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What: Cristiano Ronaldo tries his hand at American football in a new Super Bowl ad.
Why it matters: Ronaldo’s star status is unassailable internationally, but still emerging in the U.S. beyond soccer fandom.

First we saw him in his underwear in a hotel hallway, now he is trying to play American football in a spot that ran in select markets during the Super Bowl. There is no doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo is a high priced, and highly visible, figure that is trying to get Altice USA some great and humorous exposure in markets where the media company is looking to continue to grow brand.

Wikimedia Commons/Soccer.ru

However, there is a question with both spots, one in which the star is locked out of his room and gets photographed by a maid who then splashes the photo on social media, and the other in which he is using his soccer skills in American football garb. Does the general public actually know who he is through the spots? It’s a pretty big question, and an assumption that is still TBD.

Ronaldo’s global brand and his place on the world stage as a World Cup and Real Madrid star does make him a household name in the United States IF you follow global soccer and IF you are paying attention to the sports marketing business. It is an audience that is surely growing as soccer takes even more hold in the U.S., and with the coming World Cup, it will grow even more. But he does not play in the States, and La Liga’s deal with beIN SPORTS as their main rights holder in the United States limits the weekly exposure to an English speaking audience that can see Premier League matches on NBC and Bundesliga on FOX.

Soccer is growing, the World Cup is coming, and the growing Latino demo in the U.S. has a much better affinity toward image recognition of a star than fans of the NFL or even MLB or the NBA.

Is the assumption in the spot that the mainstream audience does not know who he is? A quick poll of non-soccer fans thought he was everything from a pop star to a model to a baseball player, with those with an interest in “The Beautiful Game” knowing immediately who he was. Still, that may be a fraction of an audience, while the bigger group can probably be grasped with a little better brand identification during the spots, which run very regularly in areas where Altice is available.

Ronaldo is as big as it gets

“There is no doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo has perhaps one of the greatest followings of any athlete on the planet today. Altice USA is smart to be able to take advantage of his star power, especially as they market towards millennials and a Latino audience,” said Ray Katz, co-founder of ROI Sports Group and professor at Columbia University. “However Ronaldo is a superstar in a sport that is still emerging at least in the U.S. Consequently assuming that the television viewing audience, particularly in non-soccer programming, knows who he is and what he is doing is still a pretty broad leap. That can easily be addressed in a little more identification in either or both of these highly visible spots. The best practice here would be total integration with respect to planning and execution between brand managers, the sports agency, the media buying agency, and the creative agency.”

Now going forward is Altice USA making a strong gamble with Cristiano Ronaldo? For sure. Soccer is growing, the World Cup is coming, and the growing Latino demo in the U.S. has a much better affinity toward image recognition of a star than fans of the NFL or even MLB or the NBA. The spots are also humorous, which highlight another part of the elite star’s personality and give the images a viral play that will go beyond the regular spot run. They also set Altice USA apart from the other potential providers doing the same old, so there is a good amount of recall.

It is certainly different to see a global star engaged in promotion, and more will surely be coming. Seeing Ronaldo discover American football also plays well, what might be a little better is if everyone knew who he was, and a little better ID could do the trick.

Image at top: Wikimedia Commons/Ruben Ortega

What: The Arizona Diamondbacks continue to demonstrate a strong commitment to the Latino community, according to communications executive Josh Rawitch.
Why it matters: The Latino market makes up a significant portion of the team’s fan base,
including greater Phoenix as well as the entire state.

As we pass the Super Bowl and turn towards the opening of spring training, we will start to focus on the efforts of MLB (@MLB) teams and their unique approaches to marketing to a Latino audience. Leading off are the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have been among the progressive and proactive clubs in North America in engaging with audiences of diverse cultures and brands.

We spoke with Josh Rawitch (@JoshRawitch), Diamondbacks (@DBacks) Sr. Vice President, Content & Communications, to better understand the club’s engagement and what is coming up as we head towards pitchers and catchers.

Portada: The DBacks have always been front and center in terms or cultivating the Latino audience. How valuable is that market share to the team?

Josh Rawitch: “The Hispanic market accounts for a significant part of the overall population in Arizona and our fan base, so it’s extremely important that we find authentic ways to engage with them. As we celebrate our 20th anniversary this year, it’s been interesting to go back to the beginning of the franchise and see how important it has been since before we even took the field. That said, we’ve definitely increased our efforts over the past few years once we hired our Manager of Hispanic Marketing, Jerry Romo, and we continue to do so each year. We were honored last year by the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as the Corporation of the Year because of our increased efforts, so it certainly feels as though the marketplace is taking notice.”

P: Are there brands that are partners that market directly to the Latino fan base? Who are some of them and what are some of the best practices they have seen?

J.R.: “Many of our corporate partners are specifically looking to activate within the Hispanic market including Chevrolet, Pepsi, Fry’s Food Stores, MillerCoors and Anheuser Busch, to name a few. Chevrolet had a very significant presence in La Terraza, our Hispanic-themed area of the ballpark where they put up a culturally-relevant mural from a local artist and created t-shirts featuring that same graphic. Fry’s Food Stores has been the presenting sponsor of D-backs Fiestas, our pregame street festivals celebrating the Hispanic culture. Pepsi has been the presenting sponsor of our Hispanic Heritage Day promotional giveaways the last couple of years, which have included Los D-backs soccer jerseys and a Sugar Skull Bobblehead. AB is our partner on Hispanic Heritage Day which includes several key elements but notably, they honor a member of the Hispanic community each year. And MillerCoors does a great job in general and will be announcing some additional activation for 2018 soon that we think has a great chance to resonate marketwide.”

Many Hispanic fans are seeing our messages in the mainstream and in the traditional Spanish-language media outlets.

P: How do you segment your marketing for that fan base? Will you market to the Mexican audience differently than other groups?

J.R.: “We have a multi-tiered approach that focuses on Spanish-language marketing for those who prefer to get their information in their native language, but there’s also a huge segment of the population that identifies as Hispanic and gets their news and entertainment in English, just like the general population. The majority of Hispanic fans in our marketplace are from Mexico or Central America, so we certainly focus on efforts that are culturally relevant to them more so than, perhaps, Cuba or Puerto Rico the way you might see in Miami or New York. Two examples are our incredible partnership with the Liga Pacifico de Mexico, that country’s professional league, which has grown incredibly in just two years and our postgame concert with a young musical superstar, Luis Coronel, who was born in Southern Arizona (and is a big D-backs fan) but is huge in Mexico. With each passing season, we feel we are able to get more sophisticated in our approach.”

P: On the player side, the DBacks have taken great strides in developing their base in the Dominican Republic. How has the Academy worked out not just from a baseball standpoint but from an educational standpoint as well?

J.R.: “In 2013, we were fortunate enough to meet with the President of the country, Danilo Medina, and our CEO Derrick Hall promised him that we would give back to the country as much as we benefited. That included providing them with a top-notch education program that will help all players, particularly those who never reach the big leagues. We’re proud to say that even if a player’s career ends before being able to make significant money from it, he still gets the benefit of having his high school education paid for by the team. We’ve even seen coaches benefit from the program. Of course, developing players is extremely valuable and at the forefront of any team’s operations there, but we think it’s equally as important that we develop them as citizens of the world.”

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P: How much crossover does a team like the DBacks have in marketing to a Latino and Anglo audience? Is it cookie cutter or has it become more targeted as the market matures?

J.R.: “In general, we have done a much better job of targeting our marketing efforts over the last several years and the Hispanic audience is no different. As previously mentioned, that includes realizing that many Hispanic fans are seeing our messages in the mainstream and in the traditional Spanish-language media outlets. Not only has the market matured, but as technology continues to grow each year and allow us to target our marketing and messaging better than ever, we’re always looking for ways to do so.”

P: Looking ahead to spring training and the regular season, are there new or expanded programs that the team and its partners will offer for your growing Latino base, be they sponsor activations or community programs?

J.R.: “We will have an announcement as it gets closer to the season about La Terraza, which has become a great area in the ballpark for families and fans. We are also very excited that we will be able to expand our focus in Social Media in 2018, as we’ve tried hard to grow our accounts and engagement over the last few years and will now have an employee focused on that area. I believe we are still the only team in baseball with a monthly Spanish-language magazine in baseball, which started two seasons ago, and it continues to grow each year in terms of content depth and the breadth of advertisers.”

 

What: Avocados from Mexico made another big splash with its fourth Super Bowl ad.
Why it matters: Rather than launching a specific product, AFM highlighted the versatility of avocados and looked to connect with consumers on a broader scale.

The usual Super Bowl mix of commercials has beer, movies, some tech and… Avocados. Yes, Avocados From Mexico (AFM) returned to the multi-million dollar ad extravaganza for the fourth consecutive year, trying to find its way among the big brands during the world’s most-watched sporting event.

Avocados From Mexico (@AvosFromMexico), the wholly-owned subsidiary of the Mexican Hass Avocado Importers Association (MHAIA), again used not just the Super Bowl spot, but future NFL Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez (@TonyGonzalez88) as a spokesperson, to amplify their message during Super Bowl week in Minneapolis.

The spot, tagged #GuacWorld, landed in the middle of USA Today’s Ad Meter for the game, at 33, ahead of bigger spends for traditional brands like Tide, CocaCola and Michelob Ultra. However the goal for AFM is to be in the game and engage with consumers going forward for event in 2018, not for launching one product.

“The strategy of a business like Avocados for Super Bowl is different than a traditional consumer brand,” said veteran marketer Chris Lencheski. “People on Super Bowl Sunday actually have their product in hand already. It’s a reminder to the consumer that Avocados are different and should be a staple going forward and in that vein the ad becomes a launching point for the rest of the spring, when people are thinking parties and healthy snack alternatives. It’s a big spend, but one that works for them to cut through the clutter.”

Bringing Gonzalez, who starred in the NFL for over a dozen years with the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons, into the mix during Super Bowl week as their spokesman also gave AFM an added media boost.

“Over the past three years, our groundbreaking Big Game campaigns have been an overwhelming success,” said Alvaro Luque, president of Avocados From Mexico. “This year, we are excited to further build on that momentum with another integrated campaign that reminds consumers that avocados are a highly versatile and great tasting fruit, perfect both inside and outside the bowl – from sandwiches to burritos to wraps and salads.”

AFM launched its first Super Bowl ad in 2015, bringing the world “Draft Day,” a humorous, star-studded spot depicting Mexico as the origin for the avocado during a pre-historic, football-styled “first draft ever” of plants and animals. In 2016 they unveiled “Bounty of Earth,” a hilarious, out-of-this-world experience set in an interplanetary museum where aliens highlighted how the Mexican avocado is “Always in Season,” among other unique Earthly treasures. In their 2017 ad, “#AvoSecrets,” a secret society leader is troubled, as humankind figures out that Avocados From Mexico have good fat – a precious secret the society is supposed to protect.

Bringing Gonzalez, who starred in the NFL for over a dozen years with the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons, into the mix during Super Bowl week as their spokesman also gave AFM an added media boost. Although not in the spot, Gonzalez, now an analyst for FOX Sports, was able to weave the AFM messages into multiple appearances in and around Radio Row at the Mall of America, using his own Avocado recipes as a hook around the football talk. That gave AFM an even bigger presence in smaller markets around the Big Game, and extended their media exposure well beyond just the spot, which debuted midway through Sunday’s game on NBC.

There is always risk with a massive one time spend for nontraditional brands during Super Bowl. But by combining with a spokesperson prior and then using the ad to amplify a bigger play into the social world for the spring and summer, Avocados From Mexico is able to score where other brands fail; by being in the Super Bowl conversation, and presenting an opportunity to its partners that keeps the product top of mind and growing as consumer choose snacks for the spring.

What: Laureus USA is teaming up with NIKE to Launch Sport For Good New York City.
Why it matters: The commitment of these two global brands will help improve the lives of underserved youth, including a vibrant Latino population in NYC, through the power of sport.

Keeping young Latinos active in sport, and getting brands involved in the process, is a challenge and a growing priority across the United States. As the population ages and things like eSports get more traction, the worry of obesity becomes an even bigger challenge.

One of the groups trying to meet that challenge head on is Laureus USA (@Laureus_USA), which, in conjunction with Nike (@nike) announced the launch of Sport for Good New York City (S4G NYC), a long-term commitment to improving the lives of underserved youth in the five boroughs of New York City through the power of sport. It is the first of a national series Laureus USA is putting on, with the goal to activate in over 20 cities and reach millions of young people, the core of which are Latinos and other minorities.

By bringing together nonprofit leaders, providing resources and facilitating collaboration at the local level, Sport for Good New York City will ensure more children and youth have access to high quality, youth-centered sports programs. To support the launch of S4G NYC, Laureus USA, awarded grants to eight local nonprofit organizations that use sport or physical activity to empower local youth. Olympic legend Edwin Moses helped kick off the initiative with kids from I Challenge Myself, one of the New York City grant recipients.

“Latinos are the fastest growing population in the United States, but inequities contribute to a higher obesity rate among Latino children than among Caucasian children,” said Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, CEO of Laureus USA and Olympic Gold Medalist in Track and Field. “Sport for Good seeks to provide all children with safe, accessible opportunities to play sports, keep fit and be a part of a healthy community. We kicked off Sport for Good NYC this week with two of our eight NYC grantees, South Bronx United and I Challenge Myself, both of which are geared towards Latino youth. ICM operates predominately in Washington Heights and SBU serves majority Latino youth.”

Key to the success is corporate involvement, and bringing Nike on board shows not just the viability of the program as a whole, it makes the results tangible for the young people involved.

Latinos to Benefit Greatly From the Program

Nationally, 40% of the youth Laureus impacts are Latino. Their star studded lineup of ambassadors includes Raul Gonzalez Blanco, Luis Figo, Hugo Porta, Cafu and Emerson Fittipaldi.

Key to the success is corporate involvement, and bringing Nike on board shows not just the viability of the program as a whole, it makes the results tangible for the young people involved. Nike’s three-year commitment to Laureus USA for S4G NYC will support participating organizations with access to knowledge, trainings and funding. “Nike is committed to getting kids moving around the world, and we’ve been helping to get kids in NYC moving for more than a decade,” added Caitlin Morris, General Manager of Nike Global Community Impact. “We know kids are made to play and when they do, they have the potential to do better in every aspect of their lives. We’re excited to be partnering with Laureus USA to launch Sport for Good New York City and extending these benefits to even more kids through a diverse range of organizations across the city who share our commitment.”

“Having a brand like Nike involved brings more visibility and funding to the needs of inner city youth,” Mosely added. “Kids also get more excited to be involved with the project. Nike has a wealth of resources that Laureus and Sport for Good NYC will now be able to tap into and we are grateful for their generous support and involvement.”

While the Nike/Laureus USA partnership is just a start in the much needed engagement of young people and healthy lifestyle, it is a great start, as it ties together many of the key pieces needed for effective sports cause marketing: a massive lifestyle brand, celebrity athletes, large numbers of effected youth, and the growing demo of Latinos, who still remain underutilized in the sports space.

New York was a solid kickoff, creating a quality environment and a memorable day for all. The bar is now set for growth across the US, with Nike the first of many joining the team for this crucial mission with Latino youth.

What: Mexican National Soccer Team supporter fan group “Pancho Villa’s Army” (PVA) has expanded its base and developed strong relationships with U.S. marketers in advance of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.
Why It Matters: Passionate organizations like the U.S.-based PVA are ideal for many companies looking to reach the important Hispanic fan base.

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This year’s international soccer calendar is filled with important tournaments around the world, but the most anticipated competition for aficionados, casual fans, and marketers is the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. Official partners and sponsors like Coca-Cola, Hyundai, and Adidas will leverage their massive sponsorship deals to connect with consumers before and during the month-long competition.

One of the most desired groups in the U.S. for brands is the Latino soccer fan, specifically the Mexican fan who will passionately follow El Tri throughout the squad’s run to the championship match. According to a 2017 Univision-commissioned study conducted by Nielsen, “Los Fanaticos: Passion and Power”, 80% of Hispanic sports fans say that sports are their favorite thing to talk about (11% more than non-Hispanic fans). This is witnessed yearly when the Mexican national soccer team plays a number of friendly matches as part of its almost-now-required tour of the U.S., selling out venues to the delight of the brands who pay hefty sums to sponsor it.

 [Pancho Villa’s Army] has caught the eye of marketers like beer brand Estrella Jalisco, who recently reached an agreement with PVA to partner on a variety of events and promotions.

Enter Pancho Villa’s Army (@VillasArmy), the U.S.-based fan group supporting the Mexican national soccer team founded in 2013 by Mexican-American Sergio Tristan, who was looking to connect with like-minded fans to cheer on El Tri. The group has now 30 chapters with more than 3,000 members and 47,000 followers on Facebook, and they attend en masse just about every game Mexico plays in the U.S. They have caught the eye of marketers like beer brand Estrella Jalisco who recently reached an agreement with PVA to partner on a variety of events and promotions for Mexico’s 2018 U.S. tour and through the World Cup. They also have a two-year sponsorship deal with Nissan that started last year; Tristan has even been featured in an ad for the automaker.

The group garnered national and international media coverage when, during a 2015 Confederations Cup playoff match in Los Angeles between Mexico and the U.S., they unfurled a massive, three section wide, Mexican flag inspired banner that read “Sigo Siendo el Rey” (“I’m still the king”). That phrase quickly became a trending topic as #SigoSiendoElRey on Twitter.

Authenticity is a buzz word that is used a lot in marketing circles, but that’s what consumers are looking for: a brand that understands and connects with them through a passion point that gets to the core of who they are culturally. In the case of Estrella Jalisco and Nissan, soccer is the means to reach the Mexican fan in the U.S., and Pancho Villa’s Army is an authentic community partner that makes the connection deeper.

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What: Three Puerto Rican standouts will receive the Munson Awards during the Thurman Munson Awards Dinner, a fund-raising event that has taken place annually for 38 years.
Why It Matters: There will be a strong Hispanic presence at an event which is important because not only does it honor the most valuable baseball players, it also sheds light on their humanitarian efforts.

Annually, one of the biggest events of the baseball off-season is the Thurman Munson Awards Dinner, remembering the great Yankees catcher. For 38 years, the dinner has raised funds for AHRC New York City Foundation and honors great New York area stars for success and inspiration on the fields of play, and community spirit off the field.

On February 6, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City, three Puerto Rican standouts will be among the honorees, as Carlos Beltran, Jorge Posada and T.J. Rivera will receive the coveted Munson Awards.

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Both Posada and Beltran have spearheaded Hurricane Relief efforts for victims in their native Puerto Rico; the Jorge Posada Foundation assists those afflicted with Craniosynostosis, while the Carlos Beltran Foundation empowers young people to reach their dreams through sports and education. Rivera was the Mets nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award for his community efforts, notably at his alma mater, Lehman H.S. in the Bronx.

Honoring Unparalleled Baseball Careers

Beltran had 10 years in New York, including seven in Mets Orange and Blue, when he swatted 149 home runs and swiped 100 bases, slashing .280/.369/.500 in 830 games. In all, he hit 435 home runs and drove in 1084 runs in a 20-year career that concluded with his retirement after winning his first World Series with Houston last year.

Posada’s 17-year career, all in Pinstripes, produced 275 home runs and 1064 RBI, along with five championships. One of the “Core Four,” Posada was a five-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger, hitting .273 in more than 1800 career games.

Both Posada and Beltran have spearheaded hurricane relief efforts for victims in their native Puerto Rico.

Rivera slashed .290/.330/.430 last year in 73 games split between third, first, second and left field for the Mets. He hit five home runs and drove in 27. The native New Yorker of Puerto Rican heritage has defied logic of an undrafted player climbing the ranks in the Mets organization to achieve MLB status.

Others to be honored that night include Yankees pitcher David Robertson and former Giants football standout Justin Tuck.

The AHRC New York City Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that supports programs enabling children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to lead richer, more productive lives, including programs of AHRC New York City.

For tickets and information on the Munson Awards Dinner call 212-249-6188 or email jennifer@emgbenefits.com.

(Beltran photo credit: AHRC; Posada photo credit: Keith Allison; Rivera photo credit: MLB)

 

 

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