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Volume 21 No. 2
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Spurs use cultural touch points to hit mark

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.”