Hispanic sports marketing: Portada talked to Arizona Coyotes CEO Xavier Gutierrez, the first Latino president and CEO in NHL history. Gutierrez dives deep into the nuances of attracting Hispanic sports fans.
“I’ll be the first one to admit, never did I ever imagine that I would be in sports, be in hockey,” Gutierrez says. Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Gutierrez was a passionate Chivas de Guadalajara soccer fan. His family emigrated to San Jose, CA, where Xavier remained a Chivas fan but grew to love other sports although ice hockey still was not a part of his life. It was while being a student at Harvard that, together with other students, Xavier became acquainted with ice hockey. To make a long story short, after a 20+ year career as a business executive, investor and dealmaker, on June 8, 2020, Gutierrez was named President and CEO of the Arizona Coyotes Hockey Club.
As president and CEO of the Arizona Coyotes, Gutierrez oversees all business operations, strategic planning, organizational decision-making, and government relations for the club. A major objective for Gutierrez is to make hockey and the Coyotes more popular among Hispanics and to increase Hispanic sports fan engagement. “It is an intentional cohort we go after, If you go after a young market, you have to go after Latinos”, Gutierrez tells Portada. According to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Phoenix, AZ, Hispanics make up 30% of Arizona’s population and 40% of metro Phoenix. Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in the U.S. As in other parts of the U.S, Hispanics are driving the sports marketing landscape.
Hispanic Sports Marketing: Intentional Consistent and Authentic
To achieve the aforementioned Hispanic sports marketing objective, Gutierrez states that it is key to answer the question of how best to bring diverse voices to decision-making. He is proud to say that 40% of the Coyotes leadership team are female and so is the front office. Another mantra is to “go to new places to find people so that they don’t come from hockey and sports.” Gutierrez’s team has many executives with professional backgrounds in consumer marketing, banking, and politics.
“To successfully engage the Hispanic population the outreach needs to be Intentional, consistent, and authentic. You can’t look at it as a transactional relationship. You need to embrace them,” Gutierrez asserts. “We do this through our content, in both Spanish, and English and also through music, games and images”, he adds. 80% of the Hispanic audience is English-dominant or bilingual, only 20% is Spanish-dominant. That is why the Coyotes have both Spanish-language (“Los Yotes“) and English-language dedicated social media handles. “People think that Spanish-language will attract Hispanics. That does not work. You have to be In-language and in-culture,” Gutierrez maintains.
People think that the Spanish language will attract Hispanics. That does not work. You have to be in-language and in-culture.
Leading the charge of the Coyotes is a new campaign ad, created with ad agency MullenLowe LA, which seeks to embrace the entire region and highlight the Coyotes’ emphasis on reaching out to communities that have not traditionally been home to hockey fans. In July, the team named MullenLowe, based in Los Angeles, as the agency leading the rebrand in an effort to “transform the Coyotes into more than a hockey team, highlighting the team’s multicultural approach and their commitment to leading and impacting their community,” according to a statement announcing that the agency had re-imagined the Coyotes’ brand.
According to Gutierrez, the Coyotes also will be using influencers and ambassadors: “We just started to use influencers. We are creating a brand that is affiliated with people who are making an impact and that are not traditionally involved in hockey.”
We are creating a brand that is affiliated with people who are making an impact and that are not traditionally involved in hockey.
Differences Between Soccer and Ice Hockey Marketing
Asked about the key differences between marketing hockey and soccer to Hispanics, Mexican-born soccer fan Gutierrez notes that “soccer is a sport the U.S. Latino market has a deep connection and history with. So there is no need for an introduction. Hockey has not been part of the athletic journey, so marketing starts by having to explain the sport. But once they are exposed to hockey, they are excited about the fast action and the need to pay close attention.”
Another milestone to increase the Hispanic fan base is the NHL’s plan to organize a game in Mexico. “We are working with the league to have a game in Mexico soon,” Gutierrez says. It also became known that the Coyotes submitted a proposal to build an arena district in Tempe that must be vetted by the city of Arizona and then voted on in a public meeting. The proposal for the US $1.7 billion development near Priest Drive and Rio Salado Parkway calls for private funding along with a portion of funding coming from city tax revenues to pay for $200 million on top of that.
“In order to expand our rabid fan base, we need to attract Latinos and non-Latinos. We have to expose the sport to communities that have not necessarily been a part of it. We need to super-serve our fan and our fan in waiting, both Latinos and non-Latinos,” Gutierrez concludes.