Joe Favorito @joefav


What: Teams are seeing the success of working in new ways to improve sports fan engagement with their Latino fan bases.
Why it matters: This growing demographic is critical to franchises and brands, and the more ingrained franchises and brands are in the community, the more effective their marketing can be.

“We’ve gone away from the Mariachi band.”

That statement was made with tongue in cheek by the L.A. Galaxy’s (@LAGalaxyVP of Communications Brendan Hannan (@brendanhannan ‏). Brennan participated at 2018’s  Portada LA event. His comment signals how teams, especially those in the U.S. and in the business of soccer and basketball, are realizing the need to effectively engage in an authentic way with the Latino audience, and make that audience a key part of their marketing focus.

Connecting with Latinos

The key to success? Authenticity. For years, teams in North America would slap “los” on a jersey, sell some tacos, play some salsa music and call it a day. Box checked, and move on. Now, we see more teams being bilingual, especially Spanish, a priority in their marketing plans. They are engaging a growing demographic to make them fans for life. It’s becoming more and more important.

…[C]hange is not easy. Sometimes for those not willing to take the risk, the safer road is the first one traveled.

Teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks (@LosDbacks ‏) and the New York Mets (@LosMets ‏) dedicate more than one third of their budget to multicultural sports fan engagement at social, broadcast and community events. They know that the spillover effect for mainstream marketing will also grow. At the same time, young Latinos, whether they speak Spanish first or English first, will benefit down the road.

Success story

sports fan engagementA case in point of an authentic crossover was demonstrated L.A. The Las Vegas Lights’ Steve Pastorino talked about their deal with La Bonita Supermarkets (@LaBonitaMarkets). While the deal was a boon for credibility in the Latino community and for the expansion USL club and their brand, the real success was in getting non-Spanish speaking Anglo fans to go and check out the offerings at the chain.

The campaign got new faces into the store because of an authentic connection to all things associated with the team,” Pastorino added. “Our fans see and hear about the chain through our club, and it grows the overall community.” He added that this crossover was also seen in and around Las Vegas by brands like T-Mobile (@TMobileand Metro PCS (@MetroPCS). They also engage heavily in acquiring rising Latinos but can do so more easily, and more authentically, through sports. “We have become the great connector as a community. That connection really helps all tides rise, even in the desert,” he said.

Brands need time

Still, this is an evolving process for brands. Decision-makers tend to be older non-Spanish speaking risk-averse buyers.

“It’s easy to buy ESPN if you are a brand. No one will question it if you go and buy Telemundo or Spanish radio. Even if they buy association with an elite sporting event, there is still a challenge,” added Chris Lencheski, longtime sports marketer and professor at Columbia University. “That is certainly changing in sports like soccer, basketball, and baseball. But change is not easy. And sometimes the safer road is the first one traveled for those who won’t take the risk.”

Teams, however, can invoke such change with their dedication. They can show return at the grassroots level. Hannan pointed to several inner-city smaller field projects, five-on-five and even three-on-three, where Galaxy has built tremendous affinity. In turn, the projects opened doors for sponsors who might not have been able to identify a way to connect to a Latino fan base that can be elusive. “Our players enjoy the interaction because many times those kids are who they were, growing up,” he said. “It made great sense. You see the return much easier at the grassroots. It’s a great pathway into the community which we need to keep taking advantage of.”

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New chances

sports fan engagementThe next opportunity, especially for soccer and brands, will come with the World Cup. The Spanish-speaking consumer will be more attuned to all the goings-on around the games than ever before through all forms of media, and the nations they support, from Mexico and Spain to Peru and Argentina. It will be a way for soccer especially to engage with a community that may or may not be following MLS, or USL, or even the U.S. national team that closely. “If you are a brand and you have waited to try and engage with the World Cup until now, you may have missed the boat,” added Panini’s Jason Haworth (@sportsmktgguy), whose company will produce millions of sticker books and reap the benefits of brand affinity that comes with the World Cup.

Will teams be able to ride that wave as well? The answer appears to be a universal yes. “We will follow and engage with all the games. We will be right there with the segment of our fan base celebrating,” Pastorino added. “Soccer is the great unifier, regardless of language or culture.”

It seems like in multicultural sports fan engagement, especially around soccer, the universal sound of the victory bell replaces the Mariachi Band.

Cover image:

What: The Association soccer league has created a new, athletics-based way of networking in Los Angeles.
Why it matters: Big brands like SpaceX and Beats by Dre are already on board in this opportunity for multicultural connections in the diverse Los Angeles market.

Successful sports marketing, especially around the fast-growing business of soccer in the United States, is all about networking, seizing opportunities and the converge of events.

Meet The Association soccer league.

Billed as a place where soccer and culture meet, and partially coordinated by colleague Mario Flores (@LatinoSportsGuyat Sportivo, The Association recently launched in Los Angeles with teams made up of colleagues at a wide variety of brands, ranging from SpaceX (@SpaceX), and Beats by Dre (@beatsbydre), to Red Bull (@redbull) and Jason Markk (@jason_markk). “The Association is not just about soccer. In fact, I think the games play a secondary role in this unique experience. It’s like a social environment where soccer games happen to be going on,” Flores said. “For brands, the opportunity to connect with a truly multicultural audience exists in only a few places like Thursday nights in Los Angeles at The Association.”

Each brand gets a chance to host and tell the latest and greatest, and then take to the pitch for some five-on-five competitive soccer.

Supported by Adidas (@adidas), El Jimador (@ElJimadorand Kia (@Kia), games are played Thursday evenings with every week curated by a participating brand. A DJ lends the soundtrack to the evening while teams play on concrete fields enclosed by pallets that serve as fencing; night-club-style lighting lends a unique ambiance. Games are free to attend and open to all ages.

The five versus five influencer soccer league was built around merging street soccer, art, music, and fashion in a 10-week season at the Adidas soccer L.A. Base, a futsal-style warehouse in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles.

The goal is simple: have a curated group of like-minded individuals come together to talk about what they are doing to build their networks and see if there are common areas of collaboration. Each brand gets a chance to host and tell the latest and greatest, and then take to the pitch for some five-on-five competitive soccer.

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While scores are kept, the real unique value are the potential scores for brand building and networking, with a collaborative passion around soccer and a drive for some cutting-edge business development. Now social networks around curated leagues have existed for years; some of the biggest deals on Wall Street have been forged in highly competitive hoops games in places like Basketball City (@BasketballCity), and pickup soccer leagues have sprung up in urban areas pulling together a unique group of passionate players whose skills extend beyond a field and into entrepreneurship. However, The Association being invitation only with a core of disruptive brands is a little different.

While we didn’t get a chance to attend this time out in LA, it is an idea that can have some very interesting upsides as sports, pop culture, entrepreneurship and art continue to converge, this time on a soccer pitch.

It’s a new type of competitive networking which goes beyond drinks and snacks. While it may not be for everyone, for an engaged group it is certainly something to watch. Let’s see how it plays out not just in final scores, but in some unique collaborative business ideas down the road.

Cover Image: courtesy The Association

What: Panini’s Jason Howarth, Las Vegas Lights’ Steve Pastorino and the L.A. Galaxy’s Brendan Hannan weigh in on the importance of the Latino market at World Cup this summer.
Why it matters: Resetting from a U.S.-Canada focus to Latino fandom is critical for brands with World Cup ties.

There were about 48 hours of angst for Panini’s Jason Howarth (@sportsmktgguywhen the U.S. Men’s National team was eliminated for World Cup contention by Trinidad and Tobago.

“Then, we realized we needed to seize all the other opportunities we knew would exist in the U.S.,” he said. “After all when you go around the country and you see all the Messi and Ronaldo jerseys you quickly realize the U.S. team is probably not the focus of most fans anyway.”

That reset, and that opportunity, was echoed not just by Howarth, but also by executives from both the L.A. Galaxy (@LAGalaxyand the Las Vegas Lights (@lvlightsfclast Thursday on a panel about “The Beautiful Game” at Portada LA. at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. The message from all was clear: FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) presents a great business opportunity, especially for brands and teams that have the foresight to embrace all parts of Latino business and culture as the 2018 event quickly approaches.

When the World Cup shock wore off, the opportunity for teams and leagues and brands to creatively find new ways to engage in soccer in a still-growing marketplace is huge.

For the Galaxy, VP of Marketing, Communications and Digital Brendan Hannan (@brendanhannan ‏) was quick to point out that the multicultural approach the club has long taken with their fan experience will be buffeted by World Cup, even with the lack of a U.S. or Canadian National team in the field. The reason? Mexico. With two Mexican players on the roster (Giovani dos Santos and Jonathan dos Santos) who are candidates for the national team, a wide and years-long  community outreach into the Mexican community, and a footprint that extends south to the Mexican border, LA’s longstanding Major League Soccer franchise has more than just a passing chance of business success when play begins in Russia.

“All our communication with the community is bilingual,” said Hannan. “Our community events and staff have a great understanding of what works and resonates in not just the Mexican but the Latino community as well, and above all, we fully embrace and enjoy the fact that the gateway to the Latino fan starts with the grassroots and will be wide open during World Cup. We are excited about the opportunities.”

Like the Galaxy, the Lights, the newest, and perhaps most disruptive, entry into Tier 2 USL ( ), understands the hyperlocal value of the Latino community to soccer as their key to business success and brand engagement.

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“The face of our franchise (Jose Luis Sánchez Solá – “Chelís”) is a legend in Mexico, we have nine players on our roster who are Mexican, and 20 of our 24 players are bilingual, so we fully understand the value that the Latino audience can bring to our business,” said Steve Pastorino (@StevePastorino), VP of Corporate Sponsorship for the Lights. “On Father’s Day at 8am, following a game the night before, where will we be as a team? Watching what will be the biggest first round matchup in World Cup, Mexico and Germany, with our fans and partners.”

Even with the Mexican focus, Pastorino, a longtime sports marketer who helped launch the MLS Chicago Fire (@ChicagoFireas well, pointed to the massive importance of all the soccer-playing Latino nations as a benchmark for brand success for the Lights. “No matter if it’s Argentina, or Peru or Brazil, we will embrace and leverage off the success in World Cup for all our Latino supporters, as soccer is really a great unifier of cultures, and there is no bigger event to unify around than the World Cup.”

That unification has been a massive boost again for Panini, whose sticker books for World Cup have become a global phenomenon. The numbers of books and stickers the company has been producing for World Cup are staggering; 2 million packets a day with over 70 million stickers being distributed in a week in over 100 countries including the U.S. The key concentration, both in the States and elsewhere, is in the Latino market.

Jason Howarth

“No country understands and appreciates the value of our sticker books better than Brazil,” Howarth added. “And the gateway for our business in the United States wasn’t really going to be through the U.S. national team (although the company did sign rising star Christian Pulisic  to a long-term deal); it was going to be through those Central and South American countries that have strong fan bases here in the U.S. The stories of Peru, Mexico, Argentina and the like will grow as the games progress, and with those stories will come even more affinity not just from the millions of followers those nations already have but from casual fans who will start watching World Cup and enjoying this massive stage when they might be doing something else. It is a huge opportunity for us not just now, but for our future business in soccer as well here in the U.S.”

Would it have helped had the U.S. qualified? Of course, all admitted. However, when the World Cup shock wore off, the opportunity for teams and leagues and brands to creatively find new ways to engage in soccer in a still-growing marketplace, and do it directly with the fastest growing demo in the U.S. (Latinos who are upwardly mobile and soccer astute) is huge.

“It’s an opportunity all of us are looking forward to, and we are pretty confident the stories will help us grow beyond what was possible even four years ago,” Pastorino added. “For a community like Las Vegas, it can’t be much more exciting.”

The angst for World Cup is certainly a distant memory.

What: Dallas is a thriving soccer market, with a strong base of Spanish-speaking and bilingual fans. FC Dallas VP Gina Miller discussed some of the club’s strategies.
Why it matters: As a team that plays in Dallas/Fort Worth, engaging the Latino and Spanish-speaking fan base is a daily focus for Miller and her team.

There are few more vibrant sports cities than Dallas, and few areas with a thriving grassroots soccer community as well as an ever-growing Latino community that is both traditionally Spanish-speaking and a younger English-first population that still cherishes its Latino roots and traditions. One of those traditions is obviously soccer, so we wanted to talk to FC Dallas (@FCDallasabout how they engage with the community, and most importantly how they are growing and evolving as an MLS (@MLSclub to engage.

Gina Miller (@TheGinaMiller), VP of Media and Communications for FC Dallas, gave us a look.

Portada: How important is the Latino marketing effort to a club like FC Dallas?

Gina Miller: “It’s a huge priority for FC Dallas. According to the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau (@visit_dallas), the population of Dallas alone is 43% Latino. As a team that plays in Dallas/Fort Worth, engaging our Latino and Spanish-speaking fan base is something we focus on daily.”

Portada: Are there brands that have marketed directly to that community, and if so who and how?

G.M.: “A number of our partners are focused on connecting with our Latino fan base. One great example is FIESTA Mart (@FiestaMartgrocery stores. They host Spanish-language radio shows in primarily Latino communities around DFW. From that partnership, FC Dallas players hold autograph sessions and take photos with fans during the radio remotes.”

From the content side, engaging our Spanish-speaking fan base, whether it’s Spanish as a first language or bilingual fans, is incredibly important for us.

Portada: Is the audience specifically Spanish language or have you carved out a niche for young Latinos who are English speaking but also enjoy their Latino heritage?

G.M.: “From the content side, engaging our Spanish-speaking fan base, whether it’s Spanish as a first language or bilingual fans, is incredibly important for us. We’re fortunate to have a bilingual coaching staff as well as a roster comprised of at least 11 players who speak both Spanish and English.

To serve that fan base better on the content side, we’ve hired a bilingual multimedia journalist, Jhannet Sanchez. She has helped us tell stories that we weren’t able to tell in the past. Whether it’s a livestream on Twitter or a feature story, her content consistently remains among our most popular. She also does in-game interviews with our Spanish-speaking players on our game broadcasts on our local broadcast partner, TXA21, which she translates into English. Not easy but, again, well-received.”

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Portada: Do you market programs directly to a Mexican audience, or is the Latino message for the team more homogeneous?

G.M.: “Not specifically Mexican but FC Dallas has always had a Spanish-language radio broadcast. Carlos Alvarado has been the club’s Spanish play-by-play voice since 1996, the first year of Major League Soccer. He also writes match previews for each week. On the community relations side, we also take into consideration our audience. For example, we also organize player appearances strategically so that we have Spanish-speaking players engaging students at elementary schools or community programs that have a large Latino population.”

“On the community relations side, we also take into consideration our audience. For example, we also organize player appearances strategically so that we have Spanish-speaking players engaging students at elementary schools or community programs that have a large Latino population.”

Portada: On the grassroots side, what are your programs like to include young players who also might come from a Spanish speaking household?

G.M.: “The majority of the FC Dallas Academy coaches are fluent in Spanish. Our current Academy Director, Luchi Gonzalez, played professionally in Peru and is fluent in Spanish. Fourteen of our league-high 24 players whom we have signed from our youth academy are Latino. Three of the four goalkeepers we have signed from our academy have played for Mexican Youth National Teams (Jesse Gonzalez, Carlos Avilez and Richard Sanchez). There is a strong tradition of Spanish-speaking players at FC Dallas and in the FC Dallas Academy, which is regarded as the best in MLS.”

Portada: Have supporter groups looked to aggregate just as a Latino source? how do you take advantage of that?

G.M.: “Most of our Latino fans are bi-lingual so the message is consistent. Sanchez and FC Dallas’ grass roots team work closely with El Matador, our Spanish-language Supporters group. This group formed 2009. This season, we combined all our Supporters sections at Toyota Stadium. It has added a healthy competition among the Supporters groups which has absolutely elevated the energy level at home games. During a recent rain-filled match against the Philadelphia Union, our head coach noted in his postgame press conference how loud the stadium was and how diverse the chants were. This gives FC Dallas a unique competitive advantage.”

cover image: Michael Barera

What: eSports marketing and gaming are major topics of interest in the sports business these days. One of the panels at Portada Miami focused on business opportunities related to eSports.
Why it matters: The potential for growth in Latin America is tremendous. Companies are doing more business with esports and gambling.

Most of the sports business world focus on two of the hottest business topics in the United States: growing gaming and eSports and legalized sports gambling. Meanwhile, a key group of executives at Portada Miami 2018 pointed out that we should be looking, too, at Latin American countries and the Latin community as bold next steps in business related to sports.

“While the United States is an obvious multibillion-dollar market depending on the ruling of the Supreme Court, we have spent a good amount of time educating Central and South American countries on legalization, and the growth there is also astronomical,” said Chris Dougan, Head of North American Communications at Genius Sports (@GeniusSports). “It’s also not just a growth area for traditional sports like soccer or even tennis. There is a great crossover into the legalized gambling of eSports properties. So we are very keen on engagement in multiple locations now.”

The future is also bright for brands that are looking to combine their marketing dollars into the multicultural option.

Latin American market

The numbers and projections put forward for sports gambling and eSports engagement are staggering. Dougan mentioned US$10B in illegal dollars wagered in the United States during a calendar year. Meanwhile Ben Spoont (@benspoont), Founder of Team Misfits and head of eSports for the NBA’s Miami Heat (@MiamiHEATrecounted the millions of people who spend on elite eSports franchises. He also talked about the massive online adoption by fans and it’s expected growth. The market for adoption has been primed. While connectivity improves, gaming companies get more used to doing business in Latin America.

esports marketing
Ben Spoont, Founder of Team Misfits.

“In all of the eSports, Latin America is the fastest-growing market,” said Spoont. “The engagement for new fans is really off the charts. Working with the Heat in their investment in their Overwatch team will help that market grow in Florida and beyond.”

The crossover between the two areas, eSports and gambling, presents an intriguing opportunity. Dougan was quick to point out that like in traditional sports, the protection of data is tantamount for any business engagement.

“Brands need to assure consumers that whatever games they are watching and potentially betting on are legitimate and there is no instance of impropriety,” he added. “That’s where Genius Sports comes in. Being able to work with the leagues, with the game creators, to make sure that there are no issues and that everything is going on is happening in a fair and equitable digital environment.”

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Fair and equitable

esports marketingFair and equitable is what the gaming world continues to seek as it grows at a meteoric pace. Avid eSports communities have propped up in countries like Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia.

“The association and the support of a global brand with the Heat have been a huge boost not just for our business, but for all of the eSports,” added Spoont. “It gives us the ability to talk to more people from a business perspective, and with South Florida being so multicultural, it really puts it in a unique position for where we can grow in the future.”

The future is also bright for brands looking to combine their marketing dollars not just into traditional sports and eSports, but into multicultural adoption that could be part of the mix as well. Spoont pointed to Geico as one brand that seems to have found the mix on all fronts, with more to follow. That sponsorship will also grow in value, Dougan added. More casual fans are interested in activity in and around all sports through legalized sports gambling.

“The market is going to be very active across the Americas. It’s just a case of developing and engaging when the opportunity arises legally,” he added.

And according to both leaders, as well as moderator Adam White of Front Office Sports (@frntofficesport), that opportunity for one piece, eSports, is quickly coming into focus. Meanwhile, the other, legal sports gambling, isn’t that far off either.

[Featured image credit: Immortals]

What: Former Golden State Warriors president and current Miami Marlins president of business operations Chip Bowers discussed the team’s challenges with Scout Sports managing partner Michael Neuman at Portada Miami last week.
Why it matters: The Marlins are facing a huge rebuild, and have decided to look outside of baseball for a blueprint.

The acquisition of impact the new-look Miami Marlins (@Marlinsmight not only be coming through the trades of All-Stars like Marcell Osuna and Giancarlo Stanton, it may be coming through of all places, the World Champion… Golden State Warriors (@warriors)?

That might sound strange to baseball fans and the Marlins faithful, but from a business perspective the leadership team, starting with Derek Jeter, went outside the organization, and outside of baseball, to bring in former Warriors president Chip Bowers to turn the fortunes of the business side of the team around, and most importantly, get a club that had lost touch not just with the South Florida community but with the baseball-loving and growing Latino community, back in the fold.

Bowers believes that best practices he has experienced at Golden State and other places, combined with a fresh start for the Marlins brand and a unified sense of communication strategy, will lead to brighter days ahead

Bowers, just a few months into the job, made one of his first public appearances this past week at Portada Miami, when he sat down with and Portada Sports board member and Executive Vice President, Managing Partner, Scout Sports and Entertainment (a division of Horizon Media) Michael Neuman to talk about the challenges and the opportunities that lie ahead for their franchise and for baseball in general in South Florida.

Marlins Park (Flickr/Roberto Coquis)

“Our goals are pretty clear,” Bowers said before a packed ballroom of brand marketers and agency heads at the East Hotel Thursday morning. “We need to build trust, align with right partners, make bold promises, and deliver on what we say.” A good part of that trust, he added, will have to come in the Latino community not just in South Florida but across the Americas, a community that has become disillusioned with the former ownership group, and has also raised a few eyebrows as the current group has started their reorganization that included trading away of some of the teams veteran Latino stars.

Still with all that in mind, Bowers believes that best practices he has experienced at Golden State and other places, combined with a fresh start for the Marlins brand and a unified sense of communication strategy, will lead to brighter days ahead, and those days, at least from a marketing standpoint, are already underway as the first part of the MLB (@MLB) season gets cranking.

“We have such a diverse fan base here in South Florida that the possibilities to engage and grow our presence at all levels are very strong,” he added. “However coming with that opportunity is the reality that we have to market to a Puerto Rican audience differently in some ways than a Cuban audience, or a Dominican audience a little differently than a Mexican audience. The commonality is the baseball experience. That’s what we need to exploit.”

Bowers pointed out that the outreach in Miami and the surrounding communities isn’t much different than what the Warriors did with ethnic groups in the Bay Area, even before the team rose to the on-court heights it is experiencing now. “We saw from our data, and from our community work, that we had great numbers of Latinos, Chinese, Mexicans, Koreans, who were fans of not just basketball but of the Warriors themselves, and we had to find ways to market to those communities. It took time but we found programs and brand partners that made sense, and the result was a brand impact not just at our games, but back in the communities abroad where those fans resided originally. They communicated that affinity to friends and relatives in countries around the world, and as a result, we (The Warriors) built a global fan base that has come along with the team for years, and continues to grow and present new opportunities for all those associated with the team.

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Like at Golden State, Bowers sees the same opportunity for the Marlins, especially given the proximity to so many Latino countries who love baseball, and the brands associated with the sport. “If we deliver we can become Latin Americas team, he said. “We can bring an all-encompassing multicultural multiplatform experience that will expand baseball’s reach beyond what it is today.”

That effort of course starts in South Florida, and involves rebuilding the trust with disenfranchised fans and businesses. The bad news is apathy was high the last few years. The good news is there is only one way to go; up. With that upward rise are great opportunities to create low cost, high impact partnerships and ticketing programs that will have casual fans embracing the Marlins as a lifestyle brand off the field as the transformation on the field takes shape in the coming years. It may be a bit slow and bumpy across the summer of 2018, but the long term outlook, Bowers added, can be very bright.

“We have a unified vision and an aggressive stance that is telling everyone we are open for business and want to find ways big and small to work with you,” he concluded. “Now we have to make sure we stay focused, aggressive and deliver on what we can control, and what we say we are going to do. I’m as excited for this chance as any I have had in my career, and the turnaround here is already underway.”

The turnaround, and the track record of the new Marlins President is good news not just for South Florida baseball fans, but for MLB and its legions of brand marketers that are looking to embrace the sport either again or for the first time, not just in Miami but throughout Latin America.

While the All-Stars on the field develop, the Marlins business side will look to be scoring on their own, and with a new vision and an aligned mission, wins in business should be in the offing.

What: Players with Latin American ties are an increasing segment of the international growth of the NBA.
Why it matters: With tens of millions of fans in the region, these and other player connections to their nations of origin will make marketing there even more desirable for brands.

The NBA (@NBAhas become more of a global game than ever before, and the numbers of players entering this past weekend’s start of action from around the world bear that out.

All 16 teams competing in the playoffs will feature at least one international player. The Utah Jazz (@utahjazzand Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) have an NBA-high seven international players each. The Boston Celtics (@celtics), Toronto Raptors (@Raptorsand San Antonio Spurs (@spurseach have six. The Spurs’ 2014 NBA Championship team featured a record nine international players during the playoffs.

The most represented countries among the 62 international players on playoff rosters are France and Australia (seven players each), followed by Canada (four players), Spain (four players), Turkey, Croatia, Cameroon and Brazil (three players each). Thirty-six of the record 64 European players who were on opening-night rosters for the 2017-18 season are on playoff rosters.

The fact that Latino players are local aspirational heroes has also changed everything.

However what about a Latino influence? As the popularity of the NBA continues to take gold even more throughout Latin America, is that being reflected not just in talent but in activation?

In addition to the four players from Spain, another 10 Latinos dot NBA Playoff rosters, one of the largest and most impactful groups in recent history.

The list includes: Lucas Nogueira (Raptors), Al Horford (Celtics), John Holland (Cavaliers), Nene Hilario, Trevor Ariza (Houston Rockets), Maurice Harkles, Napier Shabazz (Blazers), Raulzinho Neto (Jazz), Manu Ginobili (Spurs) and Karl Anthony Towns (Timberwolves). Of the group Holland, Ariza, Harkless, Shabazz and Towns, were born in the United States, and have Dominican nationality, which will be interesting as the qualifying for the 2020 Olympics takes place in the next few years.

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The playoff impact on rising Latinos should not be lost, as the NBA stakes claim to 50 million casual fans and 17 million avid fans in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Columbia alone, and their presence in Mexico, where a training center is opening and regular season games are now a yearly occurrence continues to amplify.

Lucas Nogueira (credit: Keith Allison)

“Basketball is already the second-most watched sport in Mexico,” said Arnon de Mello, vice president and managing director of NBA Latin America recently. “It’s growing tremendously. And there are more basketball courts in this country than any other sport.”

For other countries, the rise in interest, and in brands looking to activate against that interest either in consumer activation or in the media, has also been amplified.

“When we first started going to Mexico or the Caribbean, it was a bit of a learning curve, now the amount of content young people can receive, and the ways they consume the NBA mean there is no learning at all,” said Terry Lyons, a veteran sports marketer who helped create the NBA’s global programs while at the league for over 25 years. “The star value of American players is obviously there, but the fact that Latino players are local aspirational heroes has also changed everything.”

Unlike a sport like baseball, which dominates some cultures in Latin America but not all, basketball, be it the rising 3 on 3 version that FIFA is pushing forward or traditional 5×5, has made a wider leap into the fabric of Latin America, and the ways to consume the game, especially around NBA Playoff time, have never been greater.

“The NBA has always looked to be global since David Stern arrived, and while most think that the focus is to Europe and Asia, the growth in Latin America for now may even be more impactful,” added Chris Lencheski, a veteran sports marketer now at MP & Silva and teaching at Columbia University. “Soccer will always be king, bit basketball has made some amazing strides both in broadcast and consumer engagement, and the more diverse its stars who speak Spanish, the better off they will be in the next decade.”

As the Playoffs get rolling the chances of a Latino player hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy come June will be more focused, but even if that does not happen this year, the sound of NBA basketball as a marketing property in Latin America is continuing to rise, and that sound is music to the ears of diverse brands, as well as the elite players who have embraced the culture of basketball, in countries far and wide.

Check out the stars of Portada’s Sports Marketing Board, who will meet at Portada Miami on April 18-19 to discuss various topics related to the future of marketing and innovation in sports. Register now!

Cover Images: Manu Ginobili (Wikimedia: Zereshk); Nene (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

What: At a breakfast hosted by CNN en Español and Portada in New York this week, marketers discussed how sports draws the Latino audience.
Why it matters: The impact brands can have in sports is strong and still growing, in soccer in particular, especially with World Cup just weeks away.

The message that sports deliver to the Latin demographic was made pretty clear Tuesday morning at The Lamb’s Club, when CNN en Español (@CNNEEand Portada hosted a special breakfast to talk about the challenges and opportunities in Multicultural Marketing. The packed room listened to a spirited debate about the impact brands can, or aren’t having in the Spanish speaking community and the steps measurement and engagement are taking to continue to create opportunities with outlets like CNN en Español, the largest Spanish-language platform in the country and perhaps the most impactful in North America to penetrate the Spanish language consumer.

Away from that, the topic of sports continued to assert itself, as an engagement point across cultures, languages and all barriers. “When looking for where to spend, we go to where people are engaged, and many times that engagement is in sports,” said Manny Gonzalez, Senior Director-Multicultural at Moët Hennessy USA (@MoetHennessy). “In many cases our consumers are led less by language and more by lifestyle, so that makes sports a key part of our marketing. Sports crosses all barriers and gives consumers a common ground to share stories and storytelling is key to building a brand.”

While the numbers across all platforms are encouraging for those looking to engage the Latino audience, the question of accurate and targeted measurement is still in flux.

That common experience in sports, especially for Latinos, continues to be in soccer. “The Beautiful Game,” as we head toward the World Cup, remains the fastest-growing sport for viewing and for grassroots engagement in North America, a fact that is not lost on marketers who have grown up experiencing a multicultural environment.

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“When you look at the numbers and see that 93 percent of Liga MX fans don’t watch the NBA, and 74 percent don’t watch the NFL, it tells you a lot about the power of soccer and how important it is to engage with the Latino fan in the U.S.,’ added Nelson Pinero, Senior Digital Director, Senior Partner at GroupM. “That is a really powerful look at how valuable not just sports, but soccer is, to brand engagement in the Latino community.”

How this translates to brand spends is still up for some debate. While the numbers across all platforms are encouraging for those looking to engage the Latino audience, the question of accurate and targeted measurement is still in flux. CNN en Español’s recent expanded partnership with Nielsen (@Nielsenwill help ease those questions and should bring more brands into the mix for the platform, and for those working in sports marketing, the purchase of Spanish language or sports that tread heavily in Latino culture should benefit from bigger numbers and better engagement as we head toward World Cup, and a key sport like soccer continues to be a big factor in the mind of the consumer.

No matter what the language, sports continues to be key.

Check out the stars of Portada’s Sports Marketing Board, who will meet at Portada Miami on April 18-19 to discuss various topics related to the future of marketing and innovation in sports. Register now!

What: South Florida based eSports leader Ben Spoont will speak at Portada Miami.
Why it matters: The Miami Heat partner will discuss how eSports is bringing value to existing traditional professional sports teams.

Joe Favorito, chair of the Sports Marketing Board, has prepared a background piece on speaker Ben Spoont and the topic he will be discussing at Portada Miami. To join the conversation with him and all our other speakers, register here!

Ben Spoont (@benspoontis the co-founder and owner of Misfits (@misfitsgg). The Misfits organization owns teams that compete in League of Legends, CounterStrike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, as well as participating in the game Super Smash Bros.

The parnership… associated their young and growing brand with the iconic one of the Miami Heat.

In 2016, Misfits (cofounded by Spoont with Syfy Channel founders Laurie Silvers and Mitch Rubenstein) partnered with the Miami Heat, becoming the NBA franchise’s foray into eSports and gaming.

The partnership was groundbreaking as it gave Misfits resources into the traditional sports world, assisting with merchandise development, marketing, digital, sponsorship, ad sales, and activation as well as associating their young and growing brand with the iconic one of the Miami Heat.

Spoont, a Duke grad, will be part of the panel on April 19 in Miami which will take the audience through the growth of eSports and help explain the great brand value that professional teams are bringing to eSports while exposing a legacy NBA brand to a new and diverse, and younger, audience.

Portada Miami attendees will get to learn how the world of the NBA and the world of gaming have come together, straight from one of the most influential people in such a unique partnership.




Check out the stars of Portada’s Sports Marketing Board, who will meet at Portada Miami on April 18-19 to discuss various topics related to the future of marketing and innovation in sports. Register now!

What: NASCAR’s Chief International Officer Jim Cassidy discussed NASCAR’s strategy for Latin America.
Why it matters: The Latino audience, both Spanish and English speaking, continues to grow. The power of Latino Millennials to engage with brands and properties like NASCAR is also rising.

Earlier we talked about NASCAR’s Spanish language media expansion into more of Latin America than ever before. While the broadcasts themselves will be important to lift the awareness and engagement for the circuit into markets where races may not be held now but were some of NASCAR’s most lucrative brand partnerships to activate in the consumer space, we wondered where this could continue to go next.

Change Has Started

Some longstanding brands are exiting their NASCAR (@NASCARrelationships. Others like Monster Energy (@MonsterEnergy) are reevaluating what they would like set for ROI going forward. The push to find new brands that can use the massive marketing platform for either teams or the circuit itself is now on. Expansion into a new Latino market that has not fully embraced or understood the power of NASCAR is a smart one. The Latino audience, both Spanish and English speaking, continues to grow. The power of Latino Millennials to engage with brands and properties like NASCAR is also rising.

NASCAR will continue to expand to additional Latin America markets, with really no limit to the potential entry points.

At the helm of the growth is Jim Cassidy, (@jfcassidySr. Vice President and Chief International Officer at NASCAR. As the race and its new multicultural efforts dawn, we asked him to better explain a bit why now and where can this initiative go.

Portada: In addition to Mexico, what other growth markets are on the list for NASCAR’s strategy in terms of content in the Latino world?

Jim Cassidy: “NASCAR will continue to expand to additional Latin America markets. There is really no limit to the potential entry points. Brazil is definitely high on the list. The country has an incredible history of motorsports achievements and a strong base of fans with an affinity for motorsports to match it.”

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Portada: Is the emphasis on these new initiatives more towards getting Latino consumers to a race, to watch, to buy a product or all of the above? Is there a system as to how this will help build more Latino fans?

J.C.: “The emphasis is to establish new fans with a formula that isn’t new. As we’ve seen for decades, once you experience a NASCAR race live fans are born. That means more consumption of live events, broadcasts, digital and social engagement as well as product support.”

nascar strategy
Jim Cassidy

Portada: What does success look like for these initiatives in a year or three years?

J.C.: “Going into any market will be done so with an eye toward the long-term play. Success means introducing and establishing the sport in a sustained and meaningful way. That includes new markets that will grow the fan base and provide a pathway for drivers, crew members, owners, and commercial partners to compete at the highest level of motorsports.

Portada: What can we expect to see next in terms of NASCAR’s activation strategy?

J.C.: “Specific to Latin America, you can expect us to continue to focus on the growth of the NASCAR Peak Mexico Series. We had a great season opener at Autódromo Monterrey (@autodromomty). We’ll also continue to aggressively pursue development with other identified opportunities.”

Those identified opportunities will probably include mainstream brands like Ford and Coca Cola. Because they can best leverage existing partnerships with NASCAR and seamlessly leverage those relationships into a much more expanded presence with new consumers who will embrace the race, starting this weekend.

Check out the stars of Portada’s Sports Marketing Board, who will meet at Portada Miami on April 18-19 to discuss various topics related to the future of marketing and innovation in sports. Register now!

Cover Image courtesy Texas Motor Speedway

What: Fox Sports Latin America will air Spanish and Portuguese language coverage of races at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth this weekend.
Why it matters: These broadcasts are part of NASCAR’s goal of engaging the growing number of Spanish speaking fans in the U.S. and abroad.

Next week NASCAR (@NASCARwill make broadcasting history.

For the first time in the 22-year racing history of Texas Motor Speedway (@TXMotorSpeedway), FOX Sports Latin America will broadcast both the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race and the My Bariatric Solutions 300 Xfinity Series race from on site to Central and Latin America.

The races will air in Spanish to over 40 countries and territories on FOX Sports 3 in all Central and Latin American countries with the exception of Brazil. Both events will also appear on FOX Sports 2 in Brazil in Portuguese with FOX Deportes carrying the NASCAR Cup Series race in the United States.

The Spanish language broadcasts are a key part of the circuit’s quest to continue to engage not just their core, or even a growing number of Spanish speaking race fans in the United States, but to amplify its message to a larger audience where expansion, and brand activation, may increase. By not using a cookie cutter approach to the strategy, NASCAR will seek to capture casual fans for tune in, giving them details for a first-time viewer that the core follower may not need, but are essential in a marketing brand build.

With an expanded global first outlook, the wheels are rolling for a new look and a larger fan base to be tapped.

“NASCAR is always looking for ways to engage new fans, so providing content for a continuously growing Spanish-speaking audience is certainly a priority as we look to introduce more new viewers to the sport, “ said NASCAR’s Brian Herbst, Managing Director, Broadcasting. “The FOX Latin America broadcast will utilize local announcers to give the race broadcast a more personalized feel for audiences across each country. They’ll also take a more educational approach to covering the event, telling the NASCAR story in a way that’s relatable for fans who may be engaging with the sport for the very first time.”

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Daniel Suarez (Wikimedia Commons: 19raLPH)

Overall, NASCAR is televised in more than 185 countries and territories in 20 languages. The areas with live broadcasts include Canada, Latin America, Europe, Asia/Pacific Rim, Middle East, Africa and Indian Subcontinent.

From a team driver perspective, the growth can also be a boon for fan development, and a much-needed enhancement for brands who want to think much more globally and regionally than has happened with NASCAR in the past. “Joe Gibbs Racing (@JoeGibbsRacinghas certainly been on the forefront, along with several others, largely because of Daniel Suarez’s story and the new dynamic he’s brought to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series,” Herbst added.

The integration of partners will be rolled out in the coming weeks, and the ROI for an expanded Spanish-speaking window will take some time, but with an expanded global first outlook, the wheels are rolling for a new look and a larger fan base to be tapped.

Check out the stars of Portada’s Sports Marketing Board, who will meet at Portada Miami on April 18-19 to discuss various topics related to the future of marketing and innovation in sports. Register now!

Cover Image: Texas Motor Speedway

What: Argentina footballer Javier Mascherano’s deal with Latin American eSports agency eSports Planet reflects the growth of the competition’s growth in the region.
Why it matters: Latin America has been a hotbed of elite gaming; partnering with a mainstream international sports star is a logical step in reeling in the casual fan base.

Other than gambling, eSports is perhaps the hottest global topic in sports (and it will be a key subject at Portada Miami). Brands, marketers and organizations have raised huge amounts of money to get involved in the fluid and somewhat volatile space in Asia and the United States in the last year, and it now appears that Latin America will be next for growth.

For gamers, Latin America has already been a hotbed. Some of the best players in the world in Counter-Strike (@ESLCS) have hailed from Brazil and Argentina, but with PC and consoles being a key part of professional gaming engagement, vs casual gaming on mobile phones, growth in still-struggling financial areas of Latin America has been slower than elsewhere. However, that is changing, especially with the continued adoption of FIFA and other sports-related games, and crossover stars getting involved not just in playing but in marketing and ownership as well.

The audience continues to be more and more engaged, and when you have name sports or entertainment stars investing it helps raise that awareness factor.
Javier Mascherano (credit: Danilo Borges)

The latest crossover growth came late last week, when Argentina soccer player Javier Mascherano (@Mascherano), who currently plays for Chinese Super League outfit Hebei China Fortune F.C., announced a partnership with Latin American eSports agency eSports Planet. The former FC Barcelona midfielder will aim to help develop eSports soccer content and tournaments for the Latin American community.

“I’m very aware of esports content importance in Europe, USA & APAC [Asia-Pacific] regions but Latin America is the region to grow. I’m pretty confident about our possibilities as an agency that wants to work with different partners to lead this field in Latam [Latin America],” Mascherano said in a statement.

Is LatAm poised for growth?

“There have always been elite gamers from Latin America, the question becomes when can those individuals have enough scale with local players to help fully execute a business like we have seen elsewhere, and it looks like that time is coming soon,” said Maurice Eisenman, Director of Community and Culture for WHAM Networks. “The audience continues to be more and more engaged, and when you have name sports or entertainment stars investing it helps raise that awareness factor. How it is monetized and how brands get involved is a little less clear right now, but it is moving in that direction.”

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The fact that Mascherano is playing in an eSports hotbed, China, right now can also be key to growth, as he provides a bridge for casual fans and for brands to look to Latin America next. Being in the country and engaged in a gaming community makes the transition smoother, and that transition can translate back to his fans in his home country, as well as to the millions of Barça fans around the world.

“That transition can also make it more palatable for consumer brands looking for an eSports entry into Latin America,” he added, “or even for brands already engaged, like a Geico or a Pepsi, to further extend into a growing Latino community which may be traditionally focused on mainstream consumer sport like soccer or volleyball or basketball.”

Will Mascherano’s move lead to more elite Latino athletes being engaged and involved in eSports as first adopters?

“The value of elite athletes getting involved not to compete but on the executive or investor level continues to rise, and this is a great example of an athlete still playing his game looking for what’s next,” Eisenman added. “It is not just a smooth transition, but it moves him into management at a time when esports is on the rise. The upside is very high, the risk is very low, so it makes great sense.”

That sentiment was not lost on eSports Planet, the company which brokered the deal and is taking a leadership role in competitive gaming in the region. “We are very proud and happy to join forces with Javier in order to develop eSports in Latin America,” said Robert Borrego, chief executive of eSports Planet. “He will be very important to catch people’s attention in our eSports soccer developments and tournaments.”

How long wide adoption in eSports throughout Latin America takes is open for debate and is really a matter of finances. One thing is sure though, brands are watching and they love star power. Whether this is a random play or a valuable first or next step is worth watching, as eSports continues to lead the global sports business discussion, now more in Latin America than ever before.


Check out the stars of Portada’s Sports Marketing Board, who will meet at Portada Miami on April 18-19 to discuss various topics related to the future of marketing and innovation in sports. Register now!

cover image credit: Wikimedia/SteelSeries

What: ‘Culture’ was a topic of conversation at last weekend’s SABR baseball analytics conference in Phoenix.
Why it matters: Bridging the gap between English and Spanish speakers in the clubhouse can lead to better success on the field, which benefits teams’ marketing efforts as well.

Last weekend’s Society of American Baseball Research (@sabr) conference in Phoenix was largely about baseball business by every way, shape, and form of numbers, but it also touched on a key point of growing the Latino fan base and the brand value of athletes in a way that had less to do with data: culture.

Throughout the weekend, speakers talked about the need for understanding and inclusion in the clubhouse as a key parameter for success, with the most successful teams, and the brands tied to them, being the most valuable and the most successful both on and off the diamond.

With a sport whose rising stars are increasingly Latino…, the value of a bilingual, or a multicultural clubhouse is going to be essential to the marketing of baseball going forward.

“The guys willing to learn Spanish will bring the clubhouse together and have tremendous value,” said ESPN veteran announcer John “Boog” Sciambi (@BoogSciambi) in a conversation with MLB Network’s Brian Kenny (@MrBrianKenny). “What Eric Hosmer brings to the table because he took the time to learn a language to communicate with his younger teammates shows how far he, and others, should go, to help an organization grow.”

With a sport whose rising stars are increasingly Latino, and with a marketing effort that includes a more concerted effort to integrate Spanish language partners in Mexico and beyond, as well as the major Spanish-first brands looking to grow in the U.S. marketplace, the value of a multilingual, or a multicultural clubhouse is going to be essential to the marketing of the baseball going forward.

“Look, I was always the guy in the middle of clubhouse conversations, since I had been on both sides because of my background,” said multilingual former MLB player and current ESPN announcer Eduardo Perez (@PerezEd), who is also the son of longtime MLB star Tony Perez. “It is a lot easier in the tough times when you have an understanding of what the other guys are going through, and it certainly helps grow baseball if more teams paid attention to the value of having players at least have an understanding of what some of the young Latino, or even Japanese players, might be going through.”

Dr. Lorena Martin (2nd from right) at SABR Analytics Conference

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One story that was relayed over the weekend was of longtime MLB player Mark DeRosa, and how he was stranded at an airport in the Dominican Republic during winter ball one year. Without an understanding of language or culture, DeRosa struggled to get to his destination, and it left an imprint on him that he brought back to the States as to what it is like for young Dominican or Puerto Rican players who struggled to adjust to the small town cultures in minor league baseball.

While all MLB teams have added multilingual, especially Spanish speaking, members to their communications staffs in recent years, a number of clubs still have not been able to bridge the cultural divide in the clubhouse. That divide can also translate (no pun intended) into losses at the box office and on the ledger sheet through a lack of success on the field.

“I see it all the time, where some players or coaches mistake a gesture or a custom as a form of disrespect, when in reality it is a misunderstanding of the background of a player, especially a young Latino player,” added Dr. Lorena Martin, who was recently hired as the Head of High Performance for the Seattle Mariners. “The education for both sides in better understanding what goes on in the locker room, and how to better integrate the cliques that form, is really important in building a successful culture.”

Effect on Brands

From a business perspective, the integrated clubhouse would have great appeal for brands like Verizon and Geico that look to expand their consumer base deeper into the Latino community and better exploit relationships with players from varied backgrounds. Whereas a language barrier can slow relationships, having Anglo players fluent in Spanish and a growing number of young Latino players more comfortable with English provides a great crossover opportunity if you can identify a player from one culture and integrate him into a program that literally translates to a bigger audience and market share.

Yes, baseball is about the numbers. But even at an event like SABR, focused so much on the analytics, the value of multicultural success as a key to winning came through every day. That winning is not limited to the field; it translates into the business world as well.

Check out the stars of Portada’s Sports Marketing Board, who will meet at Portada Miami on April 18-19 to discuss various topics related to the future of marketing and innovation in sports. Register now!

cover image: Francisco Lindor, Bradley Zimmer (credit: Wikimedia/Keith Allison)

What: Genius Sports Group Communications Director Chris Dougan will be one of this year’s speakers at Portada Miami. He will discuss Gaming and Gambling with Ben Spoont at the EAST hotel on April 19.
Why it matters: This is one of the topics that are changing the future of sports marketing. There will be plenty of questions moving forward as more entities, particularly in the U.S., embrace legal gambling on sports and eSports.

Joe Favorito, chair of the Sports Marketing Board, has prepared a background piece on speaker Chris Dougan and the topic he will be discussing at Portada Miami. To join the conversation with him and all our other speakers, register here!

The buzz words in sports business, not just in the U.S. but around the world, are gaming, eSports and gambling. As sports gambling becomes closer to a reality not just in North America but in other countries, including those in Latin America, how will the consumer be protected and the games stay safe? And how will data protection, and even gambling play a role in eSports?

At the center of all those discussions is Genius Sports, the world’s fast-growing leader in data protection around professional sports. Based in London, Genius (@geniussports) works 24/7 to make sure the data for some of the world’s biggest leagues, from the Premier League to Major League Baseball and the PGA Tour, are safe and secure. And as eSports becomes more valuable, Genius Sports work will take them deep into working with the biggest gaming companies to again make sure all data is secure and protected.

Helping lead the charge for Genius, not just in the U.S. but in Latin America as well, is Chris Dougan.

Dougan will explain the value of data protection, the scope of the gaming and gambling industry, and how companies will work to protect brands.

Dougan is the Group Communications Director for Genius Sports Group, with responsibility for developing and implementing the global corporate communication, marketing and public affairs strategy. He spent his early career at MGM Studios before moving into ballot measures and issue advocacy work. For over fifteen years, Dougan has specialized in managing integrated public affairs, strategic communications and issue advocacy campaigns on behalf of highly regulated sectors. He has planned and executed multiple campaigns across the US, EU, and EMEA region on behalf of national governments, institutions, and multinational corporations.

Since joining Genius Sports Group in 2015, Dougan has driven stakeholder engagement efforts and leads the US advocacy program by providing senior counsel to C-suite executives, opinion leaders, regulators and politicians. Outside the US, he has helped extend the Group’s reach into emerging markets by leading the debate on regulation and positioning the organization at the forefront of sports betting policy initiatives.

On April 18 at Portada Miami, Dougan will explain the value of data protection, the scope of the gaming and gambling industry, and how companies will work to protect brands, players, broadcasters and fans from catastrophic business failures tied to illegal activity in the space.

Check out the stars of Portada’s Sports Marketing Board, who will meet at Portada Miami on April 18-19 to discuss various topics related to the future of marketing and innovation in sports. Register now!

[featured image: Courtesy ESL, Fortune. Streaming of eSports event in Katowice, Poland]

What: Elisabeth Kodner of the Milwaukee Bucks discussed the franchise’s outreach to its growing Hispanic fan base.
Why it matters: While not as large as other urban areas, Latinos still remain a growing and vibrant fan base, with an affinity to hoops.

The Milwaukee Bucks (@Buckshave had a renaissance not just on the court, but in the front office as well. A new arena, new promotions and new community events have again endeared the franchise, and the glory days of basketball in Wisconsin are probably not that far away.

One area of expanded focus is in the Latino community. While not as large as other urban areas, Latinos still remain a growing and vibrant fan base with an affinity to hoops. How are the Bucks taking advantage of that opportunity in a more robust way? We asked Elisabeth Kodner, Director of Marketing Strategy for the Bucks, to give us an outline.

Approximately 7.8% of the Milwaukee population is Hispanic. We know from the rate the market is growing that this community is an important part of the Bucks fan base in future years.

Portada: How has the focus for Latino marketing changed in Milwaukee in recent years?

Elisabeth Kodner: “This has always been an important audience for the Bucks and for a few years now we have had a social voice in Spanish (@LosBucks) as well Spanish broadcasts for select games. We are looking to continually build our relationship with the audience and grow interest in the Bucks organization and their efforts in both Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin. This year we have included in-language television and print media buys, community focus through the “Los Bucks Community Art Challenge” and various promotional events with radio partners across Milwaukee. In addition, beginning on March 9 we will have a radio broadcast in Spanish of all remaining home games.”

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P: Is the community in Milwaukee growing and how can the Bucks increase engagement?

E.K.: “This community has seen a 74% growth in Wisconsin since 2010 and continues to grow. Approximately 7.8% of the Milwaukee population is Hispanic. We know from the rate the market is growing that this community is an important part of the Bucks fan base in future years. Our goal is to engage authentically with this audience.  This year’s Noche Latina on March 9 is only one part of our engagement and communication, but this NBA-supported themed night has anchored our efforts this year. Many of our partners have joined us for Noche Latina and are changing the arena signage to Spanish for the night. Miller, BMO, Froedtert/Medical College of WI, Potawatomi and AO Smith engaged their affinity/employee groups and are helping activate the game (including $1 nachos compliments of El Rey).

P: Are there local brands who have expressed an interest to better engage the community with the team, and if so how does that tie into the team’s overall marketing plan?

E.K.: “We have received a very positive response to this year’s Hispanic marketing efforts and Noche Latina initiatives on March 9. Our media and community partners have been instrumental in helping us succeed in these efforts. Many of our corporate partners are engaging in Noche Latina and we’ve partnered with Milwaukee Rag for custom t-shirts. The media and musical talent during the game have also been important in developing the marketing communication and Noche Latina activations. We see this year’s marketing efforts as a solid foundation that we can build on moving forward.”

P: The NBA has made marketing and engaging with the Latino audience a priority for several years. How do the league’s initiatives tie to team programs, especially in cities like Milwaukee which have less of a Latino presence than say, New York or Chicago or even San Antonio?

E.K.: “We have spent a lot of time on market research and as mentioned above, collaboratively developed a plan to reach this audience in a meaningful way. We don’t necessarily see it as Milwaukee having less of a Latino presence than other cities, but rather as finding the best ways to engage and grow Bucks fans across Milwaukee and the state.”

P: For years teams have been criticized by the Latino marketing community for slapping “Los” on a uniform and playing mariachi music and having that qualify as Latino outreach. How has the emphasis changed both with the Bucks and with Latino sports marketing in general?

E.K.: Our community, corporate and communications partners have been engaged in our efforts and feel there will be a positive response from the Latino audience as well as an increase in fan engagement. We know this is not a one-size-fits-all market or that our efforts are related to one themed night. Our approach is trying to appeal to cultural touchpoints through relevant media, outlets, and events.”

Check out the stars of Portada’s Sports Marketing Board, who will meet at Portada Miami on April 18-19 to discuss various topics related to the future of marketing and innovation in sports. Register now!

[Featured image: courtesy Milwaukee Bucks]

What: Veteran industry insider Mario Flores talks about some of the trends in the industry vis a vis Latinos.
Why it matters: Flores has worked with some of the biggest brands on the planet and offers some of his thoughts on the state of Latino sports marketing.

Mario Flores is partner and managing director of Sportivo and a 10-year veteran of Hispanic public relations. Flores (@LatinoSportsGuyhas developed campaigns for clients including Target Corporation, Anheuser Busch, Coca-Cola, Buchanan’s Scotch Whiskey, Tequila Cazadores and Merrill Lynch. Prior to joining Sportivo, Flores served as manager of U.S. communications for McDonald’s Corporation, where he oversaw the company’s national Hispanic-related public relations efforts. Previously he served as director of BSMG Latino, an affiliate of Weber Shandwick, one of the largest public relations firms in the world. Flores began his career with Durazo Communications in Los Angeles.

As a sports business insider, we wanted his thoughts on where sports marketing is with Latinos these days…

Portada: Who are some of the brands you are watching in the Latino sports marketing space this year?

Mario Flores: “Given the change in the demographic makeup and language preference of Latinos, this being a World Cup year and the inaugural MLS season of Los Angeles Football Club (a Sportivo client), there are some intriguing storylines I’m looking at:

Telemundo won the Spanish-language broadcast rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournament (previously held by Univision), and have implemented a number of interesting projects. One is a bilingual digital initiative in partnership with global media soccer outlet Copa90 (@COPA90USto search for the next generation of top soccer influencers. No doubt the network understands that they need to appeal to the young, mostly bilingual and English-dominant Latino, to keep the network thriving and relevant.

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For a great amount of time, the LA Galaxy, and for several years, Chivas USA, were the MLS brand in LA. Enter Los Angeles Football Club (@LAFC) with a swagger to match its emblematic black and gold team colors, LAFC’s grassroots approach to community team building and support has been second to none, with a multicultural fan base that was eager to have a team in the center of Los Angeles to call its own. Some soft marketing jabs have been thrown outside the pitch: LAFC referring to the Galaxy as the team from Carson, where their home stadium StubHub Center is located, while LA Galaxy billboards around the city proudly remind Angelenos that they have been “Uniendo (Uniting) Los Angeles” Since ’96.”

If in 2018 you need to find incremental dollars to spend against the Latino consumer, adios.

P: Did you see any important growth around the Winter Olympics in the Latino space in the U.S., and if so, why or why not?

M.F.: “Nada. Most Winter Olympic sports do not resonate with Latinos, so interest is very low. Also, there were not many Latino athletes who competed that the community could cheer for; those that did received very little attention.”

Also read: Why Isn’t NBC Showing Latino Talent in the Olympics?

P: Who are the two or three athletes who are impactful in the space that would surprise people?

M.F.: “Basketball stars like LeBron James and Steph Curry, and to a lesser degree now Kobe Bryant. When we were working with Nike and we went into the Latino community with Kobe, they fully embraced him— they treated him like the superstar that he was. It was also helpful that he spoke Spanish, which the media and fans appreciated.”

P: What’s the most frustrating thing about activation in the space in the U.S.?

M.F.: “Budgets. I’ve been helping brands connect with the Latino consumer for over 25 years, and still the budgets are not there. Brands often tell us that they need to find incremental dollars, and when they do, it’s very minimal and the long-term commitment is missing. If in 2018 you need to find incremental dollars to spend against the Latino consumer, adios.

I also think many brands are just simply missing the mark. I recently spoke with a handful of Los Angeles-based Latino social media influencers who have significant following and not one was invited to any NBA All Star game related activations. What a huge miss in a city with a significant Latino population.”

P: What’s the trend you think will grow effectively in the space that you are watching in 2018?

M.F.: “Brands and media delivering content that is relevant and culturally on point. It’s no longer only about language; its messaging and images that connect at a different level and delivered by what I call ‘cultural cultivators’— trusted influencers who are of the community and from the community.”

Check out the stars of Portada’s Sports Marketing Board, they’ll meet at Portada Miami on April 18-19 to discuss various topics related to the future of marketing and innovation in sports. Register now!

cover image courtesy LAFC

What: Alex Rodriguez spoke at last week’s 12th annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.
Why it matters: Rodriguez is the ultimate redemption story from what appeared to be a completely damaged brand to a growing Hall of Fame business career.

There are few better comeback stories in sports and entertainment than the one of Alex Rodriguez. From banned baseball superstar to mega-businessman, entrepreneur, analyst, and now Yankees advisor, Rodriguez has risen from the ashes of what most thought would be a career lost and a brand squandered to be one of the most thoughtful, engaged, and well-rounded Latin American athletes turned businessmen of the past 25 years, succeeding well beyond his stellar position as baseball analyst for FOX and ESPN.

ARod, his business plan, and the brands he works with were center stage late Friday afternoon at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference (@SloanSportsConf) in Boston, where the MLB great shared his business thoughts on a panel that included Maverick Carter, DraftKings founder Jason Robbins, and 538 Founder Nate Silver.

The ARod Corp (@AROD) has created a wide business portfolio that includes everything from commercial real estate to eSports, with brand partners that include UFC Gyms in South Florida; Trifision, a rising fitness initiative which marries yoga, pilates, boot camp, barre, boxing, and cycling; Energy Fitness —a large chain of high-end fitness centers primarily located in Mexico City—, and NRG eSports, a millennial-focused content network, providing exclusive, multi-platform programming for gamers. That is in addition to the advisory work he does with the Bronx Bombers (which was announced on Sunday), his stellar baseball analysis, and his work with Jennifer Lopez on any myriad of cross-promotional businesses.

His comeback off the field has made for a growing Hall of Fame business career that may not surpass his legendary status on the field, but can come close.

The brand of ARod, it seems, has never been as vibrant, diverse or successful as it is today. How has it gotten there? Learn from those around you, and the mistakes you make along the way.

“I have the fifth most strikeouts in MLB history. Only four people in the entire world have struck out more than me,” Rodriguez told ESPN’s Michelle Steele before a packed room at Sloan on Friday. “You get a Masters in failing, but you get a Ph.D. in getting back up.”

The backup involved rebuilding the trust of a skeptical public, as well as the business world, following his suspension from the Yankees. His comeback off the field has made for a growing Hall of Fame business career that may not surpass his legendary status on the field, but can come close.

One of the keys to success today? The three-time MVP believes control of your brand and all of its elements, is more important now than ever. “I look at the great success Jennifer [Lopez] has had with so many elements of what she does,” he added. “She had a fragrance called Glow that sold more than US $1 billion but she only owned 1 or 2 percent of the overall brand. Now with Glow2 she has much more control and if it ‘only’ makes US $200 million it is still better business because she can control the entire process.”

Another key to business success for Rodriguez? Listening. While always being known as a solid and thoughtful student of baseball during his playing days, the now retired veteran has a diverse team of business experts working with him on his myriad of businesses, many of whom are women.

The ARod Corp culture is based on a set of five values —Collaboration, Integrity, Accountability, Loyalty, and Excellence— that shape both the business and the companies that they work with. Also mixed deeply in that culture is a diverse leadership group that has identified and has executed business deals in a multicultural landscape that is becoming increasingly valuable, and the insight from young, vibrant successful Latino leaders will be key to the company’s future growth.

The transgressions of the past appear to be just that, and although Rodriguez will have critics and naysayers, the business world, both in sports and in other areas, seem to buy into the belief of his brand and the scalable growth that has come and will continue to expand.

“Alex Rodriguez was a success on the field and a hero to millions, especially in the Latino community, before all his issues, and he is perhaps an even bigger hero now because he has addressed, overcome and thrived not just as an athlete, but as a businessman,” said Chris Lencheski, who helps lead  MP & Silva’ s global partnerships, and a longtime sports marketing expert. “He has done what many at the top sometimes struggle to do; learn from your mistakes, reinvent who you are, embrace change, and come out ahead. It’s a great story, and at his age it’s pretty clear that the best may still be ahead, which is great news for his team, the brands he partners with, and most importantly, for the millions of people, both in and out of the Latino community, that will know ARod the businessman as much as ARod the baseball superstar.”

Success off the field can be tricky for even the most successful athlete. To be able to rest, succeed, expand and grow while learning from those around you is pretty amazing. While MIT Sloan featured some of the biggest names in sports business coming together for 48 hours (along with a former President of the United States as well), one of the most engaging and entertaining narratives came from a retired baseball superstar who has controlled and recast a brand that was tarnished and now shines across multiple languages, cultures, and brands. A second act better than the first?

That’s a pretty high bar but losing is not something acceptable for the New York native. Hits, after all, are what he does.

What: FC Bayern is looking to the U.S. and potentially Latin America for growing its brand.
Why it matters: The interest FCB has cultivated in the U.S. is one that has Latino legs, and is certainly something to watch as the Americas head towards World Cup and a renewed and expanded interest in all things soccer.

When European soccer clubs look across the Atlantic they see one of the two most engaged and fastest growing business markets for soccer expanding every day. The United States, as well as China, continues to be an expansion areas not for professional play (it is hard to see the Bundesliga (@Bundesliga_EN) or Serie A (@SerieA_TIM) putting up franchises in Chicago or New York or Beijing right now) but for media, marketing, and perhaps most importantly, for cultivation of fans and a vibrant future talent pool.

While Major League Soccer (@MLS) continues to expand its professional footprint and USA Soccer resets its course with a new head and new board members, the elite clubs of the world continue to press ahead, with the help of engaged media companies like Fox and NBC, and soon Turner and the always-trying-to-expand BeIN SPORTS and others.

One of the clubs that certainly has set the bar is FC Bayern Munich (@FCBayern). A few years ago the club was one of the first to set up shop in the U.S., opening an office in New York not just for sales, but for expansion and engagement at all levels, especially in the digital space. The club did have an upcoming U.S. tour to market and eager brands that were familiar to the U.S. consumer like Audi, T Mobile, Allianz and Adidas, but that was not enough. Under the leadership of Rudolf Vidal, FCB built an amazing grassroots following, engaging fans in all 50 States, and they formed over 100 supporter clubs and have grown their U.S. specific following on a social platform like Twitter to over 130,000 engaged followers. They constantly stay in contact with their clubs through social, and have set a very high bar for engagement as other elite clubs look to expand their casual fan base in the United States.

According to Benno Ruwe, Head of Partnerships for FC Bayern Munich US, the next expansion of the brand and its partners could be south.

That social following has been a boom not just for the Bayern brand, but for its partners as well, who have been able to take the elite club and create a whole host of experiences for consumers who are now able to follow the club and its Bundesliga opponents throughout the season on FOX Sports as well as with the engaged social communities that Bayern has created in the United States. Also don’t forget all of this has happened without Bayern having a marketable rising American star regularly in its lineup, something that some of its rivals have had.

So as FCB continues its solid American work, what’s next? According to Benno Ruwe, Head of Partnerships for FC Bayern Munich US, the next expansion of the brand and its partners could be south. “We have enjoyed great success building here in the States in a marketplace that is still growing, and we are going to look to other areas in the near future to replicate that success, and Central and South America seem to be a place we will look,” he said recently during a leadership program at Columbia University. The engagement into Central and South America makes great sense for Bayern, as they have key members of their first team in Rafinha (Brazil), James Rodriguez (Colombia) and Arturo Vidal (Chile), giving them star power into markets that did not exist in the United States.

Arturo Vidal (Wikimedia Commons/Rufus46)

All those markets are obviously soccer strongholds so the “education process” will not be as vast, but cutting through the loyalties of local clubs could present a bigger challenge. The biggest opportunity according to Ruwe, will be with the seamless integration of Bayern’s elite brand partners into the mix.

“Our partners are very interested in activating in markets throughout Latin America, including Mexico, and we are very interested in that area as a key part of growth for our sport and for the FC Bayern Munich brand,” he added. “We also see a great opportunity to engage with new partners who have an affinity for both elite soccer and the Latino audience, and we believe we have a great chance to again expand our footprint beyond the traditional.”

While Ruwe was careful to point out that no formal plan for expansion deep into the Latino market has been announced, it is clear that the opportunity, and the basic model, FCB has cultivated in the U.S. is one that has Latino legs, and is certainly something to watch as the Americas head towards World Cup and a renewed and expanded interest in all things about “The Beautiful Game.”

What: NASCAR is continuing its work in Latino marketing, with the Daytona 500 leading off the year Sunday.
Why it matters: By taking active steps to engage the Latino community, NASCAR can build a fan base which has not traditionally been strong but has shown potential for growth.

The 2018 NASCAR (@NASCAR) season kicks off with the Daytona 500 Sunday. As the sport looks for new ways to grow market share and a wider and more diverse audience, it is turning, smartly so, to the Latino base which it has struggled to engage with in the past.

The cultural shift to follow auto racing of any kind is still a challenge for the demo. However NASCAR doesn’t just see the opportunity, they are taking active steps to embrace and nurture the challenge.

The new, increased focus has started to reap rewards, with a multicultural audience going from 20% to 24% in the past five years (source: Nielsen Scarborough). Still, there is a lot of work to be dome from the grassroots to the brand side. We looked at five areas NASCAR is going to better drive the Latino marketplace.

  • Providing fresh and relevant content through NASCAR Latino: NASCAR Latino (@NASCARLatino) social channels keep content new and interesting to fulfill the need for drama and excitement. It guides new fans along their fandom journey by helping them find a favorite driver, answering their questions, and providing access to the sport.
  • Engaging new fans through social media Influencers: NASCAR has partnered with a group of influencers who enable their followers to experience NASCAR through a new lens. The influencers share their at-track experiences on race weekends across a variety of channels—and in doing so help bring NASCAR to new audiences.
  • Community involvement and partnerships: Industry-wide collaboration is key in helping the sport engage the Hispanic community. NASCAR has initiated a Hispanic Marketing Co-Op program to provide track partners with resources such as research, creative, and funding to aid in marketing to Latinos. The goal is to extend reach to the Hispanic community throughout all race markets. In addition to the tracks, NASCAR has teamed with broadcast partners like FOX and FOX Deportes to create more relevant and relatable content. In 2017, NASCAR partnered with FOX for a documentary short film titled
    Aric Almirola (credit: Wikimedia/Sarah Stierch)

    El Corredor, which shares the story of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Aric Almirola (@Aric_Almirola) as he journeys to Cuba to discover his roots.

  • Media Immersions: NASCAR has expanded non-endemic media presence at tracks by inviting multicultural and Hispanic media to experience the sport first-hand and bring the experience to Hispanic viewers. NASCAR has also partnered with local radio stations as well as digital and social media outlets to promote the races and bring exclusive deals and opportunities to Hispanic community. Hispanic media coverage of NASCAR increased 62% year-over-year in 2017.
  • NASCAR Drive for Diversity Awards: Held annually during Speed Weeks, the NASCAR Diversity Awards recognize and honor diversity leaders in the motorsports industry. The awards are the leading means to identify accomplishments in diversity and inclusion throughout the motorsports industry and serves as a platform to highlight, promote, and strengthen relationships with industry leaders in the diversity and inclusion space.
  • This year, PEAK was awarded the NASCAR Partner Award. From engaging the Hispanic demographic in Mexico by sponsoring the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series, to broadening the scope of interest and partnering with Joe Gibbs Racing and sponsoring Hispanic driver Daniel Suarez in both the NASCAR XFINITY Series and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, partners like PEAK lead by example and support NASCAR in bringing the sport to a new culture.

Is the NASCAR Latino engagement on par with sports like baseball and basketball? Of course not. The cultural shift to follow auto racing of any kind is still a challenge for the demo. However, NASCAR doesn’t just see the opportunity, they are taking active steps to embrace and nurture the challenge. Will it drive results with more Latino drivers and personalities? Maybe down the road. The real win is in casual fan engagement. Like NASCAR fans in general, Latino audiences are extremely brand loyal. Creating more Latino NASCAR fans would be a double win for loyalty, and that mix would be racing gold.

Top image: Daytona_International_Speedway (credit Wikimedia Commons-Nascarking)

What: A marketing update from La Liga U.S. Delegate Rebeca Diaz Gonzalez.
Why it matters: La Liga continues its push to market to U.S. fans.

Even without a U.S. team in the coming World Cup, the U.S. soccer market is as strong and is growing faster than every other area, maybe with the exception of China, in the world. It’s why we have seen strong efforts to cultivate fans in recent years put forth by FC Bayern Munich and Schalke FC of the Bundesliga, Manchester City and Chelsea FC in the Premier League, AS Roma of Serie A and both Real Madrid and FC Barcelona of La Liga (@LaLiga). However, the league that has made the most aggressive overall push in the last year has been La Liga. With an office in New York, the efforts are both on the grassroots and the marketing side, especially to cultivate fans of clubs across the league, as well as the efforts being made to grow the women’s game.

How is it going? We asked Rebeca Diaz Gonzalez (@rebsdg), La Liga U.S. Delegate, Business Development for an update

Portada: From an overall brand story, how important is the U.S. to La Liga’s business growth?

R.D.:“The U.S. is a key market for La Liga, and is extremely important to the League’s business growth, which is the main reason we opened an office in New York City. Our international strategy is essential for the growth of the League and our teams.

La Liga has strengthened their international department with 44 delegates who are working in countries around the world to increase the League’s reach using different initiatives. International growth is one of the strategic pillars for the organization, and thus a main goal. The 44 international delegates give La Liga a local presence and work to understand each market and fan base. The objective is to use a hyperlocal approach and create a permanent dialogue with our fan base through different initiatives (events, publicity, grassroots initiatives, digital presence, sport projects, friendlies, relationships with key stakeholders etc).

Soccer is the fastest growing sport in the U.S and the sport with the youngest fan base. La Liga’s fan base is growing every year, and we want to make sure to continue to engage with fans in the right way, as well as get more fans on board.”

La Liga has global partners and regional partners that use the League’s global reach to activate in their key strategic markets.

Portada: Other than friendlies during the summer La Liga now has fulltime staff in the States. What is the goal for that office now and how can it grow?

R.D.:“The NY office’s short-term goal is to create awareness and grow our fan base. We will work with beIN, our broadcaster, to activate on different initiatives. We are also focused on storytelling and digital initiatives.

Some upcoming initiatives include watch parties for the next Clásico and bringing La Liga Promises International (the most prestigious Under 12 tournament worldwide with 7 Spanish and 5 international teams) to New York in June.

The New York office will continue to grow as we share knowledge with other leagues (such as the MLS and NBA) and increase awareness of our brand in this market. We aim to show the U.S. the passion that makes Spanish soccer truly special.

Portada: La Liga is associated with some of the biggest brands in the world as partners, how do those brands activate in the U.S. now?

R.D.:“La Liga has global partners and regional partners that use the League’s global reach to activate in their key strategic markets. With all activations we involve our partners to increase reach and visibility for both them and us.

David Villa (credit: Wikimedia Commons-Tania Rego)

In January we hosted a Clinic with David Villa at the La Liga Academy presented by Disney World in Orlando and we ran a contest to win spots at this clinic with Tag Heuer boutiques. This is a good example of how we collaborate with our global partners in the U.S.

Tag Heuer and Mahou had visibility and activated around the El Clásico watch party last season as well. We rely on our current partners and are focused on acquiring new partners in order to keep growing.”

Portada: Is the market in the U.S. primarily Spanish-speaking or is a combination?

R.D.“Our strategy is aimed at appealing to fans from all cultures. The Spanish-speaking audience continues to be a powerful audience in the soccer world, but we also believe that the English-speaking audience for La Liga is growing. The US Hispanic community is the largest ethnic or racial minority group in the country, making up more than 17% of the population. However, recent studies show that the majority of Hispanics in the US are no longer foreign-born, so even though they have the Hispanic culture in their blood, they prefer to consume content in English. Soccer in the U.S. is becoming more potent every day, and a range of viewers are joining in.”

Portada: People know Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, but there are many growing and powerful clubs beside those two. What are some of the ways La Liga is trying to grow the overall footprint through those clubs in The States?

R.D.:“La Liga has built out an international communications team that is dedicated to sharing stories about all of its clubs. This includes working with and helping clubs to publicize their unique stories. We have a new U.S. communications lead whose job is to identify storylines that will resonate in the U.S. and work with clubs, athletes, executives, and media to tell these stories.

We also recognize that fan acquisition can be dependent on telling stories that are not soccer-centric, attracting audiences who otherwise wouldn’t show interest in the sport. We are actively learning and sharing the personal stories of our lesser known teams. For example, we’re working with Levante to share the unique personal story of Shaq Moore, the young defender from outside Atlanta who recently found himself on the pitch with none other than Lionel Messi. For another example, the city of Girona is popular due to its Game of Thrones sets, and we’d like to use that popularity to share some tidbits about the city’s passionate football culture and its club’s fight to compete with FC Barcelona.

La Liga is an entertainment spectacle in which all of our teams and players are engaging characters! By sharing more and more of these stories, we hope that Americans will ‘pick their colors’.”

Portada: What markets are best suited for brand growth in the States? How is that growth measured?

R.D.:“Key markets for us are California, Florida, Texas, Chicago…we have a keen eye on the Pacific Northwest and cities like Atlanta where passion for the sport is high.

We work together with Nielsen and GFK to understand where our fans are and what they like.”

Portada: What should brands and fans look for from La Liga in the next year in terms of activation in the U.S.?

R.D.:“La Liga’s focus is on growing our awareness by telling relevant stories about our competition and geolocating specific content for U.S. fans on digital channels. We will be more and more creative with activations, working with influencers to grow our digital reach in an authentic way and aiming to create media-worthy stories wherever able. We are in the market to stay!”

Featured image credit: Wikimedia Commons/Mjazick