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What: Minor League Baseball has named the ‘Mariachis de Nuevo México (a.k.a. the Albuquerque Isotopes) as its Copa de la Diversión champion for 2018.
Why it matters: With the number of participating clubs more than doubling to 72 this coming year, Albuquerque and the other finalists can serve as examples of how teams can engage the Hispanic communities in their respective markets.

When Minor League Baseball (@MiLBrolled out its Hispanic-driven initiative Copa de la Diversión this past year, 33 teams jumped on board. This past season, to varying degrees of commitment. And as 2019 will see participation double across the country, with 72 clubs engaged, including every one of the initial 33, the new teams will have numerous examples of success stories to draw from.

This week, MiLB selected the Albuquerque Isotopes (@ABQTopes(a.k.a. the Mariachis de Nuevo México (@MariachisNM)) as the winner of its first Copa de la Diversión™ (Fun Cup™) event series winner. MiLB’s new Latinx Advisory Committee selected the Isotopes for numerous initiatives that took the Copa experience to the next level, to outdistance the following clubs who were finalists: Monarcas de Eugene (Eugene Emeralds @EugeneEmeralds), Cucuys de San Bernardino (Inland Empire 66ers of San Bernardino @66ersBaseball), Cielo Azul de Oklahoma City (Oklahoma City Dodgers @okc_dodgers) and the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio (San Antonio Missions @missionsmilb).

The expansion of this program, even into some non-traditionally Hispanic regions … shows that teams have identified that Latinos in their markets may still be largely untapped

“All 33 participating teams fully embraced the Copa de la Diversión initiative, authentically engaging their local Latinx communities in a transformative, relevant and fun new way,” said Kurt Hunzeker, MiLB Vice President of Marketing Strategy and Research, in a statement. “Having to select a single winner from a list of worthy candidates was a difficult task for our Advisory Committee, but it was impossible to ignore how much the Albuquerque community embraced the Mariachis’ mission and ballpark experience all season long.”

Some of the elements of the Mariachis/Isotopes full-dive into the Copa series included an investment of significant marketing money into the program, which led to a single-game attendance record in Albuquerque in their May 5 Copa game and highest average attendance in themed games across the country. The team also worked closely with groups like the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce (@AHCNMto maximize the community connection and benefit, helping them net the largest revenue from licensed “Mariachis” merchandise and commercial partnership revenues dedicated to Copa events.

Join us at PORTADA LOS ANGELES on March 15, 2019 at the Loews Beach Hotel Santa Monica, where we will dive deep into sports and soccer marketing’s preeminent topics. Felix Palau, VP Marketing, Heineken will discuss “How to measure ROI and transfer best practices between sports marketing platforms”. Other speaking engagements include Tiago Pinto, Global Marketing Director, Gatorade who will provide answers to the question: “Will Corporate America jump on the soccer opportunity?”Attendees will also be able to benefit from Portada’s meet-up service of three-eight-minute meetings with top brand executives!

The expansion of this program, even into some non-traditionally Hispanic regions like Tulsa, Winston-Salem, Salt Lake and Durham, shows that teams have identified that Latinos in their markets may still be largely untapped. It will be interesting to see how many of the 40 or so new teams follow the examples of the Albuquerque, San Antonio and others that were all-in on Copa and how it may one day be an MLB initiative as well.

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What: MiLB’s successful ‘Copa de la Diversión’ initiative will more than double to 72 teams in 2019.
Why it matters: Programs that celebrate the Latino influence in baseball and connect to the community are positive for the teams and their fans, and a potential touch point for marketers.

As the Latino composition of professional baseball rosters—in both the majors and minors—grows, it makes sense for leagues and teams to celebrate the diversity in their players and fan bases. And as Minor League Baseball (@MiLBcontinues to experience growth on the field and on financial ledgers, initiatives like Copa de la Diversión help everyone embrace the culture and values that these communities represent.

With that, MiLB is following up last year’s successful Copa, which saw 33 teams participate and, according to the organization, generated a combined US $3.7 million in revenue and 12.5% attendance increases, by announcing that more than double that number, 72, will take part, across 29 different states in the upcoming season. In 2018, teams took to the field as the Durham Toros, Omaha Cazadores de Tormentas and Charlotte Caballeros (similar to NBA and MLB alternate identities) in select games.

100 new employees have been hired by the 72 participating teams, helping club staffs begin to more closely reflect the composition of the on-field talent and fan base.

As with other programs in this space, authenticity is the key: it can’t be seen as just a publicity stunt or to market additional apparel. The phrase “Copa de la Diversión” translates to “Fun Cup,” and included other facets of the fan experience, including food and music. And some teams made some internal changes to promote the program, including hiring bilingual employees in ticket sales and attracting more diverse internship applicants, according to La Vida Baseball (@LaVidaBaseball), a baseball news site that celebrates the past, present and future of Latino baseball.

The 40 or so new teams will try to tap into success stories like that of the Albuquerque Isotopes, Class AAA PCL affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. As “The Mariachis” that night, the club’s May 5 Copa celebration set a single-game attendance record of nearly 17,000 and, according to BallParkDigest.com (@ballparkdigest), set franchise records for merchandise sales.

The #PortadaLA summit in Los Angeles on March 15, 2019 (Hotel Loews Santa Monica) will provide a unique setting for brand marketers to learn about the opportunities sports and soccer content offers to engage consumers in the U.S. and Latin America.

With that success, MiLB is all-in on the initiative. “For some teams, it was looking yourself in the mirror and being like, ‘Man we don’t have enough people on our staff that looks like our community’,” said Kurt Hunzeker, Vice President of Marketing Strategy and Research at MiLB “I think that was a huge benefit.”

Hunzeker also noted, per La Vida Baseball, that 100 new employees have been hired by the 72 participating teams, helping club staffs begin to more closely reflect the composition of the on-field talent and fan base. This diversity can also help teams make decisions that will affect those fans, as having voices “in the room” with firsthand knowledge of the particular characteristics of the Latino fandom can prove fruitful.

So what is next for Copa? Hunzeker has indicated that at least 13 more organizations will get on board in 2020. Perhaps this can lead to a program of this type on the MLB level, or other sports may use it as a blueprint to help connect with Latino or other ethnic groups. In any case, it’s been a huge positive for teams and communities.

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