NFL Hispanic Leadership Awards Among Latino League Initiatives

What: The NFL Hispanic Heritage Leadership Awards are the linchpin for activities during the league's celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Why it matters: Programs like the HLLA and the "Feel the Orgullo" campaign offer ways for the league and partners like Nationwide to honor leaders in the Hispanic community, an ever-growing fan base segment.

In Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University student Rosana Elena Guernica raised more than a quarter of a million dollars for humanitarian missions to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. She spearheaded efforts that delivered 76,500 pounds of aid to the island and led the founding of nonprofit 296+, one of 32 recipients (one per NFL team) of US $2000 in donations through the NFL Hispanic Heritage Leadership Awards (HHLA) (@NFLEspanol), one of several ways the league is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.

The eighth annual awards, in partnership with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (@HHFoundation) and Nationwide (@Nationwide), are a way for the league and its teams to make a positive impact on the Latino community, according to Marissa Fernandez, NFL Vice President of Marketing Strategy & Fan Development.

"We wanted the league’s support of Hispanic Heritage Month to go beyond just a marketing campaign," Fernandez told Portada in an email interview. "We wanted to recognize those leaders who were already making such a positive contribution to their local communities and do something to not only reward them but to enable them to continue. Lastly, we wanted to build something that all 32 clubs can participate in and make their own."

With Hispanics representing a significant and growing segment of the NFL fan base ... Nationwide's alignment in this cause marketing effort can help introduce its services to this fandom.

Marissa Fernandez

The HHLA makes up a significant part of the NFL's Hispanic Heritage Month support, providing grants to more than 250 organizations over the past eight years.

Nationwide's support, for the second straight year, is critical to the program's success, Fernandez noted. "Nationwide’s support of the Hispanic Heritage Leadership Awards continues to demonstrate the company’s commitment to the Hispanic community and aligns with our shared goal of improving the lives of others and giving back to the community."

With Hispanics representing a significant and growing segment of the NFL fan base (one in four under age 24 identify as such by some polling estimates), Nationwide's alignment in this cause marketing effort can help introduce its services to this fandom.

“Nationwide takes pride in providing resources, support and service to Hispanic consumers and business owners across the country,” said Jennifer MacKenzie, Senior Vice-President of Marketing at Nationwide, in a statement. "We look forward to celebrating the charitable efforts of Hispanic leaders in all 32 NFL markets during Hispanic Heritage Month.”

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For the league, in addition to supporting the HHLA winners' grassroots programs, Fernandez is particularly gratified that individual clubs have become so involved not just in Hispanic Heritage Month and the NFL's theme of "Feel the Orgullo" (pride), but in honoring the history, heritage and tradition of Latinos in other ways.

"In Indianapolis, the Colts host an annual Hispanic Heritage Month Football Camp," she noted. "This year’s camp featured Colts cheerleaders, mascot Blue, players Matthew Adams, Matthias Farley, Kenny Moore, Jabaal Sheard and Rigoberto Sanchez, alongside youth from the Indiana Latino Institute. And in Tampa, the Buccaneers will deploy the Glazer Family Foundation’s Vision Mobile on a Hispanic Heritage Month tour. Vision Mobile is a state-of-the-art themed RV that travels to title-1 schools providing crucial eye screenings for children."

As a partner, Nationwide also has a hand in the NFL Hispanic Leaders Alliance presented by Nationwide, launched in January, which, according to the league, "feature[s] webinars, events, and continued dialogue to help shape the NFL’s engagement and outreach with the Hispanic community."

These are the kind of programs that, properly executed, boost Latino communities and have the added benefit of recognizing the increasing interest in the sport of young Hispanic fans.

Cover Image: Carolina Panthers present their Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award

Jerry Milani @gbpackjerry

Jerry Milani is a freelance writer and public relations executive living in Bloomfield, N.J. He has worked in P.R. for more than 25 years in college and conference sports media relations, two agencies and for the International Fight League, a team-based mixed martial arts league, and now is the PR manager for Wizard World, which runs pop culture and celebrity conventions across North America. Milani is also the play-by-play announcer for Caldwell University football and basketball broadcasts. He is a proud graduate of Fordham University and when not attending a Yankees, Rams or Cougars game can be reached at Jerry (at) JerryMilani (dot) com.

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