Hispanic Sports Marketing in 2016: Key Players Tell You What to Expect
Portada speaks with some of the key players in multicultural sports marketing to gather insights on their goals and priorities for 2016. Views and forecasts from leaders at Tecate, Amtrak, Elemento, TeamWorks Media, GLR, Fox and AC&M Group.
By Gretchen Gardner
The growing Hispanic market has become increasingly key for American brands' marketing efforts. But it's not an easy task to develop a strategy that works for such a diverse, segmented audience. Hispanic Americans hail from such diverse cultures and geographic regions and have different levels of insertion into American culture, making it difficult to group them all into one market.
But one thing is clear: Hispanic-Americans love sports. In fact, a Nielson study indicated that 94% of Hispanics identify themselves as sports fans, while 56% would say they are avid fans. So how are key players in sports marketing making plans for 2016?
In Portada's conversations with industry executives, there was a consistent mention of the ever-evolving landscape of digital marketing. There is no single platform that commands the attention of the entire Hispanic market, so messages and branding must be distributed among broadcast media, social media, and physical locations like stadiums or arenas.
Futbol and Boxing Dominate
Speaking of stadiums and arenas, two sports have proven to be key: Soccer and boxing.
Gustavo Guerra, Brand Director for Tecate beer at Heineken USA confirms that the brand is focusing strongly on opportunities in these sports, as it wants "to become synonymous with the biggest games and fights focusing on these moments where fans gather to watch their passion points." The brand worked on increasing engagement around both sports through bringing the fans physically together, bringing Chivas, the most popular football club in Mexico, for a friendly match in the U.S., hosting online forums for the Mayweather Pacquiao fight, for which Tecate was the exclusive beer sponsor, and hosting viewing parties for other big games or fights.
In 2016, Tecate wants to continue to help fans "have familiar and authentic experiences when they’re enjoying their favorite sport." Tecate plans to build on the fact that it is the #1 beer in Mexico, and assures us that they've "just scratched the surface" in this appeal to Hispanics' biggest passions.
Language is optional, but relevancy is a must!
Marco López, a partner at agency Elemento L2, agrees that
soccer is the key to reaching Hispanic audiences in 2016, as staying "culturally relevant with a compelling story" is key to his agency's strategy. And what about language? "Language is optional, but relevancy is a must!" Lopez also mentioned the power of insight as an alternative to those who cannot acquire the rights for properties or teams, citing Beats by Dre during the World Cup as an example.
But it's not all about soccer. Tab Bamford, Business Development
Manager at Teamworks Media, a Chicago based Sports Marketing Agency, suggests that their biggest opportunity for 2016 was non-soccer content. "The market is saturated with really good soccer content already, and there are a lot of other sports that Hispanic fans are excited about and engaging with that marketers and sponsors are neglecting," Bamford said. And not all sports are created equal, as Bamford highlights that "there are nuances that need to be recognized when talking about different sports, much less with different audiences. Being aware of both the macro audiences and the niches is paramount to succeeding."
The market is saturated with really good soccer content, and there are a lot of other sports that Hispanic fans are excited about that marketers are neglecting.
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A Focus on Engagement
What's more, Hispanic sports fans are not just numerous, but also sophisticated and connected, and demand engaging content about the teams they love says Jose Ortega, Director of Digital Media at Fox.
Ortega emphasizes Fox's efforts to engage with Hispanic sports fans "in a more user-friendly way," providing them with "in-depth articles, behind-the-scenes access, programming grids and results for all the leagues and teams across all sports." Ortega also highlights the importance of expanding the multi-platform presence, re-launching their website to include "more video and mobile experiences for users."
Luis Gutierrez, Vice President of Sales at GLR Networks, the production and distribution arm of PRISA Radio, also spoke of the importance of engaging with Hispanics, not just exposing them to brands, as they continue to provide "great play-by-play spots analysis" for Chivas, and six other teams in the Mexican Liga through coverage by people like DR.Z and Alex Pazos.
Because Hispanic audiences are so passionate about sports, brands
with little connection to sports must find ways to get in on the action. Crystal Hudson , Principal Officer in Sports & Affinity Marketing at AMTRAK says that in 2016, the brand's biggest opportunities will be in "partnerships with teams and properties that have specific Hispanic marketing initiatives and programs" like the NY Mets with Los Mets and Washington Wizards with Latin Nights. To Hudson, language does present a challenge, though: "sports sponsorships are expensive, so diversifying messages (i.e. using both Spanish and English across assets) becomes very challenging and cost-prohibitive."
Jaime Cardenas, CEO of AC&M Group, also notes that merely sponsoring sports teams or events for brand exposure is no longer cost or message-effective, as "the main value of a sports sponsorship comes from engaging with fans to expose them to the sponsor's message, not only on site at games but also at retail, digital and social channels."
While the Olympics, Euro Cup and Copa America Centenario provide many opportunities for sports sponsorships in 2016, like Amtrak's Hudson, Cardenas acknowledges that not all clients can afford sports sponsorships,and the challenge for 2016 will be to "find creative ways to leverage the heightened awareness to a particular sport or event and turn it into an engagement opportunity for our client's brand."
The main value of a sports sponsorship comes from engaging with fans to expose them to the sponsor's message, not only on site at games but also at retail, digital and social channels.
Cardenas also speaks about the difficulties associated with customizing messages to targeted fan segments, because "the challenge has always been that the more you customize the message the more expensive it is to produce, and the more waste in terms of exposure." Instead of giving up on hyper-targeted messages, Cardenas's agency will be working on delivering those messages through less expensive options.
AC&M is currently exploring one of those options: youth soccer clubs. The agency has found that in terms of ethnicity, household income, age and gender, these clubs hit the mark, providing that magical combination of "content (sport, athlete, league, team, etc.), language (Spanish vs English), and consumer (Mexican, Colombian, Dominican U.S. born, foreign born, moms, millennials, etc)" that so many agencies covet. And it's no secret that targeting youth is an effective way to spread a message, as young adults are some of the most connected people around.
A seasoned sports agency CEO, Cardenas is well aware of the challenges that 2016 will bring any brand or agency looking to appeal to the Hispanic market. "When you look at how diverse the Hispanic market is, and the number of options available from sports properties and events, it is easy to understand why sports marketing for Hispanics is more complex than for general market. However, we also know that if you find the right mix the results justify why it is important to use sports to connect with Hispanic consumers." We couldn't have said it better ourselves.
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