What: There is an increased interest of Mexican brand marketers in sponsoring athletes, not just soccer players. What do Mexican brands really want when they are looking to sponsor an athlete”?
Why it matters: 50%  of all sports marketing expense in Mexico goes into soccer, but there is a huge opportunity for sponsoring non soccer related athletes. Brands want to be associated with a healthy lifestyle image and athletes can offer that, even though not everyone produces the same results.

In Mexico, athletes’ sponsorships, except for soccer, were practically non-existent 20 years ago.  Ana Gabriela Guevara, an athlete from Sonora, changed this when advertisers realized that people met in bars, even on weekdays, and waited until dawn if necessary to see the sprinter crossing the finish line at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
“Sports marketing has been evolving, in 2004 there was nothing. Things changed substantially once Ana Guevara came along” explains Claudia Ruiz, founder of AtletasMX, an agency specialized in representing and promoting athletes like diver Paola Espinosa, cyclist Belém Guerrero, weightlifter Carolina Valencia, boxer Óscar Valdez and Paraolympic swimmer Nely Miranda.
It is essential in Mexico to promote a culture of respect for athletes and make them feel valued, Ruiz adds.
We need to educate athletes and raise their awareness among brand marketers. When brands are seeking for talents, they believe those talents are like artists but athletes have little time available.
An athlete needs to know about his/her value in order to make a name for himself and be appealing for sponsors, “They usuallly get in touch with potential sponsors to tell them they are going to the Olympics and ask them for support. However, that kind of sponsorship, if successful, is ephemeral and leaves no legacy. They need to be prepared,” says Javier Salinas, Sports Director at Grupo Expansion.
Athletes often fall into the typical mistake of using their success in their sport as a selling argument, but the sponsor knows that if he only buys a triumph, he will not reap anything when the athlete does not win, which in fact happens all the time.”(Athletes) should focus their brand building on their experience, values, communication; on creating an institutional environment that speaks of social responsibility, of being in contact with fans, relating with the media, their marketing structure. All these things are what make a platform viable,” he adds.
Sports’ marketing goes in parallel with athletes’ sports professional career. Though in Mexico, it is just beginning to develop.

The sponsor knows that if he only buys a triumph, he will not reap anything when the athlete does not win, which in fact happens all the time.

Sponsors look at values

For sponsors, sport itself represents “values, identities and experiences that allow its’ brand to connect emotionally with the fans,” says Expansion’s Salinas.
Kellogg’s cereal brand Zucaritas is renowned for supporting athletes. But, what the brand really looks for is for the sponsored athlete to be “a source of inspiration to our target, to give the best of themselves so they remain competing in the sport,” explains Anna Consolato, Zucaritas manager for Mexico.
Zucaritas brand and its image, “El Tigre Toño” (“Tony the Tiger”) look to inspire children to practice sports. For that matter, they support athletes even before they are well-known or famous. Such is the case of Alejandra Orozco, the youngest Olympic medalist diver in the country.
“We want to chaperone in their careers,” says Consolato. “Not only do we rely on sports results, but also on the athlete to have a story that will impact and inspire.”

In Mexico, sports account for 0.5% of the GDP, half of which is generated by soccer and the rest by other disciplines.

Sports Marketing, a State Affair

In Mexico, sports account for 0.5% of the GDP, half of which is generated by soccer and the rest by other disciplines, says Salinas,  now at Grupo Expansion but who also worked as marketing director of Liga Bancomer and the Mexican Soccer Federation. But, the potential sports have in Mexico would be much greater, if they were properly exploited. “Of the more than 80 sports federations, just around 15 have an executive that is responsible for marketing,” points out Salinas. Even then, Mexico is spearheading sports marketing in Latin America.

The top 5 Mexican athletes ranked by their number of sponsorships

1. Ana Gabriela Guevara
2. Lorena Ochoa
3. Paola Espinosa
4. Paola Longoria
5. Rafael Márquez

Gabriela Gutiérrez contributed content and data to this article.


Ximena is a Swiss-Mexican journalist based in Mexico City where she specialized in business, and travel topics. Graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), she has worked as an editor at the magazines Expansión , Aire and Accent, from Expansion Group. Currently she is working with different media in Spanish and English independently. She is a passionate traveler who does not miss the opportunity to see a new place in the world.

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