For brands who want to connect with Caribbean Hispanics in the U.S., baseball could represent the right platform to start a long-term consumer-brand relationship. Nearly one-third of all major league players are Latinos, including those born in Latin America and within the 50 U.S. states. The Dominican Republic has the highest number of players in the big leagues.
Once upon a time, on May 9, 1871, Estevan Enrique “Steve” Bellán debuted as the first Latin American born individual to play professional baseball in the U.S.A. He played as a third baseman for the Troy Haymakers in New York. About 200 years later, nearly one-third of all major league players are first or second-generation Latinos.
According to the Major League Baseball (MLB), the Dominican Republic has the highest number of international players in the big leagues, with 102 players during Opening Day in 2019. Second in the ranking is Venezuela, with 68 players, and Cuba comes in third with 19 players. “Baseball receives the most attention in Caribbean countries, even more than soccer,” Augusto Romano, CEO at Digo Hispanic Media, tells Portada.
Catering for A Segment’s Needs
First, Digo noticed Caribbean Hispanics are a niche market with particular needs, separate from the general Hispanic market. Then, the U.S Hispanic audience network figured how to reach about five million Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and Dominicans who are concentrated on the east coast of the U.S. However, Romano has a new strategy in mind: “Get to them through baseball!”
Born from the union of the two largest media groups in the Caribbean, GFR Media from Puerto Rico and Grupo Corripio from the Dominican Republic, Digo’s audience has shown a special interest in how Caribbean-born baseball players are developing within MLB. “We write stories about the players in a culturally relevant manner, starting with their origins, something the mainstream media doesn’t do. This allows U.S. Hispanic fans to follow players from their country of origin on our premium sites,” says Romano. Nevertheless, it seems brands are still missing out on the opportunity.
According to Josh Rawitch, Sr. Vice President, Content & Communications for the Arizona Diamondbacks, since last year, the MLB has been working on promoting individual players.This is an important shift in the league’s marketing strategy where traditionally entire teams were promoted.
“The league is smart enough to let these players be who they are,” Rawitch tells Portada. “Therefore we are letting their personalities show a little bit more.”
Most of Arizona Diamondbacks’ fans come from Mexico and Venezuela. However, the team also recognizes the importance of its Caribbean followers. The star, pitcher Yoan Lopez, for example, is from Cuba.
Concerning Puerto Rican players, Esteban Pagán, sports editor at GFR Media, believes that even though Puerto Rico has produced four island born hall of famers, and they have always been very active and noticeable with players in the league, right now there’s a new group of very talented players that are starting to arise. It is a matter of time for us to see more profesional global Puerto Rican players, he explains. “Brands are missing out on opportunities to connect with the U.S.H. audience because these big players are just starting to emerge and are recently being noticed and followed by MLB fans.”
“We are in the exact time in which we can see the potential [of the Caribbean players] in the long run,” Jorge Cabezas, GFR Media, General Manager, adds.
Connecting With Caribbean Hispanics
“The way we try to connect with the Caribbean fan base is first through our social media accounts. They’re being followed by Latinos all over the world, thus we specifically try to highlight our Hispanic players. We have some Cuban players and tons of Venezuelans and Dominicans,” adds Rawitch. “We know when we are sending out messages on social media, we are interacting heavily with fans from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.”
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The second way the D-Backs are connecting with Caribbean Hispanics is through their local baseball academy in the Dominican Republic. In fact, all 30 major league clubs have baseball academies there, according to Anthony Salazar, chair of the Latino baseball committee.
“We go down there for graduation every January or February. Moreover, we do a second trip when we do a clinic in the Dominican Republic or we’ll do public appearances,” explains Rawitch.
As a matter of fact, Digo Hispanic Media recently announced their exclusive partnership with NGL Collective, focused on custom content generation.
Their first docuseries named “Las Academias,” explores the beautiful island of the Dominican Republic along with the small towns scouting for talented hopefuls. These athletes each and every day train at one of the 30 major league youth training camps across the island.
“Brands will have access to sponsor these content series via our sales team and we will insert them in the story to ensure their brand and products are showcased in a relevant and engaging manner,” said Aisha Burgos, SVP of Sales & Marketing for Digo Hispanic Media.
It seems that the league and its teams are already reaching out to their Hispanic and Caribbean Hispanic fans. So, what’s happening with brands?
Most brands recognize that outside of soccer, baseball is probably the second most followed sport in Latin America. However, in some countries like Cuba or DR, it is even bigger, believes Rawitch. “Simply, look at the sheer volume of people who are following baseball from the Caribbean. If you’re a company looking to communicate with them, it makes sense to find your way there through a major league team, for instance.”
According to Google Trends, in the past 12 months the words baseball, beisbol and pelota were the most searched the most in countries like the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Panamá & Venezuela. “Baseball runs in our blood. This represents a huge opportunity that brands need to take advantage of,” said Romano.