What: Players with Latin American ties are an increasing segment of the international growth of the NBA.
Why it matters: With tens of millions of fans in the region, these and other player connections to their nations of origin will make marketing there even more desirable for brands.

The NBA (@NBAhas become more of a global game than ever before, and the numbers of players entering this past weekend’s start of action from around the world bear that out.

All 16 teams competing in the playoffs will feature at least one international player. The Utah Jazz (@utahjazzand Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) have an NBA-high seven international players each. The Boston Celtics (@celtics), Toronto Raptors (@Raptorsand San Antonio Spurs (@spurseach have six. The Spurs’ 2014 NBA Championship team featured a record nine international players during the playoffs.

The most represented countries among the 62 international players on playoff rosters are France and Australia (seven players each), followed by Canada (four players), Spain (four players), Turkey, Croatia, Cameroon and Brazil (three players each). Thirty-six of the record 64 European players who were on opening-night rosters for the 2017-18 season are on playoff rosters.

The fact that Latino players are local aspirational heroes has also changed everything.

However what about a Latino influence? As the popularity of the NBA continues to take gold even more throughout Latin America, is that being reflected not just in talent but in activation?

In addition to the four players from Spain, another 10 Latinos dot NBA Playoff rosters, one of the largest and most impactful groups in recent history.

The list includes: Lucas Nogueira (Raptors), Al Horford (Celtics), John Holland (Cavaliers), Nene Hilario, Trevor Ariza (Houston Rockets), Maurice Harkles, Napier Shabazz (Blazers), Raulzinho Neto (Jazz), Manu Ginobili (Spurs) and Karl Anthony Towns (Timberwolves). Of the group Holland, Ariza, Harkless, Shabazz and Towns, were born in the United States, and have Dominican nationality, which will be interesting as the qualifying for the 2020 Olympics takes place in the next few years.

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The playoff impact on rising Latinos should not be lost, as the NBA stakes claim to 50 million casual fans and 17 million avid fans in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Columbia alone, and their presence in Mexico, where a training center is opening and regular season games are now a yearly occurrence continues to amplify.

Lucas Nogueira (credit: Keith Allison)

“Basketball is already the second-most watched sport in Mexico,” said Arnon de Mello, vice president and managing director of NBA Latin America recently. “It’s growing tremendously. And there are more basketball courts in this country than any other sport.”

For other countries, the rise in interest, and in brands looking to activate against that interest either in consumer activation or in the media, has also been amplified.

“When we first started going to Mexico or the Caribbean, it was a bit of a learning curve, now the amount of content young people can receive, and the ways they consume the NBA mean there is no learning at all,” said Terry Lyons, a veteran sports marketer who helped create the NBA’s global programs while at the league for over 25 years. “The star value of American players is obviously there, but the fact that Latino players are local aspirational heroes has also changed everything.”

Unlike a sport like baseball, which dominates some cultures in Latin America but not all, basketball, be it the rising 3 on 3 version that FIFA is pushing forward or traditional 5×5, has made a wider leap into the fabric of Latin America, and the ways to consume the game, especially around NBA Playoff time, have never been greater.

“The NBA has always looked to be global since David Stern arrived, and while most think that the focus is to Europe and Asia, the growth in Latin America for now may even be more impactful,” added Chris Lencheski, a veteran sports marketer now at MP & Silva and teaching at Columbia University. “Soccer will always be king, bit basketball has made some amazing strides both in broadcast and consumer engagement, and the more diverse its stars who speak Spanish, the better off they will be in the next decade.”

As the Playoffs get rolling the chances of a Latino player hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy come June will be more focused, but even if that does not happen this year, the sound of NBA basketball as a marketing property in Latin America is continuing to rise, and that sound is music to the ears of diverse brands, as well as the elite players who have embraced the culture of basketball, in countries far and wide.

Check out the stars of Portada’s Sports Marketing Board, who will meet at Portada Miami on April 18-19 to discuss various topics related to the future of marketing and innovation in sports. Register now!

Cover Images: Manu Ginobili (Wikimedia: Zereshk); Nene (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

What: Elisabeth Kodner of the Milwaukee Bucks discussed the franchise’s outreach to its growing Hispanic fan base.
Why it matters: While not as large as other urban areas, Latinos still remain a growing and vibrant fan base, with an affinity to hoops.

The Milwaukee Bucks (@Buckshave had a renaissance not just on the court, but in the front office as well. A new arena, new promotions and new community events have again endeared the franchise, and the glory days of basketball in Wisconsin are probably not that far away.

One area of expanded focus is in the Latino community. While not as large as other urban areas, Latinos still remain a growing and vibrant fan base with an affinity to hoops. How are the Bucks taking advantage of that opportunity in a more robust way? We asked Elisabeth Kodner, Director of Marketing Strategy for the Bucks, to give us an outline.

Approximately 7.8% of the Milwaukee population is Hispanic. We know from the rate the market is growing that this community is an important part of the Bucks fan base in future years.

Portada: How has the focus for Latino marketing changed in Milwaukee in recent years?

Elisabeth Kodner: “This has always been an important audience for the Bucks and for a few years now we have had a social voice in Spanish (@LosBucks) as well Spanish broadcasts for select games. We are looking to continually build our relationship with the audience and grow interest in the Bucks organization and their efforts in both Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin. This year we have included in-language television and print media buys, community focus through the “Los Bucks Community Art Challenge” and various promotional events with radio partners across Milwaukee. In addition, beginning on March 9 we will have a radio broadcast in Spanish of all remaining home games.”

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P: Is the community in Milwaukee growing and how can the Bucks increase engagement?

E.K.: “This community has seen a 74% growth in Wisconsin since 2010 and continues to grow. Approximately 7.8% of the Milwaukee population is Hispanic. We know from the rate the market is growing that this community is an important part of the Bucks fan base in future years. Our goal is to engage authentically with this audience.  This year’s Noche Latina on March 9 is only one part of our engagement and communication, but this NBA-supported themed night has anchored our efforts this year. Many of our partners have joined us for Noche Latina and are changing the arena signage to Spanish for the night. Miller, BMO, Froedtert/Medical College of WI, Potawatomi and AO Smith engaged their affinity/employee groups and are helping activate the game (including $1 nachos compliments of El Rey).

P: Are there local brands who have expressed an interest to better engage the community with the team, and if so how does that tie into the team’s overall marketing plan?

E.K.: “We have received a very positive response to this year’s Hispanic marketing efforts and Noche Latina initiatives on March 9. Our media and community partners have been instrumental in helping us succeed in these efforts. Many of our corporate partners are engaging in Noche Latina and we’ve partnered with Milwaukee Rag for custom t-shirts. The media and musical talent during the game have also been important in developing the marketing communication and Noche Latina activations. We see this year’s marketing efforts as a solid foundation that we can build on moving forward.”

P: The NBA has made marketing and engaging with the Latino audience a priority for several years. How do the league’s initiatives tie to team programs, especially in cities like Milwaukee which have less of a Latino presence than say, New York or Chicago or even San Antonio?

E.K.: “We have spent a lot of time on market research and as mentioned above, collaboratively developed a plan to reach this audience in a meaningful way. We don’t necessarily see it as Milwaukee having less of a Latino presence than other cities, but rather as finding the best ways to engage and grow Bucks fans across Milwaukee and the state.”

P: For years teams have been criticized by the Latino marketing community for slapping “Los” on a uniform and playing mariachi music and having that qualify as Latino outreach. How has the emphasis changed both with the Bucks and with Latino sports marketing in general?

E.K.: Our community, corporate and communications partners have been engaged in our efforts and feel there will be a positive response from the Latino audience as well as an increase in fan engagement. We know this is not a one-size-fits-all market or that our efforts are related to one themed night. Our approach is trying to appeal to cultural touchpoints through relevant media, outlets, and events.”

Check out the stars of Portada’s Sports Marketing Board, who will meet at Portada Miami on April 18-19 to discuss various topics related to the future of marketing and innovation in sports. Register now!

[Featured image: courtesy Milwaukee Bucks]

What: Three-on-three basketball (3×3) is expanding its footprint to Quito, Ecuador and Mexico City among new locales.
Why it matters: 3×3 has some big business players, including Ice T’s “Big3” and 3Ball USA with big marketers like Mountain Dew; the expansion to Latin America opens up many sponsorship opportunities.

As the Winter Olympics wind down, the look to the Summer Games in Tokyo in 2020 slowly start to heat up, and a new discipline, one that has some solid ties in Latin America and growing ones in the U.S., is making some of the first noise with an expanded series of events.

Alfonzo McKinnie (credit: FIBA 3×3)

The sport is 3×3, or three on three basketball, an event that is geared for a market that loves fast, action-packed sports that conform to any device. While Big3 (@thebig3) is the senior sports and entertainment event launched by Ice Cube last year in the U.S. to great buzz and will be back this summer, 3×3 (@3BallUSA) is a different type of game with rules geared to players you may not yet know. Another more streamlined version of 3×3 will also be taking place at this year’s NCAA Final Four with Mountain Dew now signed on as a key sponsor.

How is this version of hoops different, and what’s the appeal? Think rugby sevens, the high octane version of 15’s rugby, which made a solid debut in Rio in 2016. The games end quickly, the action is nonstop, and the audience in countries like Mexico have taken to the game in ways the NBA would love.

So what’s the news? This week, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) announced it has expanded its 3×3 World Tour with the addition of new events in Quito, Ecuador and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, bringing the total number of events on the 2018 calendar up to 10. The season gets underway in Canada on July 21-22 and concludes with the Bloomage Beijing Final in China on October 27-28;  Mexico City returns to the calendar on September 8 and 9 as well.

For an emerging audience that understands basketball but may not yet embrace the NBA, or smaller countries where full court space for traditional five on five basketball is an issue, 3 x 3 has thrived and is growing quite quickly.

FIBA has also unveiled a prize fund of more than US $1 million (€810,000) for the first time in the World Tour’s history. “This is a crucial milestone for us,” FIBA 3×3 managing director Alex Sanchez said. “We want to give our current and future stars the financial means to dedicate themselves to the game and bring it to an even more spectacular level.”

For an emerging audience that understands basketball but may not yet embrace the NBA, or smaller countries where full court space for traditional five on five basketball is an issue, 3 x 3 has thrived and is growing quite quickly. The discipline is played equally by men and women and has continued to add partners on the media side, with brands like Nike and Wilson using the discipline to expand their basketball footprint even wider than it currently exists. Many of the elite competitions are played in high traffic urban areas; malls are a growing interest, where activations can occur seamlessly with a consumer base that loves basketball and may never get this close to an elite level of play.

And while there is no U.S. FIBA event on the calendar in 2018, the discipline has caught the eye of several groups outside of BIG3, one of which has already dipped a successful toe in the 3×3 proverbial water.

“The opportunity for three on three basketball is a great one for brands and for companies looking to engage in a game that is fast, exciting and designed for a younger audience, or for that matter, basketball fans of all ages,” said Michael Wranovics, a serial entrepreneur who has run successful events in the U.S., and who has been mentioned in a Sports Business Journal article in potentially launching a professional 3 x 3 venture with the FIBA rules in the United States in the near future. “Given the growth of the sport in Latin American nations, and the always expanding growth in the Latino audience in the States, I think that we will be seeing even more interest in 3×3, the FBA version which will be going to the Olympics, in the coming months.”

Myke Henry (credit: FIBA 3×3)

A 3BALL Chicago ran by Wranovics won the 2016 FIBA 3×3 World Tour Americas at Perisur Mall in Mexico City. The MVP of the tournament, Myke Henry, is now playing for the Memphis Grizzlies of the NBA. All three members of that 3×3 team are currently playing in the NBA, showing the star power the game could potentially draw while leaving the five-on-five game for current NBA stars to handle.

The expansion of 3×3 into Ecuador is another signal of the growing interest in and around basketball throughout Latin America, where the sport is now second to soccer in popularity. The NCAA recently announced the starting of sanctioning to Universities in Mexico, which follows the 2016 addition of the Latin America Select team game at the Final Four.

All of this is not just great news for fans and competitors. It is solid news for brands like those already engaged to have a new entry into the sport of basketball, at a price point below the NBA or elite colleges. The multicultural slant to 3×3 has proven successful, and Latinos are the fastest growing demo engaging with this mode. As Tokyo approaches, so will a new level of faces and places, all tied to basketball, just a shorter and more engaged version.

top image: 3BALL Chicago, champions of the tournament, being presented “ticket” to the FIBA 3x3 World Tour Finals

What: Michael Neuman, the EVP and Managing Partner at Scout Sports and Entertainment and a member of our new Sports Marketing Board, speaks to Portada about the MLS’s efforts to turn soccer into a major sport in the US.
Why It Matters: Football, basketball, hockey and baseball are historically the most followed sports in the U.S. But there is opportunity for soccer to gain terrain and draw investment from today’s biggest advertisers.

Michael Neuman
Michael Neuman, EVP and Managing Partner at Scout Sports and Entertainment.

Four sports have traditionally dominated American sports: football, basketball, baseball and hockey. “There are two main reasons that put them there; their ability to aggregate big audiences, live, and their sophistication to collaborate with brands and their agency partners to build fully sponsoring offers and packages,” explains Michael Neuman, the EVP and managing partner at the specialized marketing agency Scout Sports and Entertainment, which is Horizon Media’s Sports and Entertainment division.

But soccer is catching up. “If anyone [in sports marketing] is overlooking soccer, they are making a huge mistake,” says Neuman.

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“You have to remember that the MLS is still a very young brand,” he said. Established only 23 years ago in December 1993, it is far behind the main American sports in terms of the maturity of their professional leagues. The NFL is 96 years-old, the MLB 114, and NBA 70. “It still has many years to go to catch up with where the other sports are,” the member of Portada’s sports marketing board adds.

We’re still in the first generation of the MLS.

Image result for mlsAs passion for sports teams is often passed down through generations, this means that “we’re still in the first generation of MLS,” says Neuman.

But while the MLS is young, it is as sophisticated as any other league in terms of marketing. “They do a great job offering brands with many touch points with many different assets,” Neuman notes.

If there is any doubt on this, you just need to take a look at the list of the league’s official sponsors, which includes Adidas, Audi, AT&T, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, Heineken, Tag Heuer, The Home Depot, Etihad Airways, and more.

Tough Competition from International Leagues

On top of competing with other sports, the MLS must compete with other worldwide renowned soccer leagues. “There is also great soccer being played around the world, and so soccer fans are watching games from Germany, Spain, the Premier League, the Mexican League…,” explained Neuman.

Image result for liga mxThis particular challenge is not shared with other American sports whose leagues are not eclipsed in size and popularity by their global counterparts.

The MLS is just one part of a larger soccer offering that comes from a global environment.

“There is less of a desire to satisfy the need for football content or baseball content outside of the US, where the MLS is just one part of a larger soccer offering that comes from a global environment,” Neuman adds.

For sports marketers, soccer represents a great opportunity to reach both US-natives and the Hispanic market. “It is the type of platform that can really reach both, the general market consumer and the Hispanic consumer, more so than the other professional leagues that we have been talking about,” Neuman asserts.

But, to succeed in their soccer marketing strategies, Neuman believes that marketers must have knowledge of both the multicultural and the sports market. There is a need for more multicultural sports marketing executives in the US.

“The days of having a sports marketer building a multicultural sports strategy without a multicultural influence are over you can’t pull that off,” explains Neuman.

The soccer platform is as vibrant today as it has ever been and it’s only going to get bigger and better.

Neuman sums it up: “the soccer platform is as vibrant today as it has ever been and it’s only going to get bigger and better, and the audiences are going to continue to grow.”

What: Take a quick look at the sports events that people watched over the past weekend in this new regular weekly feature!

Which sport drew the biggest audience?

NASCAR’s race day in Atlanta. Broadcasted by Fox Sports 1, this sport event came in first on our list with 848,000 viewers.

What broadcaster drew the biggest audience?

Thanks to college basketball (both male and female) ESPN (including ESPNU and ESPN2) was once again the most watched broadcaster over the weekend. In addition to showing all college regular season games, the network also added a MLS game  — Orlando City versus New York City FC — to its broadcasting (which earned 15th place in the ranking of the weekend’s most watched events).

Of the 11.9 million who watched the Top 25 live sports events last weekend, 4.6 million watched ESPN.

Fox Sports drew the second-largest audience, through a broadcast combination of NASCAR races, a UFC fight and one MLS match. Over the weekend, the network had 3.3 million viewers.

Soccer made it into the top ten thanks to the Liga MX match between Cruz Azul and Jaguares. Broadcasted through Univision Deporte, the sports event attracted 442,000 viewers.

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#ProgramEpisodeNetworkStartEndTotal Viewers (000)Viewers Age 18-49 (000)
1NASCAR RACEDAY LATLANTAFOX SPORTS 112:30 p.m.2:00 p.m.848189
6NASCAR M.E. CUP FIN PRA LATLANTAFOX SPORTS 112:06 p.m.1:30 p.m.624132
11WMNS COLL BKBL POST SSN LUCF/UCONNESPN25:00 p.m.6:46 p.m.44291

Source: SportsTVRatings.com (“All data ©Nielsen, provided by a variety of TV network sources and not directly from Nielsen”)

panel.vallejo.serna.etc At the  Hispanic Sports Marketing Forum#PORTADA13, according to John Guppy, Founder of Gilt Edge Soccer Marketing, the Hispanic landscape is complex from a media standpoint because “this is not a one-size fits all audience. There are nationalistic differences.” He cited New York which has large Puerto Rican and Dominican populations. In LA or Chicago, “the discussion would center the Mexican community.”

dupuyMoreover, he said “there are generational differences, bilingual second generation Hispanics, differences in passion points and how they consume media.” He cited differences based on geographic location, using the differences in cities like Chicago, New York, LA, and Miami as examples.

The Hispanic landscape isn’t just about soccer.

There are lots of sporting passion points that consumers are interested in, whether it’s basketball, baseball, boxing, motor sports. Within the sport of soccer, there are many properties.

For example, Liga MX has a different viewer base than other properties. Complexity centers not only on sporting interests, but the number of “players in this market: media companies, TV, digital, print, lots of channels, it isn’t just about TV. There are multiple screens, the language question: is this about English or Spanish communication?”

garricaFor Jose Maria Garriga, VP of Sports Univision Network, soccer “remains the number one passion point for Hispanics,” though he acknowledged that the Univision audience isn’t a monolith that only follows soccer.
“Our passion is to hone in on the content that our audience cares about.” He said that because 70% of Hispanic Americans in this country are of Mexican origin, Univision focuses on content that will appeal to that community. He added that Univision’s aim is to provide content across all screens. But because other sports are popular, they also cover them. “Football, boxing, the NBA are all relevant.”

Juan Vallejo, Sales VP at FOX Deportes, said “undeniably, soccer is number one. Week in and week out, we get millions of impressions because of soccer.” Citing a study, he said: 

Juan Vallejo - Fox Sports
Juan Vallejo – Fox Sports
What Latinos are saying to us is that we need differentiation from limited options, in terms of sports content. That includes best in class content, which is more American, resembling the lifestyles of Hispanics in the US.

To that end, Fox Deportes has been partnering with Fox’s overall sports brand to provide not only soccer but other content like Nascar, college football, and other mainstream sports.

Complexity centers not only on sporting interests, but also the number of players in this market: media companies, TV, digital, print, lots of channels, it isn’t just about TV. -John Guppy

“We’ve taken a little bit of a different approach,” said Hector Vallejo, Marketing Manager at Stanley Black and Decker, who said their consumers are different even within the Hispanic marketplace.

Their approach is to regionalize their strategies: that includes investing in European soccer, particularly specific English clubs. In addition, Stanley Black and Decker focuses on boxing. The company invests in markets like Texas and California with heavy US-born and foreign-born demographics where Hispanics grow up watching boxing with their parents and attend live events. “Boxing has a higher percentage rate than soccer itself because soccer has so many different slices in the market whereas boxing is typically one pie.”

In addition, the company invests in baseball. In New York, it sponsors the Yankees.

Soccer can’t be the only piece of the formula for us – Vallejo

sernaOlga Serna, Senior Marketing Manager at AT&T Wireless, said that AT&T is “among the more sophisticated brands that have stepped away from the traditional way of dividing the Hispanic from general market. While we have different teams, at AT&T, we have a lot of cross pollination. We have a team concentrated on advertising and research for Hispanics, but inevitably that information gets shared.”

Initially, soccer was the sport that AT&T would “communicate to Hispanics with,” but eventually, AT&T decided to “own soccer as a whole,” she said, adding properties like MLS to its portfolio.

The company continues to look for opportunities for cross-pollination. An upcoming spot at the 2010 World Cup will feature the Mexican national team on ABC in Spanish with subtitles. “Ultimately, the Hispanic population is divided into segments” with differing levels of English proficiency and levels of acculturation. That will demand cross-pollination not only with soccer but across all of AT&T’s sports marketing. “For us, soccer helped us get there and now we’re seeing it across our entire sponsorship portfolio.”

Ultimately, the Hispanic population is divided into segments, with differing levels of English proficiency and levels of acculturation. -Olga Serna

sencionFelix Sención of Mundial Sports Network said this is an excellent opportunity to engage consumers with the “evolution of digital and multiple screens, we can move away from language and look at context. It’s a language opportunity.”

Regarding designing the best strategies, Garriga said: “How do you decide what you’re going to bid on? This is the best time to be in the US. Follow the money. The business of soccer is healthy and is going to grow.” Vallejo added, “It all comes down a business plan. We focus on exclusive soccer. Exclusivity is key. Are we being exclusive? Are we going to make money? Are we going to serve fans?” Vallejo asked “where can we get the biggest bang for our buck globally?” Sencion said, we make sure a relevant message is on the multiple screens. Follow the growth of audience and follow the properties that are growing. We make sure context is relevant and resonates.”

Spanish or English?

Vallejo said that with the growth of bilingual/bicultural market (currently, 60-65% of market is bilingual and bicultural), Hispanics want to watch sports in Spanish as well, depending on the sport. Additionally, he said that Fox Deportes is creating content that educates consumers on mainstream sports. “Instead of slapping content out there, we create original productions to talk about the rules of football. When we go to market, we think as the consumer to create the best content out there,” he said.

Regarding consumption habits, Félix Sención said that Spanish is still the preferred language. “The consumer is already accustomed to content in Spanish, the experts are probably Spanish. Even if you’re English-preferred, you still want as a customer that sport in Spanish, that’s what’s unique in Spanish. You can leverage the growth as it crosses over to general market consumption.”

Read the full coverage of the Hispanic Sport Marketing Forum:
At #PORTADA13: Hispanic Sports Marketing Forum: “Soccer is Global and Global is Cool”
At #PORTADA13: Hispanic Sports Marketing Forum: “Bloggers as Players in the New Landscape”
At #PORTADA13: Hispanic Sports Marketing Forum: “Digital: Same Meaning in Both Languages”



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