up, [asking] our distribution partners to identify where they thought it could do well in terms of our consumer base,” Alvarado said. “So we expect it to primarily be sold within Hispanic accounts. But given the fact that it also has multicultural boxers on it, we do see it having an impact across the broader market.”

Tecate proved over the years that its program did not require a Mexican fighter in order to move cases in the Hispanic market. Its largest production run came the last time it did cans, in May 2011. Those featured Pacquiao and Shane Mosley.

“Corona can make this a national program in a way that Tecate never could, or had reason to,” said Loretta Lucero, president of Los Angeles-based Touch Point Marketing, an event marketing agency that has worked on boxing activation with both Tecate and Corona. “Tecate is very targeted. Corona is going to use this program to really go after that holiday with Mexican consumers, but they also can take it to the East Coast and make it even bigger.”

You couldn’t craft a more obvious brand connection than that between the most-watched sports property on Spanish-language television and the motor oil brand that has made it the centerpiece of its Hispanic marketing program in the U.S.

The Mexican national soccer team is linked so synonymously with the green, white and red of its flag that it is known simply, and globally, as El Tri. Just so happens that those same colors, in the identical shade and hue, make up the Castrol logo.

“When we’re doing premiums with the Mexican team, it’s totally Castrol and they love the shirts and hats we give out,” said Tracy Drelich, associate manager of promotions and sponsorship at BP Lubricants USA, which owns Castrol. “It truly flies the Mexican colors. … We’re giving things away that are Castrol green and red, but also Mexico’s green and red.”

Castrol began sponsoring the Mexican national team during the run-up to the World Cup in 2010, attracted by the opportunity to activate during the team’s wildly popular U.S. tour, which typically draws upward of 50,000 fans for each of its five annual dates. That initial negotiation led to a broader deal that also includes sponsorship of the U.S. national team and an MLS league deal. Last year, the brand signed a three-year extension on all three properties that runs through 2014.

One of the lures for brands that sponsor the U.S. tour is a position at the Futbol Fiesta, a 100,000-plus-square-foot entertainment area that attracts tens of thousands of fans before each game.

Castrol also owns FIFA rights, putting it in position to work its connection to Mexico in the U.S. through the

When the Mexican national soccer team tours the U.S., Castrol activates around the accompanying Futbol Fiesta entertainment area, offering T-shirts and interactive elements to fans prior to the match.
Photo by: Ogilvy Public Relations
upcoming 2014 World Cup in Brazil. It began accenting that on this year’s tour, with a Road to Brazil section of its area at Futbol Fiesta, giving away green, Castrol-branded T-shirts that have a large red 14 on the back. Fans who complete a survey have their name entered into a nickname generator, which spits out a Brazilian soccer name, which is then imprinted on the back of the shirt. Castrol distributed more than 1,000 shirts at each of the last two tour stops, Drelich said.

Castrol does pregame activations around all three of its state-side soccer properties. The one with the Mexican team generates the largest crowds and most excitement, Drelich said.

“It just comes out of the culture,” Drelich said. “Mexican national team fans are used to coming out to the game a few hours earlier and having a fiesta and being part of these activities.”

Castrol also activates the sponsorship through retail promotions. Last month, it brought retired Mexican national team star Ramon Ramirez to an event at an Advance Auto Parts store in San Antonio where it gave away Castrol-branded mini soccer balls with a purchase of Castrol GTX, the high-mileage lubricant that is the target of most of Castrol’s Hispanic efforts. The company’s research shows that U.S. Hispanics keep their vehicles longer than the general market and that they place great importance on their reliability.

Castrol also uses the sponsorship in conjunction with quick-lube chains. A promotion it ran in 2011 offered customers who selected Castrol their choice of a free jersey of the Mexican or U.S. national teams, or an MLS club.
“Our key customers are coming to Castrol to help them execute Hispanic programming,” Drelich said. “It tells you something when a key account comes to you over your competitor, looking to leverage what you have.”