Minor League Baseball Expands Copa de la Diversión To 72 Teams

What: MiLB's successful 'Copa de la Diversión' initiative will more than double to 72 teams in 2019.
Why it matters: Programs that celebrate the Latino influence in baseball and connect to the community are positive for the teams and their fans, and a potential touch point for marketers.

As the Latino composition of professional baseball rosters—in both the majors and minors—grows, it makes sense for leagues and teams to celebrate the diversity in their players and fan bases. And as Minor League Baseball (@MiLBcontinues to experience growth on the field and on financial ledgers, initiatives like Copa de la Diversión help everyone embrace the culture and values that these communities represent.

With that, MiLB is following up last year's successful Copa, which saw 33 teams participate and, according to the organization, generated a combined US $3.7 million in revenue and 12.5% attendance increases, by announcing that more than double that number, 72, will take part, across 29 different states in the upcoming season. In 2018, teams took to the field as the Durham Toros, Omaha Cazadores de Tormentas and Charlotte Caballeros (similar to NBA and MLB alternate identities) in select games.

100 new employees have been hired by the 72 participating teams, helping club staffs begin to more closely reflect the composition of the on-field talent and fan base.

As with other programs in this space, authenticity is the key: it can't be seen as just a publicity stunt or to market additional apparel. The phrase "Copa de la Diversión" translates to "Fun Cup," and included other facets of the fan experience, including food and music. And some teams made some internal changes to promote the program, including hiring bilingual employees in ticket sales and attracting more diverse internship applicants, according to La Vida Baseball (@LaVidaBaseball), a baseball news site that celebrates the past, present and future of Latino baseball.

The 40 or so new teams will try to tap into success stories like that of the Albuquerque Isotopes, Class AAA PCL affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. As "The Mariachis" that night, the club's May 5 Copa celebration set a single-game attendance record of nearly 17,000 and, according to BallParkDigest.com (@ballparkdigest), set franchise records for merchandise sales.

The #PortadaLA summit in Los Angeles on March 15, 2019 (Hotel Loews Santa Monica) will provide a unique setting for brand marketers to learn about the opportunities sports and soccer content offers to engage consumers in the U.S. and Latin America.

With that success, MiLB is all-in on the initiative. “For some teams, it was looking yourself in the mirror and being like, ‘Man we don’t have enough people on our staff that looks like our community'," said Kurt Hunzeker, Vice President of Marketing Strategy and Research at MiLB "I think that was a huge benefit.”

Hunzeker also noted, per La Vida Baseball, that 100 new employees have been hired by the 72 participating teams, helping club staffs begin to more closely reflect the composition of the on-field talent and fan base. This diversity can also help teams make decisions that will affect those fans, as having voices "in the room" with firsthand knowledge of the particular characteristics of the Latino fandom can prove fruitful.

So what is next for Copa? Hunzeker has indicated that at least 13 more organizations will get on board in 2020. Perhaps this can lead to a program of this type on the MLB level, or other sports may use it as a blueprint to help connect with Latino or other ethnic groups. In any case, it's been a huge positive for teams and communities.

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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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