The LA Dodgers and What It Means to Be Latino in Los Angeles
Baseball may be America's favorite pastime, but Major League Baseball is full of Latin American flavor, as many of the leagues stars and biggest fans are Latino. We spoke to the L.A. Dodgers' Spanish-Language Media Sales Manager Jesse Nuñez to discuss their targeted marketing efforts, and how they incorporate the Dodgers into the way that Latinos identify with Los Angeles.
Let's start with some context: more than a quarter of Major League Baseball players are Latino, something that probably wouldn't come as a surprise to most baseball fans. But what many may not know is that reaching and engaging Latino audiences is now a priority for the MLB, as they make up almost half of some teams' fanbases.
In 2015, the League hired two agencies, Anomaly and Latin Works, for a Hispanic-focused marketing effort that resulted in 'Aqui,' a campaign of 30 and 60-second spots running on ESPN. At the time, Jacqueline Parks, the chief marketing officer for Major League Baseball, commented: "Looking at 2015, we wanted to do more to reach out to Latino fans in places we haven't been. We are buying media and forming media partnerships to engage Latinos more proactively."
Teams like the Dodgers are essential to helping the League succeed in this effort: of 3.9 million fans in attendance at Dodgers games last year, 2.1 million were Latino. So it's fair to say that the Dodgers have been tackling the task of building long-lasting relationships with Latino audiences for far longer than the League has.
"Looking at 2015, we wanted to do more to reach out to Latino fans in places we haven't been. We are buying media and forming media partnerships to engage Latinos more proactively."
The Dodgers seek a balance of targeted marketing campaigns, sponsorship deals and community outreach in their campaigns to build lasting relationships with their current and potential Latino fanbase. In terms of traditional outreach through sponsorships, Nuñez says that targeting Hispanics this way is a priority, but that "everyone in the corporate partnerships team is well-versed in the opportunity that exists with the Dodgers' Latino fanbase." But to the Dodgers, the surest way to Latinos' hearts is through their communities.
Reaching Latinos through Strengthening their Communities
Nuñez speaks more about community outreach than traditional marketing methods when discussing their Latino targeting, and the effort that the organization makes is impressive.
"Dodgers have an extensive community outreach program from within the organization directly through the Community Affairs Department, as well as through its Dodgers Foundation." According to Nuñez, both of those entities are "extensively" involved with the community at-large, which is significantly Latino.
"These initiatives have been a part of the Dodgers outreach many years before the Commissioner viewed youth outreach as a priority to reach Latinos," says Nuñez.
The Dodgers Foundation, run by Nichol Whitman, has implemented an impressive array of community projects, including the Dodgers Dreamfields, through which over 37 of the 50 youth baseball fields have been completed with a $5 million investment. The Dodgers RBI Program (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) provides youth baseball and softball coaching, education, health resources, uniforms, equipment and grants for 4,000 kids in L.A.
The team also conducts much of its outreach through the Community Affairs department, led by Naomi Rodriguez, which organizes groups like the Kids 4 Dodgers Baseball, presented with Nike to serve low-income youth and their families who have a hard time paying to attend games. These families receive tickets, transportation to and from the stadium, "Dodger Dollars" and a t-shirt. This program helped over 20,000 kids last year alone.
“We want to emphasize all of the magical things that happen in and around the game. We’re trying to capture the idea that Latinos in the U.S. have an opportunity for greatness ‘aqui,’ here, with Major League Baseball."
Nuñez comments: "The Department also runs and manages the Dodger Alumni and Current Player Programs through which Dodger Greats from past and present serve the community by speaking to youth groups, conducting clinics and visiting hospitals and other care facilities."
Mi Casa Es Su Casa
The MLB and Dodgers' focus on Latinos all boils down to making them feel welcomed and at home with baseball. “We want to emphasize all of the magical things that happen in and around the game. We’re trying to capture the idea that Latinos in the U.S. have an opportunity for greatness ‘aqui,’ here, with Major League Baseball," LatinWorks President & Chief Creative Officer Sergio Alcocer said.
Nuñez highlights that Los Angeles's Latino community is not only large, but mixed. Some have grown up in Los Angeles, some are more recent transplants. Some have grown up with baseball fever - either in or out of Los Angeles - and some haven't. The Dodgers wants to embrace them all.
"We are beginning to capture the folks that perhaps didn’t have a strong baseball heritage in their country of origin as they become more acculturated as Latinos in the first, second and third generations," says Nuñez.
"The affinity to the team is very much a part of the fabric of what it means to be a Latino in Los Angeles, and as families transition from immigrants to residents they become a part of that fabric, and as such, their interest in the Dodgers becomes more and more solidified."