Christian Marketing: Will the Hispanic Pope do miracles?

Pope Francis I  has already won a lot of affection among believers and non-believers  since he got elected a month ago. A big question for marketing and media executives is whether having a Hispanic (Argentinian) Pope is going to have a significant positive impact on the marketing of religious goods and services targeting Hispanics.  This includes Christian Marketing, especially Christian Book Marketing and fundraising. Portada’s editorial team interviewed several players in this market to find out.

Only a month after his election,  Pope Francis I already has had an impact on the product offerings of publisher Thomas Nelson.  Larry A. Downs, VP of sales and Publisher  at Thomas Nelson, tells Portada that  “Francisco” was “published  as an exception to our Francisco Iplan, knowing that our plan currently serves this market. We do believe, however, that this has caused an awakening in the U.S. Hispanic market and Latin America to religious books and interests.” Thomas Nelson, the sixth  largest American trade publisher and the world’s largest Christian publisher, publishes inspirational, motivational, and self-help books from some of the leading voices and thinkers in Christianity as well as authors with a Christian world view.  Downs notes that these books  are distributed through bookstores and mass market stores as well as online and e-book. In 2011 Thomas Nelson opened a division in Mexico. It already had one in Brazil.  (For more information  on the Mexican and Brazilian Christian Publishing markets.) 

Marketing Campaign

Thomas Nelson  is introducing  a marketing campaign to promote the Spanish-language book “Francisco, el primer  papa Latinoamericano” (by Mario Escobar).
The advertising promotional campaign starting on May 7th in the  U.S. and Mexico comprehends:

  • Radio Interviews in key Markets (Miami,  Puerto Rico, South Texas, Mexico, Los Angeles)
  • TV product placement  (Morning Shows – Mexico, Miami, Puerto Rico, Los Angeles)
  • Online Ads  (Adwords)
  • Online Ads (Yahoo, Univision)
  • Online Video Ads (Youtube  and Pay per view content outlets)
  • “Francisco” will also be promoted  through Thomas Nelson direct mailed catalogs.


Fundraising is another important activity in Christian Marketing. Catholic fundraisers are strong direct mailers in the Hispanic market, and they have a lot of experience in the  space. It is not unusual for these nonprofit organizations to get a 20% response  rate to their direct mail campaigns.  One such non profit is TX based Oblate Missions, which has been direct mailing to Hispanics for over 25  years.  Oblate Missions is  a development office supporting the international  ministry of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

Is the  fact that the  Pope is Hispanic a major advantage for religious organizations that do fundraising targeting Hispanics? “Yes, I think so, ” says Chris Ragusa, President and CEO at Estee Marketing Group, a Direct Marketing Services firm with ample experience in Catholic Fundraising.  Ragusa cautions that while she expects some mailers to take advantage of this opportunity in the current year, “direct mail campaigns have a long lead time, so the mailings you are seeing today, for the most part, were created months ago.  Any good religious fundraiser will first test the concept, so testing could take place within just a few months or less.  If successful, we will see rollouts in the fall or later. ”

In Direct Marketing jargon, according to Ragusa  the key question, is whether the excitement of a new Hispanic Pope translates into more donors and dollars for a religious fundraiser, and if this kind of campaign has “legs”, can it become a control package?”