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Joe Favorito @joefav

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What: Brands are connecting with a broader range of women’s sports on a greater level than ever.
Why it matters: With the US Women’s National Team competing in Women’s World Cup in France, WNBA, WTA, and AVP in full swing, opportunities for marketing through women’s sports are at peak time.

We have long seen and heard the talk: women’s sports, or better yet, sports where the competitors are female, are growing. Women control a growing influential segment of the brand decision making. Girls who play and follow sports are more likely to do better in school, have higher self-esteem and on and on and on. Tremendous, powerful messaging and storytelling.

Yet, support on the spending side, be it in areas like prize money and salary or on the broadcast side, where many reports say only four percent of live sporting events are of women’s sports in the U.S., or most importantly on the brand side. The number of dollars committed to women’s sports is dwarfed by what is spent on traditional sports.

Maybe it’s not one the size of say the Golden Gate Bridge, but it is a driveway which is signaling a shift in the minds of decision-makers with regard to the value of women’s sports.

…[T]he brands shifts towards women’s soccer has already made this year’s gathering in France one for the sports spending ages. It’s a hugely positive step for anyone looking to safely and dramatically up the ante for women’s sports.

Women’s World Cup: A Bold Step

Some evidence includes CBS, which has added the WNBA (@WNBA) to its portfolio for the first time. Platforms like Bleacher Report are now both creating more content and dedicating advertising dollars against women’s sports in ways that they had not before.

Then you have the growing climate of elite, must follow and must engage with events both ongoing and upcoming. The focus will be on elite women and girls, and the stories and brand power tied to them. It begins with the shift and engagement around the Women’s World Cup (@FIFAWWC).

The brand shifts towards women’s soccer have already made this year’s gathering in France one for the sports spending ages. It’s a huge, positive step for anyone looking to safely and dramatically up the ante for women’s sports.

SUM Takes Action

At the cusp of all that activity is Soccer United Marketing, which has delivered on new partners for US Soccer tied to the national team. The resonance around those brands, which includes what some may say is a nontraditional partner like Anheuser-Busch (@AnheuserBusch) for one, along with a much more robust engagement from companies ranging from Johnson & Johnson to AT&T (@ATT) and Volkswagen (@VW). The spends and the engagements are also not “add on’s,” as may have happened in the past. They are direct strategic campaigns built to target not just women, but men and boys as well. This should resonate well after a WWC Champion is crowned in July.

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Women's Sports“This is a moment in time in sports business which I think we will point back to and say that the way brands have targeted women’s sports as standalone engagement vehicles for a wide audience became mainstream,” said Jen Cramer, MLS SVP of Partnership Marketing. “The political and social climate has shifted. It is opening the door and showing that sports played by amazing athletes who happen to be women are now not just acceptable to watch and engage with, but are required.”

Who’s Playing?

Some of the key examples in that expanded shift include first time or recent partners to U.S. Soccer like Visa (@Visa). The banking company’s portfolio of players includes Megan Rapinoe, Abby Dahlkemper, Rose Lavelle, Jessica McDonald, Adriana Franch, Becky Sauerbrunn and Mal Pugh. They all participate in a national campaign based around thematic of “women everywhere chasing their goals.”

Then there is Volkswagen of America. The company launched a partnership in January 2019 with the “One Goal” thematic. The campaign centered around addressing the shortage of female coaches (and opportunities) across both the men’s and women’s games. The summer campaign launched around the World Cup is based on the thematic of “Big. Bigger” and doing right by others and the environment.

Add in companies like Johnson & Johnson (@JNJCares), whose “Because She Can” campaign is a multi-brand initiative that centers around women’s empowerment, showcased through their partnership with U.S. Soccer and the U.S. Soccer Foundation. The campaign highlights how participation in sports significantly increases a young woman’s chance of achieving success in her career and becoming a leader in her community.

More to Come

Also, there is Coca-Cola (@CocaCola). Its U.S. Women’s National Team led platform across the Coca-Cola Summer Campaign included an expanded player portfolio with Alex Morgan, Kelley O’Hara, Abby Dahlkemper, and Crystal Dunn. The campaign features across all major Coca-Cola Company brands leveraging Women’s National Team.

Another growing voice in the space (no pun intended) is AT&T. The company wanted to connect the passionate, young, diverse fans of U.S. Women’s Soccer with the thrilling moments on the field. They adopted a #NoGoalsNoGlory theme to tell the USWNT stories of dedication, success, and women empowerment across all their social and digital channels.

Women's Sports
Nicolette Martin, Credit: Robert Beck/AVP

“This support of the United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) is part of our ongoing commitment to standing for equality, which is a company value and something we have a long history of doing at AT&T, going back to 1972 when AT&T started the first women’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) in the nation,” added Shiz Suzuki, AVP, Sponsorships and Experiential Marketing AT&T. “There’s a lot more that we and others can do to raise the visibility of women in sports. It is not limited to events like this that come around every so often.”

The Beginning

Will this continue on beyond World Cup? Will it grow into a more engaged WNBA series of activations and then on into the winter at the NCAA level and through to Tokyo next summer? It could include a brand like the AVP? Many of the signs and the voices of brand decision-makers seem to think so.

“Today, women are drastically underrepresented in media,” Suzuki continued. “When women appear, it’s largely in a stereotypical, inaccurate way. As co-chair of the Association of National Advertiser’s SeeHer movement, our Chief Brand Officer Fiona Carter has initiated a discussion with leagues, broadcasters, key influencers and of course fellow advertisers to see what can be done to improve coverage and distribution of women’s sports. It’s called SeeHerInSports, and there’s much more to come on that.”

Women's Sports“At the end of the day, we need to keep moving forward. We need to make sure the next generation of fans and consumers continue to see value in the stories and personalities of all athletes regardless of gender,” Cramer added. “The best way to ensure that is by continuing to move the needle. We do this with brands who are seeing ROI from the spend they are doing with women’s soccer. That will translate to other sports and become a self-fulfilling prophecy that is very exciting. It will make things so much better for that next generation. It’s steady growth, and the time is right to keep growing the pie.”

In it to Win it

Growing the pie, vs. reallocating the existing slices is going to be key as well. New dollars infused by brands and media companies across the board for women’s sports will be key to expanded opportunities and engagement. With that expansion comes a larger audience. The system expands as one, not as a segment.

Now is there trepidation that winning will only feed the success of the effort for women’s sports? Perhaps. But from a business perspective, many of the initial ‘wins,” engagement, campaigns, and audience are already in place. Is there still an area for growth and acceptance? Yes. But dollars and brands speak loudly, and this summer, they seem to be shouting.

Enjoy the ride across the bridge, it’s safe to cross over.

Cover Image credit: rawpixel

What: Engagement with an increasingly diverse audience is critical for brands.
Why it matters: Winning off or on the field, be it team or brand, comes down to doing the homework. The chemistry, the timing, and the ethos have to align.

Jay Sharman

While there is still a great deal of hand-wringing over the future of media consumption, especially around sports in a younger and more ethnically diverse landscape, the fact remains that effective engagement and correct partnering, no matter what the medium or the device, is still key.

A look back at 2018 shows that the most eyeballs—88 of the top 100 shows—were live and, other than the Academy Awards, were all sporting events in English. In Spanish, the numbers were very much the same. The question now continues to be on the brand side: how, and with whom do you align to get the return on investment that you are looking for? The result remains very fluid.

“I believe the best consumer engagement campaigns are far beyond heart-tugging or inspirational messages on TV and social media,” said Jay Sharman (@_JaySharman), veteran sports media expert. “The gold standard initiatives literally bring together the community where they can heighten their connectivity around a common passion – on site.”

So what are some of those platforms—and also the brands—that have found the niche in the very crowded landscape? Some of the answers might surprise you.

Minor League Baseball

Long thought to be a hyper-local, almost mom-and-pop offering to brands, MILB (@MiLB) has consolidated its offerings into a national effort and has created some very unique branding and engagement platforms that have made the unified property both cost-effective and impactful.

The best example of a new and impressive offering is Copa de la Diversion. In three years, CMO David Wright and his savvy marketing team have created a blueprint for engaging the U.S. Latino population with a season-long Latino-specific tournament, Copa de la Diversion. This year 72 MiLB teams have created Latino alter-ego brands–logos, uniforms, traditions–and are competing for bragging rights for a league-wide sub-brand. The authenticity of this campaign is what sets it apart. It’s a true collaboration with each community to sensibly reflect the Latino passion for baseball and it’s transforming MiLB’s business.

When driver Carl Edwards took home a NASCAR race in the spring at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the brand used a fertilizer on the hood of his car. When they got to September, the brand message had switched to a winterizer.

Atlanta United

Many thought that Major League Soccer’s (@MLS) startup successes in the Pacific Northwest with the Seattle Sounders (@SoundersFC) and Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) could not be topped, but Arthur Blank’s Atlanta United (@ATLUTD) re-created the startup launch and have been a massive win not just for the thousands of fans who support the club, but for brands who have gotten in on the engagement side.

“Atlanta United’s creativity connecting authentically with the community has been a series of smart, marketing moves and tactics,” Sharman added. “Pregame traditions like “the Spike” can many times feel contrived, but at almost every step of the way – from naming the team to picking the right partners and then showing them how to seamlessly integrate with the club supporters has been nothing but impressive and successful.”

Whether it was Wisconsin-based American Family Insurance (@amfam) signing on as the club’s kit sponsor, or New York-based luxury men’s wear line Knot Standard (@KnotStandard) coming aboard as the club’s men’s wear partner, companies have gone to Atlanta United with the expectation that a business partnership will resonate well beyond the field, and will match their quality messaging with a quality brand experience.

The Changing Measurement Landscape

Chris Lencheski

“The days of just slapping a logo on a sponsorship and picking up some tickets at the game or the race are long gone,” added Chris Lencheski, a veteran sports marketer who has created some of the most effective brand activation platforms in sports ranging from Formula One (@F1) and NASCAR (@NASCAR) to Major League Baseball (@MLB) and the NHL (@NHL). “Now, you as a brand make your selections after taking analytics and living and breathing the DNA of the property, team or league over time to see how you can marry your objectives with theirs. It has to be both emotional and executional to work.”

Some of those examples of brands that have won on both sides, according to Lencheski (who now also teaches sports marketing at Columbia University), are deals that he has done with brands like Scotts for NASCAR, a partnership which also spread to MLB in recent years. When driver Carl Edwards took home a NASCAR race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the brand used a fertilizer on the hood of his car. When they got to September, the brand message had switched to a winterizer. “It’s smart,” Lencheski added. “It’s the first day of spring and you’re supposed to fertilize. They ran that car at the first, second and third stages of spring. Then you adapt to make sure it works. That’s what we’re talking about— making sure our market is right. That does not happen if you are not in the room and listening to what makes the most sense for the brand. It is not ‘one size fits all.’”

That changing message also works well for Scotts (@ScottsLawnCare) with its relatively new partnership with MLB. Grass, yes, is a natural fit (no pun intended) for America’s national pastime. But making sure that the products are matched to the season is key in integration and messaging, so that the result of sales and affinity is tied to the right offering at the right time of year. You sell more seed in the spring, so match the message to the season. Timing, something often missed in brand partnerships, is also key to success.

Emotional Equity

While the hard sell timing is very important today, so are emotional ties. The ability for brands to deliver an emotive message tied to sports immediately around a social campaign is also key. A recent case in point, two actually, are Budweiser (@budweiserusa) and Nike (@Nike).

Budweiser made not one but two very emotive statements in recent weeks, one tied to a yearlong campaign around the Centennial of Jackie Robinson’s birth (@JRFoundation) and the other one to the retirement of Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade. The Robinson example is a detailed multimedia campaign with unique consumer packaging, while the Wade tribute was a fairly long but very emotional video with the future Hall of Famer being surprised by several people whom he had impacted in his life well beyond the court. That play was huge on the social connection because of its length and did not have the direct consumer sales impact that a Robinson display in a store would have, but they both pulled at the heartstrings to get fans of varied ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds to align with Bud over their other beer of choice.

“We sometimes forget that certain groups, especially millennials, are driven by emotion first in their brand choices,” added Harrie Bakst, the cofounder of WCPG, a firm that partners, athletes, celebrities and brands with philanthropic campaigns. “The emotional connection may not always be a direct call to buy, like we see with Bud and the Jackie Robinson campaign, but its subtle messaging as we see with Dwyane Wade, can have even more of a long tail effect, and that return, if crafted correctly, can be even more valuable as a whisper to the consumer than a direct shout.”

Now the packaging of the message, whether bold or subtle, has to be correct. Even in the Wade campaign, which had zero in terms of people drinking beer, the “Bud” branding was front and center. In the print campaign around Jackie Robinson, you can’t miss the Budweiser logo, so little is left to chance. “The return on those two campaigns really bookend how you can deliver correctly to consumers,” Bakst added. “One is direct and overt, one is a subtle build, but both emote positive feelings and messages which resonate with the consumer for the short and long term.”

Then there is Nike. The apparel brand has had its peaks and valleys in recent years, and as the landscape continues to be more and more competitive, the swoosh keeps adjusting. Case in point in recent weeks was the riding of the wave that brought Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) back to the top of the golf world at The Masters. Nike’s response in the social space after Woods’ win at Augusta was emotional, multigenerational, and left nothing to chance, especially as it was delivered on a massive social platform before it ever made it to the traditional platforms of print and broadcast. That sent a message to the athletic world that the brand supports the success of the human condition as seen through the eyes of one of the world’s most legendary athletes.

https://twitter.com/Nike/status/1117497381832933376

“Nike has never been a brand looking at the short term,” Lencheski added. “Their investments, especially in elite athletes, teams, and leagues, go through as deep an evaluation and brand match process as anything in the consumer space. The result is an ethos that works for all, and that message, and to return, has a huge payoff when something like Tiger Woods’ comeback reaches the point it did a few weeks ago.”

Finding the White Space

Anna Gasser (Mirja Geh/Red Bull Content Pool)

The other careful match that brands have to take into consideration is that window of opportunity that others are not realizing. For companies big on disruption and ones that can move quickly, the “lightning in a bottle,” or the speaking to a niche audience, can have a pretty unique return. Case in point is Red Bull (@redbull), and its plays away from the mainstream into the worlds of extreme sports.

“Red Bull has found that the white space of entertainment aligns with their brand, and they create content and experiences that connect their community in unique and memorable ways,” Sharman said. “By treating themselves like a sponsor that supports this approach they’ve built tremendous brand equity in themselves.”

While mass consumer sales is the goal, the unconventional approach, being short form video, event activation and athlete supported as the first step, not the traditional second, has given Red Bull a leg up in the competitive beverage category that few saw coming years ago, and has made it the brand to measure against and challenge among that thrill seeking demo.

Winning With Latinos

As 2019 unfolds, this brand activation space in sports continues to be one of the more elusive ones. We have written on the brand success stories seen by companies that have gone all in on consumer ROI targeted to the demo, from Tecate (@tecate) to Wells Fargo (@WellsFargo). However the overall engagement in “Latino” or “Hispanic” is still evolving.

“Whether you are the NBA or MLB, the brand identification in this space still means many things to many people; a product that plays well with Liga MX and a Mexican fan base may not work with the Brooklyn Nets who are trying to tie in with a Dominican supporter and so on,” Elisa Padilla, the senior VP of marketing & community relations for the Miami Marlins (@Marlins) told us last fall. “We see it here in Miami as well. You really have to know the segments of your fan base and understand what they are asking and what you can deliver for them. It is certainly not a one size fits all opportunity, especially in terms of expectations or return. It is a challenge, but an interesting one that is a great opportunity for those who can manage and figure out the mix.”

In the end the marrying of brands to the sports space is still a slippery slope for some, especially given the fluidity of budgets, and frankly, the various and sundry ways that content, live or packaged, can be delivered today to audiences big or small.

“You have to have a clear understanding of the market segment you want to reach, and be well versed in all forms of message delivery, today more than ever,” Lencheski added. “The message for a brand needs to be sincere and compelling, and those brands also have to understand that the famous John Wannamaker line: ‘I know half my advertising works, trouble is I never know what half’ may be adapted but can still be true today. Your social strategy has to align with broadcast and if you have a cause that too has to speak to the audience correctly, otherwise you lose the message effectiveness. Picking the right team, league or personality is a challenge, but it all comes down to homework. Just like in school, if you put in the work, you get the grades.”

Winning off or on the field, be it team or brand, comes down to doing the homework. The chemistry, the timing, and the ethos have to align. Without putting the work in, the results may be costly.

Cover Image: Carl Edwards (credit: Maverick Helicopters, Tom Donoghue)

What: The choices for brands looking to engage in soccer in North America are vastly different than five years ago.
Why it matters: Soccer in North America is a business not just worth watching but engaging in as an emerging market, with the region seen as an emerging market in the sport.

There is no doubt that over almost a quarter century, Major League Soccer (@MLShas built a North American brand that has elite status, proactive marketing, a young, engaged fan base and a diverse and growing ownership group that has put professional soccer not just on the map, but into the fabric of professional sports fandom.

Over that time the interest from the professional level to the grassroots in playing and engaging in soccer has risen on a path in North America that is even beyond the growth level of MLS as a property, something which many diehards had hoped for but sometimes not thought possible in the years prior to MLS launch and subsequent expansion as a property.

However with the meteoric growth of the MLS brand, and its clubs, athletes, coaches and partners, has come the realization by many of the elite clubs of the world that soccer in North America is a business not just worth watching but engaging in as an emerging market. North America as an emerging market in anything may literally seem foreign to many, but in the case of some global sports; not just soccer but sports like rugby and even in some isolated areas cricket, the market for monetization, and even expansion is more fertile than anywhere else on the planet that’s not China, and even China, in terms of commercial interests in sports business, in many ways cannot trump what North America can for now.

…[I]f you want to sell product and grow consistently in key markets in soccer, you look to MLS as your partner here. It all comes down to where you want to spend and how.
Aly Keita

In the eye of that growth area is also the sexy baubles of demos that brands, and teams, want: rising numbers of Latino fans, more engagement with women, and even a growth to be the choice of millennials who now have more discretionary income, and soccer, as MLS can attest to with the largest growth numbers in each of those categories for sports leagues, can talk to all of those more than most other professional sports in North America.

So if you are a brand, one with solid budgets, a look to engage wide audiences in all forms of media as well as at the grassroots activation level, and you want to make a big impact with a push towards a measurable ROI, and you also want to make sure you take care of your North American interests, you may pick soccer as your “all in sport,” right? The trends are going that way. But would you pick MLS? Maybe yes, maybe no, it depends on your scope.

The reason why you could look to soccer, or football, is that the marketplace today in North America has changed drastically in the past five years as the elite clubs, and leagues, of the world have put down roots and are looking to import their brand and experience and expertise into North America more than ever before.

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How and why? The why is pretty simple. A marketplace that is more savvy and more engaged in all things soccer than ever before. How? First start with media. NBC’s pioneering coverage of the Premier League (@premierleague), finding a live home for the EPL that became acceptable to fans on Sunday mornings, combined with ancillary programming both online and on broadcast, created the perfect test case to show that live soccer had an audience. That opened the door for other elite leagues to expand broadcast offerings with everyone from Fox to Turner to beIN to ESPN to Univision and Telemundo, and the ability to watch your favorite clubs, the most elite soccer stars of the world in real time without having to search out a pub or a small supporters group, made the best soccer in the world easy to find.

Then you lop on the move to digital and streaming not just by broadcast outlets but by other platforms (Bleacher Report Live, ESPN +, Eleven Sports), and suddenly you could almost find any club available on any device. This helped growth of soccer among a mobile friendly audience, especially down to the grassroots level, and also renewed easier alliance with the new immigrant, who craved soccer and the loyalty to his or her home club, and could now watch that club easily in their adopted home.

The explosion and availability of merchandise for global clubs also fueled the brand fire, with families getting access to club kits from around the world, and those kits became part of school apparel for boys and girls laying the game in cities big and small. You also lay on top of all of that access the influx of ownership dollars into elite global clubs by deep pocketed American owners, and the connection between clubs once far away and the suburban living room was easier once again.

Next step, as mentioned earlier, is the elite clubs and leagues of the world tracking fan loyalty in the digital space and seeing the opportunity for sales and brand growth in a country where they were not playing games, but where fans were watching and engaging. Into that mix came a number of clubs; most notable was FC Bayern Munich (@FCBayernUS), who enacted a very savvy supporters group campaign run through social media, whereby local fans could build their own sanctioned clubs.

The plan, which was well in advance of the clubs US tour, gave Bayern a leg up on local loyalty and set the way for what is arguably the most effective local supporter network for a non US team of any kind in North America, with followers of various sizes in every state in the U.S. and most Canadian provinces. That helped show the opportunistic door for what clubs, and leagues could do in North America, and really set the stage for anywhere from 10 to 12 non US soccer clubs setting down stakes in North America in the past few years, including the teams that have US owners.

With all that as the backdrop, the opportunities and choices for brands now looking to engage has changed a great deal, and presents some really unique challenges or opportunities. There was time not too long ago, when Coke (@CocaCola), a longtime World Cup sponsor, and Ford (@Fordand Chevrolet (@chevrolet), two dyed in the wool American brands, took on new sponsorship deals in the Premier League. Those were seen as game changing for their non U.S. scope. Today, the ability to engage with soccer fans around the world has made elite clubs even more attractive to US brands for activation, in part because of the deeper roots that the biggest clubs of the world, from Barcelona to Chelsea to Roma to Bayern, have planted on North American soil, and their ability to deliver ROI in the States, through media partnerships, through social, and culminating when the clubs play matches in the States on summer tours, that was not as realistic even five years ago.

That does not mean that the option of MLS, or even the U.S. Women’s National team this summer for World Cup, is less strong for brands, especially those hyper focused on local markets and on the North American footprint primarily, it just presents more options and choices today.

What Are the Differences and the Advantages?

“With La Liga (@LaLigaEN) having a bigger presence in the U.S. now, our offering is much more than it could have been a few years ago,” said Rebeca Díaz González (@rebsdg), who leads international business development for La Liga in the U.S. “We have what we think is really a compelling offering to bring to U.S. businesses in soccer: premium association of two of the big sports brands in the world in Real Madrid and FC Barcelona (as well as the other clubs of La Liga), an association with the best players and some of the most recognizable faces in sport, an eight month long advertising property that runs from August to March (keeping in mind the MLS season is virtually opposite of that), customization in content creation for U.S. partners (content, academies, media assets, activations and grassroots properties), and the cultivation of a young and diverse soccer fan base in the U.S. that appreciates the high level of play of La Liga. All of that makes us really well positioned to take advantages of opportunities here and into the future, and that’s very exciting for us.”

From a club level, FC Bayern Munich saw early on the advantage they had with companies like Audi (@Audi), Adidas (@adidas), T-Mobile (@TMobileand Allianz (@Allianz), as well as a partner in Qatar Airways (@qatarairwaysthat had its own agenda for U.S, growth. They leveraged those brand partnerships that had U.S. ties and marketing budgets (some of which, like Audi and Adidas, were already spending in the U.S. with MLS) to create programs that catapulted the visibility of FCB, not just to fans, but to casual consumers who were enjoying soccer but were not yet aware of the Bayern story.

“When FC Bayern came to the U.S. our aim was to grow the fan base in the Americas, form mutually beneficial partnerships and help to grow the sport of soccer on and off the field,” added Rudolf Vidal, President Americas, FC Bayern München. “After five very successful years, FC Bayern can now talk extensively about our reach, engagement and activation in the Americas as well as Europe and Asia highlighting the club’s global appeal. “Since 2014, the club’s following has almost tripled from 13M to 32M followers. We started with eight official fan clubs and now we have 147 fan clubs in 49 states. We have signed seven North American based partners as well as forming media partnerships with ESPN, FOX, Goal.com and Univision. Our growth in North America is extremely valuable to our internationalization strategy and is consistent with our club values…responsibility, partnership and innovation.”

Vidal’s statements and scope echo the excitement of many clubs who see the U.S. as very fertile ground for growth. However not being in market with teams (the rare crossover ownership groups include City Football Club, whose global ownership presence and brand influence ties together nicely with NYCFC (@NYCFCof MLS and Manchester City (@ManCity)) still gives MLS a distinct advantage for brands that cannot simply be equalized with big name stars and elite brands.

MLS vs. the World

Tony Ponturo

“With MLS as a brand you are buying that national presence with a very passionate local following, and that’s very important when you look at your budget and your return,” added Tony Ponturo (@ponturo), who for over 30 years built and grew the sports marketing platform of Anheuser Busch and now works on the consulting side for Turnkey Intelligence. “Manchester United, Real Madrid are global buys way beyond soccer, but if you want to sell product and grow consistently in key markets in soccer, you look to MLS as your partner here. It all comes down to where you want to spend and how.”

“We are always aware of competition from all forms of entertainment, not just soccer,” added MLS SVP of Partnership Marketing Jen Cramer. “When brands look for consistent, proactive partnership activation in soccer in the U.S., we are able to create an opportunity that reaches millions and is very customized to what their needs are. We live and breathe soccer in the North America all year round, and we know that what we offer for partners of all sizes, be they club sponsorships or as a league partner, really drive ROI. Our record speaks for itself, and we are both proud and excited about what the future holds.”

Jen Cramer

So is there a decision on where and when brands will spend, if they are steeped in American business? “Global football clubs bring with them the eyes of the world, and with that comes a big price tag,” added Chris Lencheski, a longtime sports marketer now teaching at Columbia University. “There are brands that can choose to go that route, and now you will see a bigger return in the U.S. because of the visibility of those clubs with media, social play, and as time permits, local summer tours. However as a market that is still growing, MLS continues to have the position of a cost effective, proactive property that gives you a return in very specific cities that you can tailor to. That also does not include the spends you can do around clubs in fervent markets like New York and L.A. and Atlanta and Portland and Seattle. There you can also take advantage of spends and exposure that can nicely complement all you are doing elsewhere. It’s not an easy balance, but it comes down to how and where you see your brand succeeding and there are pluses and minutes to both. It’s certainly does not have to be one or the other.”

The Pool Remains Deep and Very Wide for Brands

The good news is that for brands looking to activate in North America the choices are pretty vast, and are more unique than ever before. Do you want the allegiance of a global club with a footprint that resonates well beyond the shores? There are clubs, and even leagues, with offices here to talk to. Do you want to be hyper focused on the Americas, including Liga MX, that option exists and is growing. Do you want a hybrid? You can create that as well. It certainly is not an easy choice, but it is a buyers market, and the market is well stocked and growing it seems, each week.

What: MLS has announced a series of partnerships reflecting and promoting the diversity of its teams and fans.
Why it matters: More than any other league in North America, MLS thinks and act multilingual in almost every business action it has.

Jen Cramer

“For brands, Major League Soccer (@MLS) is the property that best reflects who North America is today.”

That pretty heady statement by MLS SVP of Partnership Marketing Jen Cramer may make some skeptics roll their eyes (especially those heavily engaged in everything from the NFL and NBA to NASCAR and MLB), but as MLS kicked off a new season last weekend and into this week, the Don Garber (@thesoccerdon) led property is still on the upswing, especially for those looking to the multicultural marketplace that can deliver across all three North American countries and through the grassroots and into even more elite play like the U.S. men’s and women’s National teams. And for brands looking for engagement, MLS continues to be a growing, proactive and somewhat disruptive sweet spot, especially when you look at the key element not just of impressions, but of long term value add, at a pretty cost-effective price.

WHAT’S IN STORE FOR THE SPRING

Some of the highlights of the 24th season that will have broadcast partners ESPN (@espn) (which just added the Caribbean and Latin America to its growing list of MLS territories), FOX (@FOXSports), Univision (@UnivisionSports), TSN (@TSN_Sportsand TVA (@TVASportsas well as a growing partnership with Twitter engaged more than ever will include the addition of a 24th club, a new stadium in Minnesota, a new crop of dynamic players – including the South American player of the year, and a new playoff format that will further reward regular season performance. The league is coming off its most successful season in 2018 with record revenue for attendance, the debut of two new world-class venues in LA and Wash. D.C., record TV viewership, and the highest quality of play in league history; more than any other league in North America, it thinks and acts multicultural in almost every business action it has.

We have to always ask ‘how do we create more value’ and develop true partnerships, especially in a multicultural audience.

That multicultural impact is felt by everyone; from fans and players to brands and media partners.

“Our goal was and remains to create unique tie ins and campaigns with our partners for a diverse fan base that consumes the game of soccer in so many forms,” Cramer added. “We know for that to work it has to be authentic to each group; you can’t really fake it and hope it gets accepted. It must be a real engagement that makes sense to all involved, and that includes all we do in the multicultural space, especially as we market to a young bilingual Latino audience.”

The examples extend beyond brand marketing and into the digital and promotional campaigns the league is rolling out. Their 2019 “Our Soccer” campaign is featuring Multi-Platinum Latin Superstar Prince Royce (@PrinceRoyce). The campaign, a big push to unite sports, culture, and entertainment, features an anthem that expresses the unique experience of being an MLS fan and the growth of the soccer movement in North America. It was produced in English, Spanish, and “Spanglish” (a fusion of English and Spanish), French-Canadian (for MLS fans in Quebec) and will run on MLS partner networks including ESPN, FOX Sports, Univision, TSN, and TVA Sports, and across international broadcast partner platforms, as well as the league’s own digital channels.

The “Our Sound” spot, voiced by Prince Royce, features him wearing Inter Miami CF gear, the MLS expansion club co-owned by cultural icon David Beckham, while at a party watching a soccer game alongside Grammy-nominated producer and DJ TOKiMONSTA (@TOKiMONSTA), representing her hometown, featured wearing a Los Angeles Football Club jersey.

RAMPING UP DIGITAL

On the digital side, the MLS reinvestment includes expanding its relationship with Twitter, streaming its Univision game of the week, along with an expansion of utility and fan engagement touch points in the relaunched MLS app, most if not all of which will cater to a mobile savvy, and diverse audience. MLS’s content production team also serves as the in house storytelling agency for many of its partners both on the brand and the media side, which helps streamline the engagement process for all.

“We have a young, savvy audience that enjoys very diverse and very unique content,” added MLS Senior Vice President – Media Chris Schlosser. “It is our challenge and our responsibility to deliver that diverse content with ease of use to our fans however they would like it, and our growing and changing offerings reflect that need and where we can take it.”

ENGAGING BRANDS

Then there are the brands and their engagement touchpoints, both in the community and directly with the team and its players, be it in venue, on broadcast or in the digital space.

Leading the new initiatives is Kellogg’s (@KelloggsUS), which will run a national campaign featuring bilingual packaging. The two-year partnership will have Cheez-It® and Pringles® as the league’s official snacks, Eggo® will be given the designation as the official waffle, and Kellogg’s will become a core partner of eMLS – MLS’ competitive EA SPORTS™ FIFA 19 league. Cheez-It® and Pringles® will become presenting partners of the eMLS Player Lounge and the presenting partners of the 2019 eMLS Player Profiles, a digital series highlighting competitor’s personal stories.

The wide-ranging partnership also features digital, video and content brand integration, in-stadium exposure, on-site activation at events, and a new sweepstakes where lucky fans have a chance to win a trip for two to the 2019 MLS All-Star Week in Orlando, along with other prizes. The campaign will include more than 20 million boxes on display during the season, taking the partnership direct to casual fans more than ever before.

“As MLS viewership and engagement rises in record numbers, our sponsorship gives Kellogg’s and our retail partners a unique opportunity to reach the diverse Hispanic, Gen Z and Millennial audiences through their passions – soccer and gaming – with unique experiences,” added Zion Doran, Senior Director of North American Promotions, Kellogg’s.

Another expanded relationship for 2019 is with longtime partner Coca-Cola (@CocaCola), which will employ its new and innovative “Sip & Scan” technology via a national retail program with MLS Club and League marks featured on over 500,000 packages

Audi (@Audiwill also continue with its Audi Player Index, providing fans data and insights to illuminate discussion on the sport they love as well as other brand extensions both nationally and with ten clubs.

Join us at PORTADA LOS ANGELES on March 15, 2019 at the Loews Beach Hotel Santa Monica, where we will dive deep into sports and soccer marketing’s preeminent topics. Attendees will also be able to benefit from Portada’s meet-up service of three-eight-minute meetings with top brand executives!

Then there is Adidas (@adidas), in the first year of long-term partnership running through 2024. Looking to capture not just the multicultural soccer fan, the brand is working with MLS on fashion initiatives, featuring a Stadium to Street narrative, engaging with local creators/influencers to tie both soccer and culture together. The program will include both traditional media and digital activations, as well as programs featuring the ten markets the Adidas Creators Network is in, ranging from New York and LA to Portland, Seattle, and Toronto.

“We have always known that soccer and culture go way beyond the game and to have a partner like Adidas help us visualize that tie on a national scale with such diversity of thought and content is really unique, and compliments all we are trying to do to drive fandom and the love of soccer to everyone,” Cramer said.

Another key expansion of growing the culture of MLS tied to brands is the partnership with JLab Audio (@JLabAudio), the league’s wireless headphone and speaker provider. Players, starting with DC United’s Wayne Rooney, will create an MLS x JLab Player Playlist program that will feature a once-a-month playlist that will be supported across MLS and partner channels. The playlist will reflect the diversity of the league and will be a big boost in connecting casual fans to some of the league’s most unique personalities through the medium of sound.

Those partnerships, in addition to evolving existing partnerships with companies like Heineken, The Home Depot, Wells Fargo and AT&T, as well as localized expansion with brands through new deals, like kits sponsorships (Chicago Fire – Motorola, Houston Dynamo – University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Seattle Sounders – Zulily and FCC – Mercy Health ) all continue to paint a robust, aggressive and proactive picture for MLS heading into a landmark season, especially for a league that has the highest preponderance of millennial (39%), Hispanic (34%) and female (41%) fans in North America.

POISED FOR A BIG YEAR

“Our fans and our brand partners are just like our players, they demand excellence,” Cramer concluded. “We have to always ask ‘how do we create more value’ and develop true partnerships, especially in a multicultural audience. We want to keep building relationships that are solution based and really set us apart, and we think that these initiatives, as well as ones to come, are helping us get there.”

“There” is a continued bright future for MLS as a quarter century approaches, new stars and stories keep being refined, and soccer brand marketing rises across this spring and summer.

Subscribe to Portada’s weekly Sports Marketing Updates!

What: Global engagement is more critical than ever for teams, brands, and leagues.
Why it matters: Here are eight ways for entities to cultivate a wider, more diverse audience.

Sports business has never been more global, and fans and brands more engaged, than they are today. Whether it is Liga MX (@LIGABancomerMXexpanding its footprint more into the United States, MLB (@MLBto Japan or the NBA (@NBAto India, the largest properties in the world are spreading their reach and touching fans in ways like never before. Fandom is still celebrated locally, but the reach and level of fandom are beyond borders.

With that reach can there can be some slippery slopes. A misplayed National Anthem here, a misunderstood custom there, and clubs looking to cultivate a wider audience, especially in their home venues, can easily undo the goodwill, and the brand activations, that they were trying to grow.

With that eye to global engagement, we looked at eight ways to best engage, be it team, brand or league.

Elisa Padilla

Be Authentic. It is becoming more and more cliché, but an authentic engagement into a multicultural space is key. There were times years ago when the NBA would slap “Los” on a jersey and play mariachi music and call it Latino night. Check the box and move on. Those days are gone. “Social media today has given fans the ability to respond pretty quickly to what we are doing, and if something seems contrived, we hear it right away,” said Elisa Padilla, SVP of Marketing and Community Relations for the Miami Marlins (@Marlins) in a conversation last year.  “Everything we do, especially when trying to engage a multicultural Latino audience that may be Cuban, Venezuelan and Puerto Rican, each with their own nuances, has to be sincere. If it’s not the brand can lose great credibility and it is hard to get it back.”

Know The Audience. Also along those lines, knowing who is following, who is engaging and what they are responding to and asking about is also critical to success. Creating promotions and marketing to a community that is not as engaged in your team or your sport, or doesn’t fit culturally, can lead to issues. “The beauty of data collection today is that we know more and more not just who is buying a ticket, but who is coming into the building every night,” said veteran sports marketer Chris Lencheski, currently a professor at Columbia University. “That data now gives us great insight not just into the buying habits but into the physical makeup of who is at an event, and that can help us create programs for audiences that we may not have known a lot about. It also gives us the opportunity to survey that audience and ask them what they would like.” Those types of fan engagement platforms have led to landmark changes in areas like concessions, where teams are now selling more and more ethnic and local foods, or in how a game is presented in terms of language for public address. Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls), for example, make all announcements in both English and Spanish, something which does not happen regularly at an NFL or NBA game. Understanding who is in the seats, by asking and collecting data, gives you a great chance to serve the audience enjoying the event.

Kristaps Porzingis (Wikimedia Commons/Ed)

Build Over Time. Often times teams, or even leagues, will see a trend and rush to adapt and capture a moment, which in the end may come across as both unauthentic and contrived. Recently the New York Knicks (@nyknickscreated “Latvian Heritage Night” to try and make their young star Kristaps Porzingis (@kporzee) more at home. When Porzingis was traded, Latvian Heritage Night was canceled. While the effort to try and tie to the culture of a rising star is understandable, the ability to build and connect with an audience and culture who may be the first time in an arena is now lost. Instead of finding ways to expand a relationship, the effort seemed more contrived and some brand damage is done. Also, especially with Latino marketing in sports, trying small programs that identify with select groups: Cubans in Miami, Puerto Ricans in New York, Mexicans in Houston, and then expanding out from there, and building on success, sometimes works better than just branding “Latinos” and trying to pull from a mass that may be disconnected. “As a Latina with a Puerto Rican background, I may be able to identify with a Venezuelan or even a Dominican cultural event, but it’s doubtful I will be able to connect to more nuanced happenings from say Panama or Brazil,” added Karin Buchholz, former head of community relations for the New York Knicks. “I have Latina pride and loved seeing that pride played out in sports, but if it seemed rushed or contrived just to check the box, it didn’t work. Better to be sure and steady than to rush and try to be everything to everyone.”

Taking the time to listen to the players and the coaches and then building programs around their interests makes the connection so much stronger.

Take It To The Community. In the past, many efforts in multicultural marketing were just tied to an event. Find a sponsor, do a giveaway, check the box and cash the check. These days, initiatives have to transcend the arena or stadium to be effective. ‘We only have a certain amount of people coming into a building, and multicultural marketing needs to be very experiential, especially since many of the people we want to reach may only be able to come to a game once or twice a year,” Padilla added. “Programs need to have arms and legs and go into the market, not just take place at a game. We need to show that we are supporting community initiatives and delivering value in the neighborhood as well. That’s the best way to build trust and affinity.” In addition to food and clothing drives and school initiatives, one of those efforts is an annual program run by DC United (@dcunited) of MLS. Partido de las Estrellas is an all-star match involving old and current Hispanic players as well as local celebrities. The venue is located in Columbia Heights, a part of the city with a notably large Hispanic and Latino population, and aside from the match itself, there’s music, food and other forms of entertainment celebrating the community’s value to the city. It takes the experience beyond a pitch and delivers it in the backyard of the fan.

Get buy-in from those on the field. Sometimes the best programs are those where coaches and players, not just marketers, have input. Listening to the stories of the players; their traditions, the places they spend their time, is also essential. “Often times we would look at a team makeup and ask if they looked like us, like those in the community,” added Buchholz. “Especially in leagues like MLB, MLS and the NBA, the players are coming from such diverse cultural backgrounds that their stories can relate to an audience we may not have thought of. Taking the time to listen to the players and the coaches and then building programs around their interests makes the connection so much stronger, and that becomes an even great win than just trying to randomly force an initiative.”

Join us at PORTADA LOS ANGELES on March 15, 2019 at the Loews Beach Hotel Santa Monica, where we will dive deep into sports and soccer marketing’s preeminent topics. Attendees will also be able to benefit from Portada’s meet-up service of three-eight-minute meetings with top brand executives!

Goya/NYCFC

Identify New Partners: The unending quest to find new revenue sometimes can lead teams back to the same safe places again; categories are limited, and especially at the five elite leagues in North America, the prices paid for exclusivity in a category can be exorbitant. However multicultural marketing gives the chance for teams to bring in custom brand categories for programs and events, sometimes at a lower price point, than could be done in a general marketing environment. “We see it more and more, an entrepreneurial salesperson sees an opportunity around a player or a cultural event, and goes and finds brands willing to come in and activate around it that may not have been able to find their way in any other way,” Lencheski added. Case in point was the Philadelphia 76ers and their rising star, Australian Ben Simmons (@BenSimmons25). The Sixers created a niche with the Australian Company, Four and Twenty Meat Pies, an Australian favorite, to give them the ability to come in and sample and do an “Australian Heritage Night.” In a traditional environment, Four and Twenty (@FourntwentyUSAmight have been blocked from being in the building by larger vendors and sponsors in a food category. However by creating an Australian flavor (no pun intended), a carve-out for exposure was created, buzz generated, and exposure grew. In many other markets, ethnic brands like Goya Foods (@GoyaFoodshave found Latino or Hispanic culture nights as their way into an arena or venue to start a conversation about partnership and story tell, and often times those brands help take that experience back out to the market in a consumer promotion. By looking deeper, and being smarter, teams and leagues can re-slice and dice a category that was once whole, and everyone involved can win.

Speak the Language: Another sometimes overlooked nuance is being able to not just act in a multicultural environment but to also deliver materials and programs in the language that is not English. The Oakland Raiders in recent years have worked closely with Native American groups who are loyal to the team, and out of that came the ability to broadcast games in Navajo. The Detroit Tigers do all outreach in both English and Spanish, as do a growing number of MLB teams, and built their annual “Fiesta Tigres” event as a way to celebrate Spanish language first fans. “It is essential that we have programs that don’t just address culture, especially Latino culture, but take that culture and deliver every element in Spanish,” Detroit Tigers (@tigersVP of Communications Ron Colangelo said. “We need to make the transition to fandom easy, and sometimes the easiest way to do that is to take the language of sport, be it radio, TV or in print, and literally deliver it to the fan base in a way that they can easily understand. It builds great trust and shows no matter how subtly, that no matter what your language is, we are here for you as a team and as a brand.”

If It Doesn’t Fit, Don’t Do It: We kind of end where we started; with authenticity. In a copycat business world, the rush to do something for the sake of doing it, or because the concept can be sold, is not always the best. There are many teams, despite pressure from a league, do not do all forms of multicultural marketing because at this point, their audience, and their community, is not as diverse as others, or doesn’t have a large makeup as certain other cities. The Houston Rockets (@HoustonRocketsfor example, have a vast program marketing to the Chinese community; it worked very well and has a natural fit in the culture of Houston. A team like the Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewersmay market heavily to a German or Polish fan base because of the traditions in that city. It does not mean that you are culturally closed off; what it means is that you need to take the time to do programs right, keep them authentic and deliver to the community which you are in. trying to do too much every time is tough, and often leads to failure. Listening and being engaged in the community means you have the ability to see, hear and feel trends, especially with emerging ethnic groups. Taking the time to know when to engage, how to engage, and where to engage is not just good business, it’s good human nature.

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Cover image: Partido de las Estrellas/DC United

What: After examining last year’s happenings throughout the vast realm of sports. Portada has identified the top Latino stars, poised to hit it big on the marketing side in 2019.
Why it matters: Standouts in various sports, at different stages of their careers, are attractive options for brands moving forward.

As we enter the deep freeze of winter, who are the Latino athletes plying their trade in the U.S. who brand marketers should be keeping an eye on? Here are six to watch:

1. Canelo Alvarez (@Canelo):
Canelo Alvarez

His sponsor list is growing, and includes deals with Under Armour (@UnderArmour), Tecate (@tecate), Hennessy (@HennessyUS) and Everlast (@Everlast_), bringing in more than seven figures outside his boxing and media deals. His exclusive deal with DAZN (@DAZN_USAhas put the streaming service’s marketing dollars behind him as well, and boxing, not just for the Latino community, remains smoking hot. His star keeps rising in the ring.

 

2. Henry Cejudo (@HenryCejudo):

Henry Cejudo

The Olympic wrestling and now UFC (@ufcflyweight champion took less money but scored big ratings growth for ESPN (@espnon Saturday night, when he defended his title with a TKO over T.J. Dillashaw (@TJDillashawat Barclays Center. The son of undocumented immigrants, Cejudo is the American Latino success story. With Modelo (@ModeloUSA) now on board as the “Official Beer,” and 7- Eleven (@7eleven) as “Official Convenience Store,” the UFC’s growth to attract casual fight fans through partnerships is in a great place, and Cejudo can help seed that market as a mature, bilingual and very relatable champion in MMA.

 

 

 

3. Sofia Huerta (@schuerta):

Sofia Huerta (Jamie Smed)

This is going to be a big year for women’s soccer, so one to watch is the 26 year old Mexican-American currently playing for Houston Dash (@HoustonDashof the National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL), and on loan to Australian club Sydney FC for the 2018–19 W-League season. Huerta played for the Mexican National team but is now on the rise with the U.S. Women’s National team and is in contention for World Cup eligibility later this year. Her style and background make her worth a follow.

 

…[W]herever [Machado] ends up he will take a massive Jordan Brand deal with him and his permanent home after his time in L.A. at the end of last year will make him very desirable for years to come.

4. Josef Martinez (@JosefMartinez17):

Josef Martinez (credit: Atlanta United)

MLS will be heading to training camp soon, and all signs are that their 25 year old MVP, who led Atlanta United (@ATLUTDto a record year, will be back in the fold for now. Personable, telegenic and the perfect face of a bilingual soccer culture, Martinez is tied to Adidas (@adidas), but should he stay in Atlanta, should be on pace for some marketing gold as the cleats go back on this spring.

 

 

 

 

Join us at PORTADA LOS ANGELES on March 15, 2019 at the Loews Beach Hotel Santa Monica, where we will dive deep into sports and soccer marketing’s preeminent topics. Speaking engagements include Tiago Pinto, Global Marketing Director, Gatorade who will provide answers to the question: “Will Corporate America jump on the soccer opportunity?”Attendees will also be able to benefit from Portada’s meet-up service of three-eight-minute meetings with top brand executives!

 

Manny Machado (Keith Allison)

5. Manny Machado:

Where will the All Star end up before spring training? The jury is still out, but wherever he ends up he will take a massive Jordan Brand deal with him and his permanent home after his time in L.A. at the end of last year will make him very desirable for years to come. Baseball brands like Rawlings, which markets a Machado model glove, will also be in the mix moving forward.

 

 

 

Mariano Rivera

6. Mariano Rivera:

Even in retirement, the iconic closer will become more valuable this week as “Hall of Fame” goes on his résumé. He earned $170 million in salary over 19 years, all with the Yankees, and has partnered with businesses like Bank of America (@BankofAmerica), The Hartford (@TheHartford) insurance and insole provider OrthoLite (@OrthoLite).

Subscribe to Portada’s weekly Sports Marketing Updates!

 

 

 

Cover Image: Sofia Huerta (credit: Jamie Smed)

What: Canelo Alvarez’s win over Rocky Fielding at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night gave him an ever greater visibility boost to a wider U.S. audience.
Why it matters: The Guadalajara, Mexico, native can use this as a springboard to even greater marketing possibilities here moving forward.

The last few weeks if you watched any big sporting event on TV in North America you saw the commercial—in English: Michael Buffer (@Michael_Bufferand Canelo Alvarez (@Caneloin the ring in a lighthearted promotion to try the growing internet streaming service DAZN (@DAZN_USA(pronounced Da ZONE for those who don’t know) tied to his fight this past Saturday against Rocky Fielding (@Rocky87Fielding). It showed a side of the Mexican boxer that many casual fans may not have known, but with his win over Fielding at Madison Square Garden (@TheGardenin New York on Saturday night, making him champion in now three weight classes.

The fight was the kickoff to a partnership between DAZN, which is banking big on boxing’s resurgence, and Alvarez that was signed in the fall, five-year, 11-fight deal that will pay the boxer at least $365 million, making it one of the most lucrative single athlete media partnerships ever.

“By bringing Canelo’s fights to DAZN, we will turn his pay-per-view success into a growth engine for subscribers — a truly transformational moment for our business and for the entire industry,” John Skipper, the executive chairman of DAZN said at the time of the announcement, and Alvarez’s crossover brand power may just prove the investment to be a cost effective one, especially as major companies fight not just for brand recognition and subscribers, but for ancillary disruptive marketing power as well.

Those who have seen his value are already seeing an uptick, and as the next calendar year goes on I’m sure we will see more form him and the companies around him.
Canelo Alvarez/Everlast

Alvarez, once a low key stalwart in the ring, has undergone a brand transformation in the past year, bouncing back from a pre-fight drug test for the use of the banned substance clenbuterol last spring that put off a much anticipated fight against Gennady Golovkin (@GGGBoxingto grab more and more of the limelight in a sport popular with Latinos and growing in popularity with action craving millennials. That’s to say nothing about the millions who will tune in or follow the casual big fight, something that the sport had been lacking in recent years and is now finding a niche once again.

Alvarez is now boxing’s biggest pay-per-view star this side of the still inactive Floyd Mayweather, with recent fights against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Golovkin generating more than one million pay-per-view buys. His midyear place of 62 on the Forbes list of celebrities and athletes will rise to the top ten as the year ends, and his interest, and ability to connect with fans and brands in a multicultural environment will certainly make him move to the watch list of companies looking to continue to step up engagement as 2019 begins.

Canelo’s sponsor list is already growing, and includes deals with Under Armour (@UnderArmour), Tecate (@tecate), Hennessy (@HennessyUSand Everlast (@Everlast_), bringing in more than seven figures outside his boxing and media deals. That should continue to rise as the affluent Latino market tied to sports again grows with the turning of the calendar, and an increased focus in all things Mexican sports business continues to draw attention.

Join us at PORTADA LOS ANGELES on March 15, 2019 at the Loews Beach Hotel Santa Monica, where we will dive deep into sports and soccer marketing’s preeminent topics. Felix Palau, VP Marketing, Heineken will discuss “How to measure ROI and transfer best practices between sports marketing platforms”. Other speaking engagements include Tiago Pinto, Global Marketing Director, Gatorade who will provide answers to the question: “Will Corporate America jump on the soccer opportunity?”Attendees will also be able to benefit from Portada’s meet-up service of three-eight-minute meetings with top brand executives!

Gareb Shamus

“We all love great fights, it’s what everyone looks to and we can all identify with no matter how much we sometimes don’t like to admit it,” said Gareb Shamus (@gareba pop culture expert who once ran the fledgling MMA franchise the International Fight League before it was sold to the UFC. “We also love great story arcs with heroes and villains, and Canelo has given fans a little bit of the edginess that can pull from both sides. Most importantly he literally speaks the language of the two most important markets in North America and beyond, English and Spanish, and I think his crossover appeal is great for fight sports, and for business. Those who have seen his value are already seeing an uptick, and as the next calendar year goes on I’m sure we will see more form him and the companies around him.”

There is always risk in tying closely to fight sport athletes. One bad move, one knockout, could kill lots of brand equity. We certainly see that more in MMA, especially in the UFC, where champions can be built and a mismatched opponent, one with a stronger and different discipline, can take out a rising star suddenly. In the carefully crafted world of boxing matchups, the risk is less likely, and the buildup to the big fights gives ample time for brand promotion.

Is Canelo ready to ascend an even higher throne in sport marketing?2019 could be the year for the three belt champion, with boxing on the rise, streaming front and center and the athlete as brand becoming more and more the focus.

It could be a knockout year again for the Mexican star, well beyond his native land.

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What: The NBA’s Mexico series last weekend is another step forward in the league’s strong presence south of the border.
Why it matters: Priming the pump for Mexican growth is not just smart for fan engagement, it could open a whole new geographic region for NBA action.

The idea of “honoring Latino culture” in professional sports has come a long way from slapping Los on a jersey and bringing in a Mariachi band. While many teams still struggle to figure out exactly how to engage and bring in brands, or as one executive said, identify what exactly “Hispanic” or “Latino” means and how is that audience, the continued value-add in engagement grows exponentially with each passing year. As that fast-growing demo becomes more engaged, more affluent, and more on the radar of professional sports, the opportunity to capture and cultivate a fan base rises on the priority list.

Case in point is the NBA (@NBAand Mexico, which again entered the conversation with this past week’s regular season games in Mexico City. While China, India, and even Europe remain a big priority for brand engagement and fan development, is Mexico the real next stop for expansion?

This weekend again showed the value, and the passion, that the Mexican market can bring.

Now, of course, the NBA isn’t the only league now looking more steadily to the neighbors to the south. The NFL (@NFL), even with its recent field issues in Mexico, has targeted the country (@nflmxas a growth opportunity. Major League Baseball (@MLBhas the most natural connection through the culture of sport and the Latino community, and soccer, especially with the business relationship that exists with the Mexican National Team and Soccer United Marketing and the growing relationship with MLS (@MLSand Liga MX (@LIGABancomerMXstill the most viewed professional soccer matches in all of the Americas on a weekly basis) are all making inroads into the casual, and affluent fan base of Mexico. Heck even hockey, as pointed out in our recent piece on the L.A. Kings grassroots efforts to the south, is trying to find a niche. But will the NBA, always seeming to be a public step ahead of the others in business development, make the biggest and most successful next step?

There are certainly a lot of reasons to see if that’s where the race will lead. The first steps according to NBA commissioner Adam Silver in the growth of professional basketball not just in Mexico but in the rest of Latin America, are coming. Step one could be as early as next winter, when the NBA will put a G League team in Mexico City. Another step would be the building and fitting of more NBA quality facilities for both in cities throughout the rest of Mexico and Latin America. That obviously will take time.

Join us at PORTADA LOS ANGELES on March 15, 2019 at the Loews Beach Hotel Santa Monica, where we will dive deep into sports and soccer marketing’s preeminent topics. Felix Palau, VP Marketing, Heineken will discuss “How to measure ROI and transfer best practices between sports marketing platforms”. Other speaking engagements include Tiago Pinto, Global Marketing Director, Gatorade who will provide answers to the question: “Will Corporate America jump on the soccer opportunity?”Attendees will also be able to benefit from Portada’s meet-up service of three-eight-minute meetings with top brand executives!

“I believe we can be the No. 1 sport in the world,” Silver said recently. “When I look at the trajectory of growth, the fact that young people, boys and girls, continue to love this sport, are playing this sport, are engaged in the sport of basketball on social media or with online games, I don’t know what the limit is.”

One seemingly limitless next step is the continued push by teams to market to a growing fan base. This weekend again showed the value, and the passion, that the Mexican market can bring, and none of that was lost on the clubs like the Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagicwho participated this weekend. The other team that continues to grow in popularity in the country? The Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls).

A study commissioned by the NBA in July found that the Bulls were the favorite team of 18 percent of fans in Mexico, behind only the Los Angeles Lakers (20 percent) and well ahead of the defending champion Golden State Warriors (@warriors) (10 percent). The Bulls were also a top-three favorite of 42 percent of fans polled, second again to the Lakers (@Lakers) (45 percent).

“To have a team so well-followed and loved like the Bulls in the country, it’s a very important step for us,” added Raul Zarraga, managing director of NBA Mexico in a conversation with AP last week.

Since the league’s formal return to Mexico in 2014 as part of the NBA’s Global Games initiative, six regular-season games have been played in the country, including a record four in 2017.

With expansion not that close, but certainly starting to be rumored in cities like Seattle for some time in the next decade, 2025 or so, and with the Olympics coming back to North America in 2026, priming the pump for Mexican growth is not just smart for fan engagement, it could open a whole new geographic region for NBA action, an area which may make more sense than the once fertile vision of franchise growth abroad.

Whether Mexico becomes a home for the NBA is anyone’s guess. One is more of a sure thing is that the powers that be see the opportunity, both with existing franchises trying to capitalize on engagement with Latino fans, and for the league as a whole looking to identify and grow in new markets with both brands and fans from the grassroots up.

The times of yelling “Olé” and checking the Latino marketing box around basketball are long gone; business expansion has really arrived.

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What: Off its MLS Cup victory, Atlanta United FC faces some tough decisions regarding the retention its young Latino stars.
Why it matters: It is a challenge and an opportunity not lost on the powers that be in MLS, and one which will be key in the next level of development as a league.

What if Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30), after leading the Golden State Warriors (@warriors) to the NBA title, left for Maccabi Tel Aviv (@MaccabitlvBC), or Alex Cora, after leading the Boston Red Sox (@RedSoxto the World Series Championship, took his young, personable and marketable style to the Tokyo Giants (@TokyoGiants)? The upheaval and brand damage that could be done to those storied American franchises would be massive.

Yet those are the decisions, and the choices that Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) stars have, coming off an epic season not just in Major League Soccer (@MLS) but in North American sport. For MLS still, stars bring dollar value, more so abroad than to have them stay, pay and build a brand here. In the case of no fewer than two prominent Latino stars who are reaching new heights well beyond Atlanta, that’s not great news for anyone but their potential buyers.

The great Latino experiment shines brightly but may fade quickly, at least for this cycle.
Josef Martinez ()Delta News Hub)

That brand value and talent were in full force during last weekend’s MLS Cup before a record crowd of 73,019 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium when Josef Martínez of Venezuela, the MLS MVP, nailed a free kick from teammate Miguel Almirón of Paraguay toward the net, where Franco Escobar was waiting to score. Multicultural fans from across America, as well as those in Atlanta, rejoiced.

That was the great moment, one which stars of other sports can build on in their market. In reality, Atlanta fans will be waving goodbye, as coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino is departing along with Almirón, who finished second in the M.V.P. voting, heading to Europe and Martínez rumored to be following. The great Latino experiment shines brightly, but may fade quickly, at least for this cycle.

The value in America for Martínez, MVP, record-setting goal scorer, bright marketable face, might not ever be higher. It speaks to the market that MLS continues to refine: young, telegenic multicultural stars whose brand appeal can be very high. “He is tremendous, transcends the sport not just in America but around the world,” said Copa 90’s (@COPA90Marc Horine when asked this week about the Martínez effect on soccer in America. “He is socially conscious, understands the business side and resonates with a multicultural audience, what more could you want in a superstar?”

Join us at PORTADA LOS ANGELES on March 15, 2019 at the Loews Beach Hotel Santa Monica, where we will dive deep into sports and soccer marketing’s preeminent topics. Felix Palau, VP Marketing, Heineken will discuss “How to measure ROI and transfer best practices between sports marketing platforms”. Other speaking engagements include Tiago Pinto, Global Marketing Director, Gatorade who will provide answers to the question: “Will Corporate America jump on the soccer opportunity?”Attendees will also be able to benefit from Portada’s meet-up service of three-eight-minute meetings with top brand executives!

What you would want are staying power in the market and the ability to grow his personality and story with brands in America looking for that crossover star playing here in his prime. However MLS is still a sellers’ market, so Martínez brightest stars may be shining abroad soon. It is a challenge and an opportunity not lost on the powers that be in MLS, and one which will be key in the next level of development as a league. Growing the stories not just of multicultural stars, but of Americans, and keeping them home to play their best days.

“We need to start becoming as much of a seller as we are a buyer in order for the economics of our investment to make sense,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said to the New York Times last weekend. “That’s the way the overall global soccer market works, and it’s something that needs to work a little more effectively in Major League Soccer.”

Now all will certainly not be lost in Atlanta. The culture around the club, led at the top by owner Arthur Blank, will keep the franchise growing and vibrant as new names and stars are developed for their thousands of fans. The buying and selling of players is not unusual for American fans: free agency is deeply rooted in most pro team sports; however it is usually in the confines of the continent, not a world away.

The Atlanta story and its players is a great one for multicultural sports business in America; keeping the team together to grow would be an even better one.

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What: Amazon has signed on to its largest ad buy on Univision Deportes, as presenting sponsor of “The Championship Week” soccer events this month.
Why it matters: As the brand continues to exert its marketing force more and more into sport, the Latino audience will become that much more valuable.

There is no secret that engaging the Latino community is going to be key for brand success more in the future than ever before. Tech and digital savvy millennials, as well as families looking to grow consumption, have to be key targets, whether they speak English or Spanish first. Also, if you are looking for an active audience with an affinity for sports, live sports even more so, then look to soccer, baseball and basketball as sports of choice.

Just ask Amazon (@amazon).

As the brand continues to exert its marketing force more and more into sport, the Latino audience will become that much more valuable, and published reports this week show that strategy around sports coming full circle this month.

Amazon’s investment could signal a key shift in spending both for sport and the Latino audience.

According to Terry Lefton of SportsBusiness Journal (@sbjsbd), Amazon’s push to break through the clutter and engage with Latinos during the critical holiday retail season will be through soccer, as they have signed on as presenting sponsor of “The Championships Week” across Univision Deportes (@UnivisionSports), a two-week festival of playoff soccer combining Univision’s premier fútbol properties.

It represents Amazon’s largest ad buy on Univision Deportes.

“We’re happy to find an advertiser as important as Amazon finding value in being across all of these top-level soccer games at a very busy time of year,” said Rick Resnick, Univision senior vice president, sales marketing strategy and solutions told Lefton.

“Semana de Campeonatos presentado por Amazon,” running during the first half of December, will include the MLS Cup (@MLSchampionship game next Sunday between Atlanta United (@ATLUTDand the Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC), along with the “two-legged” finals of Liga MX (@LigaMxEngand playoff competition from the UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague). Also in the package are spots during the games, a variety of shoulder programming and studio highlights shows, ranging from “Deportiva,” “Linea de Cuatro,” “Contacto Deportivo,” and “Mision Europa,” which airs from 5-6 p.m. Monday through Friday on the UniMas simulcast on UDN.

Join us at PORTADA LOS ANGELES on March 15, 2019 at the Loews Beach Hotel Santa Monica, where we will dive deep into sports and soccer marketing’s preeminent topics. Felix Palau, VP Marketing, Heineken will discuss “How to measure ROI and transfer best practices between sports marketing platforms”. Other speaking engagements include Tiago Pinto, Global Marketing Director, Gatorade who will provide answers to the question: “Will Corporate America jump on the soccer opportunity?”Attendees will also be able to benefit from Portada’s meet-up service of three-eight-minute meetings with top brand executives!

“When you look at this package it is a great buy across a wide demo of soccer fans, from those with a passion for MLS to those who look more regionally and globally,” said Chris Lencheski, veteran sports marketer and professor at Columbia University. “While we don’t see Amazon yet buying streaming rights for these properties, they know the growing brand power that fútbol has and they are going right to a targeted and passionate sweet spot. If it’s successful, and there is no reason it won’t be, it could be a turning point for brands who still struggle to engage the Latino fan, be it in English or Spanish.”

While consumer brands like a Modelo (@ModeloUSAor Budweiser (@Budweiseror Goya (@GoyaFoodshave found fútbol a key engagement spot, tech and media brands have yet to make a wide push, preferring conservative spends. Amazon’s investment could signal a key shift in spending both for sport and the Latino audience, one which has been a long time in coming away from mega events like World Cup.

If it’s a win, it’s a trend to watch for 2019 and beyond, and might be the long rumored shift for brands to get more engaged with the demo, one which is clamoring for wide engagement.

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Cover Image: Flickr/Craig Dietrich

What: El Tri announced a deal to play four matches at AT&T Stadium, home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.
Why it matters: It’s the latest in a series of initiatives by North American based leagues looking to further connect with Latino fans, still the largest growing population in the U.S.

While the CFL (@CFL), MLB (@MLBand even the NFL (@NFLlook south for new fans and audiences, North America’s most popular soccer club is putting down more consistent business stakes in the U.S. On Wednesday, the Mexican National team, whose rights are marketed partially by Soccer United Marketing (SUM), announced a deal to play four matches, one per year through 2022 — at AT&T Stadium, the 80,000-seat home of the Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys).

The agreement for “El Tri,” (@FMFwill also include cross promotions with the Cowboys, special festivals and community programs in and around Dallas, as well as some promotions with FC Dallas (@FCDallasas well.

Bringing National team players who can be role models to a community that may not connect first with Cowboys players will provide a great bridge.

The move to have a consistent presence not that far north of Mexico for the team, will also be great added value for the national team’s business partners like Adidas AG (@adidas), AT&T Inc. (@ATT), Coca-Cola Co. (@CocaCola), Nissan Motor Co. (@NissanUSA), Delta Air Lines Inc. (@Delta), Home Depot Inc. (@HomeDepotand Wells Fargo & Co. (@WellsFargo), and can help again grow the presence of Liga MX (@LigaMxEngin the U.S., where their games are already the most viewed North American soccer matches on television. It also sets up a great entrée for international soccer in the U.S. as North America preps to host the 2026 World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup).

The partnership will be a great win for the local community that is increasingly bilingual, and can identify with soccer as their sport of choice in homes where English and Spanish are spoken. Bringing National team players who can be role models to a community that may not connect first with Cowboys players will provide a great bridge.

Join us at PORTADA LOS ANGELES on March 15, 2019 at the Loews Beach Hotel Santa Monica, where we will dive deep into sports and soccer marketing’s preeminent topics. Felix Palau, VP Marketing, Heineken will discuss “How to measure ROI and transfer best practices between sports marketing platforms”. Other speaking engagements include Tiago Pinto, Global Marketing Director, Gatorade who will provide answers to the question: “Will Corporate America jump on the soccer opportunity?”Attendees will also be able to benefit from Portada’s meet-up service of three-eight-minute meetings with top brand executives!

“We look to partner with a lot of the ISD, schools and systems within the area to create those programs and the Mexican National team has agreed to work with us through that and be able to expose some of those children with the national team and help with reading,” Monica Paul, Dallas Sports Commission executive director said.

For the Cowboys, in addition to bringing new faces and filling additional dates at AT&T Stadium, the partnership will enhance their community efforts on both sides of the border as they, and the NFL, look to further connect with Latino fans, still the largest growing population in the U.S. It’s a step forward in making “America’s team” more of “Mexico’s team” than they are (don’t forget the Houston Texans have the closest proximity to the border), with the L.A. Rams (@RamsNFLand Chargers (@Chargersalso looking to grow into the added value of Mexico as well) today.

It makes great business sense for all, with consistency and elite brands sharing a stage with no downside.

Fútbol and football keep growing together.

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What: The Brooklyn Nets will try a crossover promotion with Juventus FC to tap into fans of the Serie A club on December 7.
Why it matters: Though soccer and basketball are the two most popular global sports, clubs rarely interact. If successful, the Nets-Juventus trial can be a model for U.S. and Latin American franchises.

Credit: Sven Mandel

There is no doubt that soccer (football) and hoops go one and two in terms of global popularity. From the professional level to the grassroots, from India and China to South America and the U.S., it is hard to not have a conversation about massive engagement in sport without touching on the ball you use your hands for, and the one that you don’t.

That being said, the uniting of the brands that dominate the sport on a global level, doesn’t happen much. The two sports, even with the select massive clubs of Europe having both soccer and basketball in their model, don’t do a great deal of crossover promoting. You even have ownership groups, like Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment, that own NBA (Sixers @sixers), NHL (Devils @NJDevils) and Premier League (Crystal Palace @CPFC) clubs, but it is rare to see CP pop up in the narrative of NBA and NHL or vice versa. Occasionally, maybe, but not that often. Maybe with organizations like Fenway Sports Group (@fenwaysports), marrying the massive brands of the Red Sox (@RedSoxand Liverpool (@LFCthere will be some synergy from time to time, but the businesses and the brands, are a bit siloed.

…[T]he cross-pollination where it makes sense between basketball and soccer seems like a simple and effective next step.

Now that doesn’t mean that some clubs haven’t tried to sports crossover promotion to some degree of success. The best example may be the Bundesliga’s FC Schalke 04 (@s04 ), who have done a great cross promotion job in markets like St. Louis and Pittsburgh to tie their brand not just with soccer clubs in the market, but with hockey, baseball, and even NFL teams.

So why not more crossover co-promotions with NBA and elite soccer clubs? One is in the offing apparently, as on December 7 the Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNetswill go all Juventus (@juventusfcenin Barclays Center for their game with the Toronto Raptors.

Join us at PORTADA LOS ANGELES on March 15, 2019 at the Loews Beach Hotel Santa Monica, where we will dive deep into sports and soccer marketing’s preeminent topics. Felix Palau, VP Marketing, Heineken will discuss “How to measure ROI and transfer best practices between sports marketing platforms”. Other speaking engagements include Tiago Pinto, Global Marketing Director, Gatorade who will provide answers to the question: “Will Corporate America jump on the soccer opportunity?”Attendees will also be able to benefit from Portada’s meet-up service of three-eight-minute meetings with top brand executives!

Flamengo Basketball (FIBA)

Before the game begins, a watch party will be held for Juventus’ match against rivals Inter Milan (@Inter), with the match shown on all the screens. It also will tie nicely as the two teams share colors, or lack of color, with black and white, giving Brooklyn a chance to co-promote without straying too far from their accustomed arena motif. Juventus will have ambassador and former France international soccer star David Trezeguet will be in attendance, as will the club’s mascot, Jay.

Throw in the fact that Juventus has a large and loyal following in Brooklyn, a hotbed of Italian soccer interest overall, and it becomes a smart crossover opportunity that can probably extend the window for arena business, get some international buzz, and show a simple but effective way a Serie A (@SerieAleader can continue to evolve its brand in the States.

With a growing number of elite clubs putting down stakes in the U. S., – Bayern, AS Roma, City Football Club, Barcelona, Club America, PSG, Ajax, not to mention clubs with American owners (Liverpool, Fullham, etc.) and leagues like La Liga, Liga MX and the Bundesliga, growing their interests, the cross-pollination where it makes sense between basketball and soccer seems like a simple and effective next step, with some probable exposure of the NBA clubs (where allowed) abroad as well.

Also, let’s not forget brand synergy as well. If you are brand that has invested in global sport, finding ways to engage with consumers with clubs that have your common toe also makes great sense. Are there always going to be some issues with disconnection, maybe where core fans of one club have no interest in the other? Maybe. But the Nets’ Juventus one is a cost-effective way to marry clubs, garner attention and keep global sport moving along. Score points for both.

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What: Qatar Airways’s sponsorship with CONMEBOL is the latest partnership for an international carrier in the sport of soccer.
Why it matters: The agreement shows the continued growth of Latino markets and fans as affluent consumers and creates a more varied playing field now for a lucrative category.

Gareth_Bale (Football.ua)

The global airlines category in and around the elite world of soccer can be elusive and sometimes difficult to navigate, with many carriers choosing to spend their marketing dollars on sports more locally than around the world.

However, a handful of carriers, especially those looking to expand brand into the Americas, are continuing to look to soccer as a way to engage and storytell to an emerging audience.

Such was the case last week when Qatar Airways (@qatarairwaysannounced its latest sports partnership, this one not with a club but with CONMEBOL ( @CONMEBOL), making the Middle East-based carrier the sponsor of CONMEBOL’s professional competitions across South America through 2022, including the Copa Libertadores, Copa Sudamericana, and the Recopa. With the Americas being a growth market for the airline, the CONMEBOL deal can bring a wide range of opportunities to Qatar Airways, who has already spent big with global clubs like with Bayern Munich, AS Roma, Boca Juniors as well as with FIFA and in the U.S. with the Brooklyn Nets of the NBA.

…[B]ringing in a relatively new but established player is good news for everyone.
David Villa (Arturo Pardavila III)

“We are continually striving to boost our global sporting sponsorship portfolio, and this partnership is just one more example of our dedication to the sports sector. We are also excited to further expand our presence in South America, and look forward to supporting the forthcoming CONMEBOL football competitions,” said Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker.

The move is a bold strategy for Qatar Airways as some of its bigger competitors look to the west to also increase their global footprint, sales and brand awareness. Etihad Airways, (@EtihadAirways) for example, supports soccer globally through various partnerships including a Principal Partnership with New York City Football Club (@NYCFC), Manchester City Football Club (@ManCity), Melbourne City Football Club (@MelbourneCity, Al Ittihad Football Club and Al Ain Football Club in the emirate of Abu Dhabi as well as a multiyear and expanded agreement with Major League Soccer (@MLS). They also have a solid place in Washington, D.C. as the official airline of Verizon Center in the Washington Capitals (@Capitals) (NHL), the Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) (NBA), and the Washington Mystics (@WashMystics(WNBA).

The Portada Brand-Sports 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.

Emirates Stadium (Arsenal mjh)

Emirates Airline (@emirates) has also gone the big brand in soccer route, with deals that include Arsenal and Emirates Stadium, Real Madrid, Paris Saint Germain, AC Milan, Benfica, Hamburg SV, Olympiacos, the Emirates FA Cup, the Arabian Gulf League, and the Asian Football Confederation as well as an ongoing partnership with the New York Cosmos, currently looking for a new home after the demise of the NASL.

“If you are going to try and infiltrate the Americas and are already a global carrier with best in class service, the wide footprint that a strategic partnership in soccer can have can reap great benefits,” added Chris Lencheski, a longtime sports marketing expert who has spent years in the soccer space and teaches at Columbia University. “There is no doubt that the world is still looking to the Americas, as well as China, as the still to be refined growth areas for soccer and soccer marketing. Getting in now, as these airlines have done, with both clubs and properties that are looking to seize that opportunity is very smart, and sends a very strong message to the consumer and the business world about areas they believe will grow with partnerships they develop.”

The move to the Americas with CONMEBOL is one to watch for a number of reasons. First, it shows the continued growth of Latino markets and fans as affluent consumers and gives a look into the long-term strategies for nontraditional brands looking for a new way to engage. Second, it creates a more varied playing field now for a lucrative category, as most of these types of deals are not done just as a one-off; they are usually done as stepping stones for other deals as dollars and opportunities become available in other markets.

On the sell side, it is always great to have a new aggressive brand in the marketplace, and bringing in a relatively new but established player is good news for everyone, especially those doing business in soccer in the Americas for years to come.

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Cover Image: credit Clément Bucco-Lechat

What: Zlatan Ibrahimović, Carlos Vela and Josef Martinez check in as the top three in sales on MLSstore.com to date in 2018.
Why it matters: That these and other Latino stars dominate the list reflects their popularity among not only Hispanic fans but soccer supporters in the U.S. as a whole.

As MLS (@MLSplayoffs get ready to kick in, it is interesting to see the rainbow of kits sold this season and who the fans are choosing to wear: Latino stars anyone?

Data released this week showed that Zlatan Ibrahimović’s (@Ibra_officialimpact on the league as a marketing opportunity was as big as it was on the field, as the 37-year-old led all sales on MLSstore.com since the beginning of 2018.

Ibrahimović beat crosstown rival Carlos Vela (@11carlosV), of LAFC, for the top spot. Atlanta United striker Josef Martinez (@JosefMartinez17ranked third, while former England captain Wayne Rooney (@WayneRooney) was fourth despite not signing with DC United until July. Atlanta’s Miguel Almirón, who had the top-selling jersey, fell to fifth.

The Latino market … continues to be the prime growth spot for MLS in North America.

The list for 2018 was reflective of MLS global appeal, especially in the Latino demo, as 18 MLS designated players featured on the list, including David Villa, Ezequiel Barco (YDP), Diego Valeri, Diego Rossi (YDP), and Giovani dos Santos.

Seven of the 13 non-American countries making the list again show the power of the Latino audience to MLS: Mexico (Vela, Dos Santos), Venezuela (Martinez), Paraguay (Almirón), Spain (Villa), Argentina (Barco, Valeri, Hector Villalba, Luciano Acosta), Uruguay (Rossi), and Colombia (Darwin Quintero Jr., Diego Chara).

The still to be determined value for MLS remains keeping home grown stars in the United States, as the majority of the bestselling Americans are the more established stars returning home after lucrative and successful careers abroad.

The Portada Brand-Sports 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.

“Major League Soccer continues to find its way up the chain in sports business in the United States, and the appeal of having global stars, especially identifiable Latino stars, in the mix is a huge selling point overall,” said veteran marketer and Columbia University Chris Lencheski. “Will it help when the days of Christian Pulisic and others playing on the national team are in their prime and playing in the U.S.? For sure. However for now the appeal of multinational players is just as important, and that’s great news for anyone involved in the business of soccer in America, a business which is still finding its way on the growth curve.”

The Latino market, one which is very soccer savvy and is no stranger to watching and embracing top flight soccer, continues to be the prime growth spot for MLS in North America. While recent reports have indicated more connections to Liga MX, which remains the most viewed professional soccer on the continent, that fact that Latino stars from various countries are still ratcheting up business is a good sign, and one that bodes well as the postseason begins for soccer in America.

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Cover Image: Carlos Vela (LAFC.com)

What: Puerto Rico’s Alex Cora, the Boston Red Sox’s first minority manager in their nearly 120-year history, has emerged as a brand to be recognized and embraced in The Hub.
Why it matters: The team’s fourth World Series title since 2004 and nearly universal praise for his managing raises Cora’s profile even higher, making him an even more attractive entity for brands.

Many times in the transient world of sports, the “face” of the franchise can become diluted. Players come and go, owners like to seize the stage, even logos and mascots can move in and out. However for the successful franchises, the head coach, or in the case of baseball, the manager, can be that rock that connects generations, fans, brands, and media. It’s not an easy choice and often that face prefers to stick to the business of sport, but for the right mix in the right market, that skipper can pay great dividends.

Such is the case in Boston, a city that has seen its share of bright and sometimes reluctant leaders on the field in recent years. Brad Stevens has become a quiet guiding and impactful force for the Boston Celtics (@celtics), while Bill Belichick is a successful albeit reticent frontman for the ultra-successful Patriots (@Patriots). Then you have the 2018 World Series Champion Red Sox (@RedSox) and Alex Cora.

His community awareness, media savvy, social activism…and baseball success can make Alex Cora a really interesting face of baseball reaching its core, Latino consumers both in English and Spanish.
Tab Bamford

As Boston closed out its record-setting year in MLB (108 regular season wins, victories over two 100-win teams in the playoffs and a five-game World Series win over the Dodgers), Cora, just the second Latino manager to bring home a World Series title, has steadily emerged as a brand to be noticed and embraced, especially for a baseball audience around the country that has a solid Latino base and is craving vibrant leaders. What makes Cora even more interesting is his relatively young age and his passion for cause marketing, especially when it comes to his native Puerto Rico, where he has been a driving and vocal force in the efforts still going on around Hurricane Maria’s cleanup. Cora is also the first minority manager in the storied history of the Red Sox, a team which has had its share of Latino stars and is poised to build on that legacy even more.

“Cora is one of the youngest managers in MLB (@MLB) (just turned 43 on Oct. 18 – the Red Sox won twice on his birthday thanks to an after-midnight ET finish). Any time a manager leads a team to the best record in MLB, much less a championship, there’s value in association. In a major market like Boston, Chicago, New York, etc. there’s even more regional/national value (see Joe Maddon in Chicago),” said Tab Bamford (@The1Tab), Managing Director at La Vida Baseball (). “What makes Cora a unique individual for brands is not only his age, but he’s a hybrid of the old school and new school. He’s incredibly eloquent in both languages, is socially active and – most importantly in my opinion – he’s sharp, frank and open with the media; he doesn’t simply provide the cliché sound bites that we all learned from Bull Durham.”

The Portada Brand-Sports 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.

(YouTube/NESN)

That combination can make the Red Sox skipper prime for multicultural brands looking for an even bigger play not just in New England, but throughout the country. His community awareness, media savvy, social activism…and baseball success can make Alex Cora a really interesting face of baseball reaching its core, Latino consumers both in English and Spanish language, for years to come as his career plays out on the bench and in the marketplace.

What type of brands would make sense? Just look around The Hub to see the deep devotion to Red Sox nation. Financial services companies like John Hancock (@johnhancockusa), consumer brands like Dunkin (@dunkindonuts), even tech companies like Raytheon (@Raytheonand others love being around all things Boston sports, and Cora has a great message and a great storyline that can also be multigenerational because of his style, and his age. Also, don’t discount his community involvement as a unique intangible for helping baseball reach a younger demo; when you tie cause to something, millennials notice more, and given that his work has been tied to Puerto Rico, you also pull in a younger Latino audience that can make great sense.

Is it easy to do? No. Do players hitting homers or shooting threes make for a sexier sell? Sometimes. However as a young, engaged and multicultural face, Alex Cora is certainly an intriguing one to watch, not just this fall but for years to come.

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What: FC Barcelona announced this week that it intends to open an NWSL franchise in the U.S.
Why it matters: A European club seeing the value of a U.S. women’s team may open the floodgates for investment by others and new partnership opportunities worldwide.

Nadia Nadim (BDZ Sports)

While LaLiga (@LaLigacontinues on with its battle to stage a regular season match in Miami in January amidst still surprising pushback, a club made an interesting next step announcement with a new, lower cost and strategic play for a point of entry into the American marketplace.

On Tuesday, news broke that FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) are in discussions to place a women’s team in the National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) as early as next year, making them the only club from outside the US to have a team in the top-tier women’s soccer league.

…[T]he NWSL … can certainly use a much needed global buzz by bringing a Barcelona brand into the mix.
Alex Morgan (Flickr/Jamie Smed)

“We are planning to open a franchise in the US, a Barcelona franchise in the American league,” said Javier Sobrino, Barcelona’s strategy and knowledge director, speaking at a conference in Qatar. “We are right now in discussion to see whether it is possible or not. It will be immediate, next season is our goal, if not the following one. A women’s team playing in the US.”

The proposed team would keep Barcelona’s name and is likely to play its home games in Los Angeles. The addition of the Spanish outfit would bring the number of teams in the NWSL up to ten, with the league hoping to have 14 franchises by 2020.

The move makes sense for a number of long-term business reasons. While men’s sides from elite clubs face many obstacles in growing the game with literal boots on the ground in the US, the emergence of women’s clubs in LaLiga, the Bundesliga (@Bundesliga_EN ‏) and even Serie A (@SerieA) have fewer hurdles for movement or growth. The Women’s World Cup (@FIFAWWCnext year will provide a really strong platform to boost women’s soccer even higher, and the NWSL, which thrives in markets like Portland (@ThornsFC ‏) and Orlando but struggles mightily in markets like the New York area, can certainly use a much needed global buzz by bringing a Barcelona brand into the mix.

The Portada Brands-Sports 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.

From a grassroots side, having Barcelona’s system now available in the U.S. to cultivate and teach the explosive demo of young girls can help feed the growth of professional women’s soccer globally, and can, frankly, mine and develop future young players not just for professional play but for the college side as well. The fertile and still being defined Latina market is also prime if the club does end up in soccer-rich Southern California.

Then you also have brand exposure. With Barca having a commercial presence already in the U.S., having a fulltime club able to engage gives a new entry point for anyone looking to engage with the Barca brand from afar, while the elite men’s club plays elsewhere and can be viewed on beIN Sports (@beINSPORTS). No, it’s not exactly the same, but the brand ties between the men’s and women’s club are certainly a unique way of engagement and will draw positive attention, goodwill and even sponsorship towards a club with a deeper presence in the U.S. than perhaps any other global soccer club if the move happens.

Is there a risk? Minimal. Building a women’s club in the U.S. does not have the massive dollar investment that having an elite men’s club coming to play in say, MLS, would have. The reward, for the brand, for the grassroots, and for women’s sport far outweighs the issues, and the lessons learned and path carved is great news for women’s sport, let alone women’s soccer.

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Cover Image: credit Flickr/Jamie Smed

What: Southern New Hampshire University, a leader in online higher education, and MLS have instituted Rompe las Barreras, a job shadowing program for Hispanic high school students.
Why it matters: The program tying education, real-life experience and soccer can serve as a model for partnerships with tangible benefits to Latino students and brands, in this case, a university.

It’s always refreshing to see partnerships in sports that can deliver a unique ROI. Major League Soccer (@MLSand its Official Education Partner, Southern New Hampshire University (@SNHU), have come up with one that has some long-term implications with soccer fans, young Latinos and Latinas, and the issue of affordable and effective learning.

Rompe las Barreras is a job shadowing program offered to deserving Hispanic juniors and seniors in high school. It was in seven markets with eight clubs: New York Red Bulls, NYCFC, Philadelphia Union, D.C. United, Chicago Fire, Houston Dynamo, FC Dallas, and LA Galaxy. Each Club either hosted or will soon be hosting, 10-16 students, to shadow club executives that work in their department of interest. The result is a hands-on, real-time benefit for the students that strengthens the ties of the clubs to the community well away from the pitch.

With how hard the sports industry is to break into, there is a shared understanding of once you’re in you should find ways to help others break through.

How has it worked? We asked Steve Thiel, Senior Director, Strategic Partnerships for SNHU to walk us through.

Portada: From a marketing standpoint how and why did the program come about?

Steve Thiel: With Rompe Las Barreras (“Break through the Barriers”), we wanted to tap into the passion of the multicultural fan base of MLS and address some of these goals. Specifically, we felt that the excitement that Hispanic youth would have in visiting and being immersed in their local soccer team could be transformed into a day of learning, with students coming away from the experience with a more realistic sense of how education and effort can turn into fulfilling careers.

Portada: In terms of engagement what were the initial goals, and where have you gone at this point?

ST: First and foremost, this was the University’s first foray into Hispanic Heritage Month activities. We wanted to be respectful and find an authentic voice in this space, which ultimately sets the foundation for a long lasting commitment to this community. Second, we wanted to provide a seamless and enjoyable experience for the school administrators, students, and team front office staff. Finally, our goal was to tell stories across social and digital channels of these inspiring high schoolers who have already put themselves in positions to be successful in the future. We focused less on quantitative goals in this first year, but we’ll have some exciting benchmarks to utilize in the future.

Portada: What was the biggest surprise?

ST: The biggest surprise to us was how much the Clubs’ front office staff enjoyed these experiences. With how hard the sports industry is to break into, there is a shared understanding of once you’re in you should find ways to help others break through. We received exciting feedback from staff who were proud to have participated.

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Portada: You activated across a host of cities, can you give us some examples of the best stories that have come about?

ST: One story that comes to mind is of a Senior at Annandale High School named Kudss Bekele who attended the D.C. United shadowing day. Kudss had a particular interest in the culinary arts, which was called out in his teacher’s letter of recommendation to participate in the program. D.C. United introduced him to their Director of Food and Beverage at Audi Field and they had a 1-on-1 session talking about their shared love of food and careers that can apply. Annandale’s chaperone described it as “transformative” for the student, in that he had no idea that he could take his love for food and apply it to a game day experience. That’s what these experiences are meant to do.

In addition, we had the Presidents or General Managers from the Chicago Fire, D.C. United, FC Dallas, and New York City FC come and speak to the students unprompted by us. It was an amazing gesture by these folks and it’s exciting to us that these students had access to these important executives at such a young age.

Portada: Why young Latinos and Latinas? How do they fit into the plan with this for an online university?

ST: In 2017, the Hispanic student population was our fastest growing ethnicity in our online degree programs. While still a modest size group, we believe it’s our job as a University to make sure we have the foundation in place to support these students. That includes better recognition of our offerings to this audience, establishing online student groups that build community, further education for our student-facing staff of the unique opportunities and challenges these folks face, and continuing our commitment towards expanding access with partnerships and groups that are already working with this population.

The Portada Brand-Sports 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.

Portada: What’s the biggest challenge in executing the program? What was the longer term goal with these students who engaged?

ST: Since we currently only offer online degree programs in English, we have had to help our teams understand that this is a highly bilingual audience who’s used to seeing content in both languages. There are ways to effectively tell our story in English, while still speaking to the themes and values that this audience cares about. Our research indicates that Hispanic families value education as much as anyone, and we will continue to find ways in which we can better serve this population.

Portada: Is this a program that can/will/should be replicated in other sports, and if so how?

ST: It certainly could be. Our sports partnerships include Major League Soccer and some member Clubs (FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, LA Galaxy, New York Red Bulls, and the Philadelphia Union), the Boston Celtics, and our local teams in Manchester, NH (Fisher Cats and Monarchs). Our conversations have been focused on how we pursue more long-term programming that builds off of Rompe Las Barreras with our existing teams. But certainly, if other sports leagues or non-sports leagues wanted to do this program, we would be excited to have the conversation.

Portada: What is the long-term win for the program from a brand marketing standpoint? Where does it go from here?

ST: A win for us is feedback that we’re helping individuals, in this case Hispanic high schoolers, become more prepared, more confident, and have true equitable access to higher education. That drives everything we do. Secondly is that we’re sharing stories that are consistent in value with this audience.

Long term, we want to get better at preparing Hispanic youth and adults for higher education. This program isn’t the end goal, it’s a starting point on an exciting journey.

A well thought out, well-executed program with long-term deliverables for both parties. Well played by both.

What: Prospects for the growth of Hispanic involvement in the sport of golf are looking better than ever.
Why it matters: Increased accessibility to the sport in the U.S. and the work of organizations like The First Tee means more opportunities and potential business expansion.

Monterrey The First Tee participant Pedro Ortiz (r) with his father and Pres. Bush

The Ryder Cup (@rydercupis history and most of the U.S. starts preparing for the colder weather and maybe more indoor activities, so we thought it would be good to take a look at the sport of golf. Coming off a marketed increasing upswing led by Tiger Woods (@TigerWoodsresurgence and a host of rising stars, golf looks to be bouncing back. But is the ball moving along with the increasingly savvy Latino participant and consumer? Some numbers appear to say yes, which bodes well for brands like Callaway (@CallawayGolf), Nike (@Nikeand Top Flite (@TopFlite), as well as for emerging technology engagement centers and business like TopGolf (@Topgolf). We took a look.

According to the World Golf Foundation, 32 million participate in golf in the U.S. What is perhaps unexpected is that there are six times more Hispanic golfers in the U.S. than in the rest of the Spanish-speaking world –Latin America’s 200,000 and Spain’s 270,000– combined.

Why? Several elements have contributed to the diversification of golfers in the U.S. For starters, 75 percent of the facilities are open to the public, in contrast with the Southern Hemisphere and Spain, where private country clubs and exclusive courses for foreign tourists remain the norm.

With that business expansion comes more money available for partners like The First Tee to reinvest in the grassroots and rising players of the game.
Keith Dawkins

That steady increase in participation is not the only contribution of Hispanics to the record level of expenditure in golf US $84.1 billion reported in 2016. The expected and better-known fact that Hispanics make up a large portion of the approximately two million jobs in the golf industry also is a nice bonus, so affinity with the game is growing.

At the core of that growth is The First Tee (@TheFirstTee), the youth sports organization whose mission is to grow the game of golf by transforming the experience that kids (and families) have with the sport. Since its inception in 1997, The First Tee has reached more than 15 million kids, positively impacting their lives. Reaching more than five million kids annually, The First Tee offers programs in all 50 states through the National School Program in more than 10,000 elementary schools, 150 chapters at more than 1,200 golf courses and The First Tee DRIVE at 1,300 youth centers. The First Tee is expanding globally and currently offers programs at six international locations.

From 2014 to 2017, The First Tee’s Life Skills Experience (at the chapters) had an increase of 43% among Hispanic females ages 5-18. “There are 50 million kids in the U.S. under the age of 11. That’s roughly 15% of the population making them the largest cohort of kids in our nation’s history,” said Keith Dawkins, The First Tee CEO. “Over half of those kids are kids of color. That growth is driven largely by the Hispanic audience. So, having the largest and most diverse group of kids EVER provides a wonderful opportunity for The First Tee to have a profound impact on a new pool of kids and the game (and industry) overall.”

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With the current projections, each year close to one million Latinos will join the U.S. golfing ranks, both as fans and players. And consistent with the general increase of women in golf, the largest surge of Hispanic participation will be in junior females.

How can The First Tee and other organizations continue to fuel that growth? “We have a variety of programs around the country that are successful,” Dawkins added. “In East Salinas [Calif.], The First Tee of Monterey County in partnership with the school district of Alisal provides transportation for elementary school students to the chapter as part of their school day. There are similar programs in San Diego, Silicon Valley and other markets around the country.”

And central to that growth and game affinity for life are brand partners. The yin and yang of equipment sales in sports always fluctuates with what is hot and what is not in sports. Woods’ front page success certainly has more people thinking and watching golf again, and that bodes well for the brands that need the interest to expand business. With that business expansion comes more money available for partners like The First Tee to reinvest in the grassroots and rising players of the game. Then the cycle moves ahead. More investment means more affordability for inner-city youth or Latinos anywhere who want to pick up a club, and that investment leads to affordable opportunity in a game thought by many to be cost prohibitive.

“The First Tee (as a National/international) organization has always worked to provide an affordable program for its kids and their families,” Dawkins concluded. “We are able to do this because of the great support that we get from our partners.”

That support is good news for all.

Cover image: credit Keith Allison

What: Elisa Padilla, senior VP of marketing & community relations for the Miami Marlins, has more than two decades of experience in the marketing industry.
Why it matters: Padilla is one of the most prominent Latinas in sports marketing who has the rare mix of Hispanic expertise across sports.

Elisa Padilla

There are few Latina executives in sports who have had a more diverse career than Senior Vice President of Marketing and Community Relations of the Miami Marlins Elisa Padilla (@eprican).

Padilla joined the Marlins (@Marlinsas Senior Vice President of Marketing and Community Relations in June and is now responsible for leading the marketing efforts for the team which include brand marketing, community outreach, digital, creative, game presentation, events & promotions and foundation. She moved to the Marlins after a short time at Apple where she was the Head of Product Launch. Prior to Apple, she was Chief Marketing Officer for Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment where she oversaw the marketing efforts for the Nets (@BrooklynNetsand Barclays Center @barclayscenterarena, including branding, advertising, merchandising, database research, creative, websites, and social media.

The Portada Brand-Sports 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 offer to engage consumers in the U.S. and Latin America.

Padilla’s tasks in sports business read like a great “how to” for brand building. She seamlessly led the rebranding strategy of the Nets from New Jersey to Brooklyn, and is the creator of the award-winning branding campaign “Hello Brooklyn.” She also played a key role in establishing the brand identity for Barclays Center by branding its five programming franchises. Padilla also led the marketing efforts for the venue’s sixth programming franchise, the New York Islanders, who began playing in Brooklyn in the fall of 2015.

The biggest challenge has been to educate colleagues how important Latinos are in today’s marketplace.
(credit Keith Allison)

Before joining the Marlins, she had accumulated nearly 20 years of experience in the marketing industry, working with high profile sports and entertainment companies such as AT&T, HBO Sports, Nickelodeon, and NBA. During her time at AT&T, she developed marketing plans targeted at the Hispanic Segment that resulted in solid customer acquisition and retail distribution expansion in key highly Hispanic traffic areas. She also spearheaded marketing efforts for the opening of the first AT&T store in New York City’s Chinatown.

We wanted to catch up with Elisa as the Marlins season ended in Miami to get her thoughts on a few other topics.

Portada: You have had several amazing stops, from the Nets to now the Marlins and others; what’s the common trait that exists in the places you have been?

Elisa Padilla: There has been an incredible drive and passion for the brand and its success. Whether it’s relaunching a brand, ensuring its top position in its category or building it up, driving awareness and being number one has been the common trait among all of them.

Portada: How has the road been for you as a Latina in sports business?  What’s been the biggest challenge?

EP: The road in sports as a Latina has been challenging and rewarding. What I mean by that is I have been told over and over again that I can’t do something, however, my philosophy has always been to let the work speak for itself. I have proven that out over and over again.

The biggest challenge has been to educate colleagues how important Latinos are in today’s marketplace.

Portada: How about the biggest opportunity you have taken advantage of?

EP: Delivering a different point of view. As a woman, the majority of the purchasing decisions are made by women in the household, no male colleague can share that point of view because he doesn’t live. I can deliver that view in multiple consumer profiles.

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(Twitter-@maguadoo917)

Portada: This is a business of relationships. Who have been some of those who have helped you along the way and how?

EP: I am so grateful, so very grateful for the relationships I have in this industry. I have many to thank and most recently the three that helped me get to Miami, in particular, are relationships that were formed years ago. A reminder to never burn any bridges.

PO: There are many brands who are still a little wary of engaging in the Latino community in sports. What are the opportunities brands are missing or taking advantage of?

EP: Brands are afraid of what they don’t know. It’s all in the education of understanding the Latino consumer. The Latino consumer is no different than the general market consumer, the approach should be the same. Understand the data, ensure the message is relevant and go to market. The biggest difference is that marketers who don’t speak Spanish are afraid of the landscape because the consumer doesn’t look or sound like them.

Portada: On to the Marlins. Seems like there is a big upside in the Latino community. What are the first things that are getting done to rebuild that bridge?

EP: Authentic outreach into the community. We are going in from the ground up. We are understanding who lives in our market, where they are from and how they behave. It’s very exciting because it’s an untapped segment for the team.

Portada: Baseball is tied to the Latino soul. Does that make it easier to engage, or are the challenges the same as say, in the NBA?

EP: The challenges are the same across all sports. Consumers have so many choices, it’s critical that we make a one to one connection with your potential consumer and evoke the right emotion. In Miami, we are one step ahead because we are so close to the Caribbean and Latin America, baseball is their sport. We will capitalize on that advantage to elevate our brand.

Portada: You were very active in relief efforts for Puerto Rico, how did that come about?

EP: My parents and younger brother live in Puerto Rico. Our lives were turned upset down in September 2017. I became involved because they are American citizens and like the 3.4m on the island, their voices needed to be heard.

PO: Lastly, you must get approached all the time from young people entering the business; what advice would you like to share?

EP: Network, network, network.

Great advice from someone who has the rare mix of Hispanic expertise across sports, which makes Elisa Padilla one to watch and admire in the fluid world of sports business.

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