Leaders Agree: Baseball’s Latino Stars Set to Take Center Stage in Business Too
What: With World Cup now completed, it's baseball's turn to show off its Latino stars in the All-Star Game and associated activities this week in Washington, D.C.
Why it matters: Baseball's Latino numbers are higher than ever, and companies are figuring out the best ways to transfer that star power to marketing strength.
The best news coming out of World Cup for sports business in the United States was the aggregate power of Latino activation that played out across broadcast numbers, social engagement and brand activation. The ROI from all who looked to the Latino demo, from millennials and Spanish-first speakers to families and women, was landmark, and should pave the way for a less averse media audience to now find better ways to engage across all sports.
So what about baseball? This week’s All-Star events in Washington, from the Futures Game to The Mid-Summer Classic had more star power with Latino ties than ever before, and the brand power of these stars, from established veterans like Manny Machado and Jose Altuve (@JoseAltuve27) to rising names like Jesús Luzardo (@Baby_Jesus9) are not just the names and faces of baseball—they can be its marketing life blood.
Baseball has committed stars who understand their legacy and want to continue to give back to the game that has brought them so much.
Last Friday at the American History Museum in Washington, La Vida Baseball (@LaVidaBaseball) hosted a panel called “Giving and the Game.” The packed event showcased the history and the opportunities that Latinos have to grow brand baseball, because of the way the game is so deeply rooted in culture, from Cuba and Venezuela to Mexico and Panama and beyond. Hosted by baseball historian and La Vida Editor In Chief Adrian Burgos Jr, the discussion covered a wide variety of topics with Mets Special Assistant General Manager Omar Minaya, and José Antonio Tijerino of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (@HHFoundation ).
“When you look at the business of baseball, you cannot overlook that 32 percent of the players today in the Major League alone are Latino, and that number continues to rise,” Tijerino said. “The game is ingrained in the culture across Latin America, and that’s a really powerful message that can help grow the sport that needs to continue to get out there. Baseball has committed stars who understand their legacy and want to continue to give back to the game that has brought them so much.”
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Minaya, who helped rebuild the Montreal Expos and pave the path to success that the now relocated Washington Nationals have enjoyed, and went on to now two stints in the front office with the New York Mets, was also ebullient about the power of Latinos, and the commitment of players young and old, to storytell and make sure that the traditions learned continue on, a message that brands need to hear more of as they puck the areas where they will spend their dollars.
“Leadership is all about responsibility, and the responsibility we as Latinos, from the front office to players of all ages, have to grow the game of baseball not just on the field but in the community, is very strong,” he said. “Our athletes today have the ability, especially with social media, to help transform society because they are revered not just in the countries where they come from, but in the cities they play in today or played in in the past. They understand that responsibility, and that can translate into helping baseball continue to grow as a sport and a business.”
Still even with All Star rosters dominated by Latino surnames, 25 in total, the opportunity for business growth lies ahead. While MLB has made big strides in recent years to better develop and assimilate young Latino stars into the business and branding side, and teams like the Diamondbacks, the Mets, the Yankees and the Astros have put a premium on marketing their stars to a Latino fan base with very targeted programs, Madison Avenue is still trying to figure out the multicultural mix that shows a return. It remains a challenge, but one that seems to be coming more and more to the forefront, as Latino spending increases and millennials find their nice in sports engagement.
This year we have seen companies like New Era (@NewEraCap), Pepsi (@pepsi) and 5-Hour Energy (@5hourenergy) start to incorporate young Latino stars into crossover promotions, but the growth has been slow, although now more steady.
“Brands need to recognize that 'Latino' is a multicultural reality, and for many Latinos in the United States soccer is not the number one sport. Baseball is as young, exciting and profitable as it has been in generations - and the on-field product is becoming increasingly Latino,” added La Vida Baseball’s Managing Director Tab Bamford. “There are tremendous individual ambassadors in the game, and brands don’t see the untapped potential in baseball.”
In a game driven more and more by personalities, baseball can learn a great deal from the success of the World Cup with Latino engagement and activation. Its multilingual stars are more front and center and transcendent in numbers than ever before, now it’s time to put those personalities on center stage for partners whose reticence in activating with players whose background wasn’t always All American is changing, and “All Americas” is becoming en vogue.