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What: Canelo Alvarez’s win over Rocky Fielding at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night gave him an ever greater visibility boost to a wider U.S. audience.
Why it matters: The Guadalajara, Mexico, native can use this as a springboard to even greater marketing possibilities here moving forward.

The last few weeks if you watched any big sporting event on TV in North America you saw the commercial—in English: Michael Buffer (@Michael_Bufferand Canelo Alvarez (@Caneloin the ring in a lighthearted promotion to try the growing internet streaming service DAZN (@DAZN_USA(pronounced Da ZONE for those who don’t know) tied to his fight this past Saturday against Rocky Fielding (@Rocky87Fielding). It showed a side of the Mexican boxer that many casual fans may not have known, but with his win over Fielding at Madison Square Garden (@TheGardenin New York on Saturday night, making him champion in now three weight classes.

The fight was the kickoff to a partnership between DAZN, which is banking big on boxing’s resurgence, and Alvarez that was signed in the fall, five-year, 11-fight deal that will pay the boxer at least $365 million, making it one of the most lucrative single athlete media partnerships ever.

“By bringing Canelo’s fights to DAZN, we will turn his pay-per-view success into a growth engine for subscribers — a truly transformational moment for our business and for the entire industry,” John Skipper, the executive chairman of DAZN said at the time of the announcement, and Alvarez’s crossover brand power may just prove the investment to be a cost effective one, especially as major companies fight not just for brand recognition and subscribers, but for ancillary disruptive marketing power as well.

Those who have seen his value are already seeing an uptick, and as the next calendar year goes on I’m sure we will see more form him and the companies around him.
Canelo Alvarez/Everlast

Alvarez, once a low key stalwart in the ring, has undergone a brand transformation in the past year, bouncing back from a pre-fight drug test for the use of the banned substance clenbuterol last spring that put off a much anticipated fight against Gennady Golovkin (@GGGBoxingto grab more and more of the limelight in a sport popular with Latinos and growing in popularity with action craving millennials. That’s to say nothing about the millions who will tune in or follow the casual big fight, something that the sport had been lacking in recent years and is now finding a niche once again.

Alvarez is now boxing’s biggest pay-per-view star this side of the still inactive Floyd Mayweather, with recent fights against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Golovkin generating more than one million pay-per-view buys. His midyear place of 62 on the Forbes list of celebrities and athletes will rise to the top ten as the year ends, and his interest, and ability to connect with fans and brands in a multicultural environment will certainly make him move to the watch list of companies looking to continue to step up engagement as 2019 begins.

Canelo’s sponsor list is already growing, and includes deals with Under Armour (@UnderArmour), Tecate (@tecate), Hennessy (@HennessyUSand Everlast (@Everlast_), bringing in more than seven figures outside his boxing and media deals. That should continue to rise as the affluent Latino market tied to sports again grows with the turning of the calendar, and an increased focus in all things Mexican sports business continues to draw attention.

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!

Gareb Shamus

“We all love great fights, it’s what everyone looks to and we can all identify with no matter how much we sometimes don’t like to admit it,” said Gareb Shamus (@gareba pop culture expert who once ran the fledgling MMA franchise the International Fight League before it was sold to the UFC. “We also love great story arcs with heroes and villains, and Canelo has given fans a little bit of the edginess that can pull from both sides. Most importantly he literally speaks the language of the two most important markets in North America and beyond, English and Spanish, and I think his crossover appeal is great for fight sports, and for business. Those who have seen his value are already seeing an uptick, and as the next calendar year goes on I’m sure we will see more form him and the companies around him.”

There is always risk in tying closely to fight sport athletes. One bad move, one knockout, could kill lots of brand equity. We certainly see that more in MMA, especially in the UFC, where champions can be built and a mismatched opponent, one with a stronger and different discipline, can take out a rising star suddenly. In the carefully crafted world of boxing matchups, the risk is less likely, and the buildup to the big fights gives ample time for brand promotion.

Is Canelo ready to ascend an even higher throne in sport marketing?2019 could be the year for the three belt champion, with boxing on the rise, streaming front and center and the athlete as brand becoming more and more the focus.

It could be a knockout year again for the Mexican star, well beyond his native land.

https://youtu.be/jIhW3fgRSWU

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What: Boxing has experienced a rebirth of sorts in the American sports landscape, in part driven by Latinos’ continued affinity for the sport.
Why it matters: Brands, not just those most associated with fight sports, are more invested in boxing than ever, evidenced by mainstream marketers’ connection with network bouts and boxing-based TV shows and films.

“People have been saying boxing is dead for years, it’s an easy target. Yet every time there is a big fight where do the eyes and the dollars go? If it were dying, why would media companies and networks now doing streaming like ESPN and the others be spending and showing more? It’s because it is good content, and it’s not going anywhere.”

Those words by the retired undefeated champion, now commentator and entrepreneur, Andre Ward on “The Rich Eisen Show” (@RichEisenShowlast week are ringing truer than an opening round bell these days, as boxing more than any other fight sport, is really taking center stage again.

… [E]veryone likes a good fight, and if the platforms showing boxing can tell stories and build those fighters into larger than life heroes with a following, that’s great news for all.

In recent weeks we have continued to see a flood of big networks, from NBC (@nbcto FOX (@FOXTVto ESPN (@espn), up the ante in the fight game on the content side, both for traditional broadcast on the streaming side. Then you have the massive input of DAZN (@DAZN_USA) and its boxing-first entry into the market which is already leading to other sports rights relevance, along with the ever-present push of Showtime (@ShowtimeBoxing) and any series of both English and Spanish language niche platforms dedicated to both boxing and all sorts of fight sports, and the craze for growth seems pretty solid. The only hiccups are a longstanding boxing stalwart, HBO (@HBO), exiting the fight game at year end, and the real question of who the audience is. Also let’s not forget another nice boost for boxing comes next week with the release of CREED II (@creedmovie), right on the heels of EPIX relaunching “The Contender” (@TheContenderwith a live finale a week ago Friday.

Speaking of CREED II, the film, which had its premiere last week in New York, certainly won’t be lost in the mix to engage both the boxing and Latino audience, and help lift the sport and the brands looking to engage. Nike (@Nikeand ironically Jersey Mike’s (@jerseymikeshave a heavy presence in the film, and the marketing team went into the field to have not just college and professional teams like the New York Knicks (@nyknicksand Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakersand Rams (@RamsNFL) get a first look, they also worked with some elite boxers like the team at Brooklyn Boxing (@Brooklyn_Boxingand rising star and former super middleweight champion Caleb Truax to host screenings with inner-city kids as well.

The Portada Los Angeles 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.

“The audience for this film is very wide, but there is no doubt that it will resonate with young Latinos, not just because of the fight scenes and the stars but because of the personal life struggles that the characters go through,” said director Steven Caple Jr. (@stevencapleJR), whose family has Mexican roots as well. “I learned a lot about boxing and the power the sport has in the Latino community today still, and we think this can really help the sport keep growing.”

On the brand side, those looking to engage in the marketplace, be it stalwarts like Modelo (@ModeloUSAand Tecate (@tecateshould get another boost from the resonance of the ring and all the places bouts big and small will be shown on every device in the coming months, but it also represents a lower cost and high impact opportunity for brands to toe dip into the marriage of Latinos and sports, a trip inside that is only matched or sometimes eclipsed by soccer with that audience.

Promising young Latino boxers like Mexicans Alex Saucedo, whose bout against WBO junior welterweight champion Maurice Hooker in Oklahoma City was live on ESPN last Friday, and Eduardo Hernandez from Mexico and Mario Barrios from San Antonio among a strong crop of up-and-comers keep interest high in the Hispanic community.

“Boxing’s big fights will always draw a crowd, we know that,” added veteran marketer and Columbia professor Chris Lencheski. “However what we are seeing is great content that plays to every screen and appeals to a very strong niche audience, both younger and older Latinos, that is readily available and very shareable. Maybe we missed that aspect of boxing content and thought it was old school. However one thing is clear, everyone likes a good fight, and if the platforms showing boxing can tell stories and build those fighters into larger than life heroes with a following, that’s great news for all.”

And great news even more importantly, for those involved in the fight game, be it the fictional kind on the big screen or real life on a smaller one streamed to millions.

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Cover Image: Brooklyn Boxing

What: Jacob “Stitch” Duran is combat sports’ most famous “cutman,” combining a 20-plus year marketing background and years of in-ring experience to create a leading business.
Why it matters: Duran’s success ringside and in the marketing world are an excellent case study for how a business can be built creatively from a unique set of in-demand skills.

Growing up poor in Planada, California, in the state’s San Joaquin Valley, Jacob Duran (@StitchDurandreamed of being a baseball player. In between the peaches, almonds and figs he picked alongside his mother and father in the Central Valley, a region he describes as “the agricultural capital of the world,” young Jacob knew that the hard work instilled by his parents would lead him somewhere. But instead of the scent of the grass of a baseball diamond, it was the somewhat stronger aroma of the boxing gym that reeled him in.

“I went to Merced College (@mercedcollege), near my hometown, and tried to walk on the baseball team,” remembers Duran. “But the school was nine miles from my house, and I didn’t have a car, so I rode to school with friends. But then I stayed for baseball and didn’t have an easy way home, so that ended my baseball career.”

Next thing he knew, in 1974, Duran found himself in the Air Force, shipped off to Thailand, which changed his life.

I took quite a paycut, but I followed my dream and it changed my life.

“I’d never heard of Thailand,” joked the gregarious Duran. “But they had Muay Thai, and I really got into the martial arts. Then I got into boxing to improve my hands. I was hooked.”

Duran didn’t make it as a fighter—though that really never was the goal. Instead, it was here that the seeds were planted for probably the world’s most famous “cutman.”

After a 23-year career in marketing at R.J. Reynolds, Duran took a chance, opening the American School of Kickboxing. “I took quite a paycut, but I followed my dream and it changed my life.”

The legend of “Stitch” was born.

“I remember I went to an event in Redding, California, and I saw what the cutman was doing,” he recalled. “I went up to ask him how he does it and he basically told me to get lost—‘I’m not talking to you, you’ll take my job’ was his attitude. I felt one foot tall, but I decided I’d never be that way. That’s not the way cutmen are today, they share ideas, and are more recognized than ever.”

Over time, Duran, who picked up the now famous “Stitch” moniker for his efficiency at his craft, became the cutman of choice for the most prominent fighters in the most important bouts—Wladimir Klitschko, Andre Ward, Mirko Filipovic, Cain Velasquez, and more.

The Portada Brand-Sports 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.

That fame led to a few movie roles—all as himself—in mainstream Hollywood films like Here Comes the Boom with Kevin James, Salma Hayek and Henry Winkler, Creed starring Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone and this November’s sequel, Creed II (@creedmovie). Duran (no relation to the famous retired boxer Roberto) believes these appearances have raised the profile of his profession.

“I think it has, yes,” the 67-year old noted. “And who wouldn’t want to be the one to do that? Just being in the company of people like Sly [Stallone], Kevin [James], Henry Winkler, millions of people saw what cutmen do.”

For Duran, who today is also the director of regulatory affairs for Final Fight Championships (@FFCfighting), a Las Vegas based promotion that combines boxing, kick boxing and MMA in weekly events, combat sports remain an important staple for the Latino community, which Duran believes is reflected in the personalities of the participants as well as followers.

“We are known as hard working people, and we have a gladiator mentality,” he explained. “For generations, even as we’ve struggled, Latinos have taken that approach and in watching fighters I think they see a little of themselves, always battling. For Latino fighters, it gives them a vehicle to show what they can do to overcome our situations. I kind of see this in the Russian fighters today, escaping rugged times, and using that as fuel.”

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Though it took him awhile, “Stitch” found ways to marry his marketing background and life as the cutman to the stars. First, he worked with the late TapouT co-founder Charles “Mask” Lewis, who developed a special vest, complete with sponsor logos, that he could wear while tending to fighters in the ring. Then came the “One More Round” brand, inspired by the Rocky line “give me one more round,” which is what a fighter wants from his cutman.

“I really became associated with that,” added Duran, who has also written two books about his life in combat sports. “People would come up to me and say, ‘Hey Stitch, give me one more round.’”

The vest led to Duran’s untimely exit from the UFC (@ufc), MMA’s dominant promotion, when Reebok’s exclusive sponsorship prevented the cutman from profiting from his vest logos. So it was off to other MMA promotions and finally to the development of STITCH Premium (@StitchPremium), a line of products specifically for cutmen.

“There are more Hispanic trainers and cutmen than ever before, so our marketing is naturally going towards Latinos,” said Duran. “But it’s not a general consumer product so there isn’t any special Latino marketing. We do a lot of charity work with the Hispanic community though, we started a boxing program in my hometown of Planada. When Creed came out, we got a bus and brought 40 kids out to see it together, we’ve done some fundraisers. It’s important to give back to the community. Sometimes they say that I inspire them, but really, they inspire me.”

What: The boxing reality series “The Contender” debuts on EPIX on Friday, August 24, with the Hispanic audience an important factor in its success.
Why it matters: The tradition of boxing across Latin America and among Latinos in the U.S., has never been stronger.

Eric Van Wegenen

This fall may be the rebirth of boxing in the mainstream. From Canelo Alvarez (@Canelo) vs Triple G (@GGGBoxingin September to new massive deals by ESPN (@espnand DAZN (@DAZN_USAto invest in the sport, the buzz has not been this loud consistently in years. Also in the mix will be the reintroduction of the reality series that started it all in sports “The Contender,” (@TheContender ) which will begin its weekly run in a few weeks on a new home EPIX (@EpixHD), starting August 24 at 9 pm EDT. Core to the success of that show, and for that matter all of boxing, is the rabid Latino fan base, which has supported all forms of boxing even in its lowest moments. From South Americans to the Caribbean, Mexico to Central America, boxing remains a tradition to Latinos.

We were able to take in one of the shows for The Contender this past spring in Los Angeles, and we recently caught up with Executive Producer Eric Van Wagenen (@EricVanWagenen(also familiar to Latino fans as the EVP of “Lucha Underground”) to find out what will be in store for those tuning in on EPIX this fall.

Portada: The Latino community is obviously a prime market for the Contender, when putting together the show does that market factor into decisions on talent?

Eric Van Wagenen: We want to appeal to all demographics when we cast “The Contender,” but the primary focus is on boxing talent. Obviously, the Latino fans make up a large percentage of all boxing fans, but most boxing fans are drawn to fighters who put on entertaining fights, even more than any regional or ethnic loyalties.

They support live events, broadcast events, and actively engage on boxing social media. To build the Contender brand, we will need a strong Latino fanbase.
Daniel Valdivia (Credit: Epix / Dianna Garcia – Beck Media)

Portada: Sergio Mora was a past champion and is part of this show. How valuable was it to have him win in the past, and how important is he in the storytelling this time around?

EVW: Sergio Mora was the ideal champion for us in season 1 and a great example of the power of this format. He’s a former world champion and one of the few guys from season 1 that is still fighting. He helped us evaluate the talent early on, and was even a frequent sparring partner for the boxers before and during the tournament. Having been through the “TV” part of the experience before, his advice was very helpful -not only to the boxers, but to the producers as well.

Portada: We believe you have one Latino boxer in the show, from Mexico? Can you tell us about him?

EVW: We have two Latino boxers; Daniel Valdivia, born in Mexico but moved to Tulare, California as a young boy to follow his father who was a migrant worker in California’s central valley. Also, Marcos Hernandez – a young father and native of Fresno, California. These men live only 75 miles away from each other, and their careers have been circling each other for a long time.

Portada: Regardless of the winner, boxing is enjoying quite a rebirth overall. As the sport grows even further, how important is it as someone promoting the sport, that the Latino audience stay engaged and involved?

EVW: It’s very important to appeal to the “hardcore” boxing fans as we reboot this series and Latino fans are some of the most supportive of the sport. They support live events, broadcast events, and actively engage on boxing social media. To build the Contender brand, we will need a strong Latino fanbase.

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Portada: What will Latino fans of the sport enjoy most with this go-round?

EVW: In boxing, a “Mexican style” fight usually implies toe-to-toe, nose-to-nose, tough exchanges with lots of shots traded. Given the five round format of our tournament, the fights are extremely action-packed without any boring rounds.

Portada: If you were advising brands on why to get involved in boxing again, especially those interested in engaging with Latinos, what would you tell them?

EVW: We saw a lot of Latino families coming to our Contender fight nights. Fathers and Mothers came with their children. The love of the sport is constantly passing down to the next generation, and they become life-long boxing fans.

Portada: Lastly, what would fans of the series expect to see differently in this series than in the ones past?

EVW: While we still go deep into fighter’s backstories and families, we have a higher caliber of fighter than in previous seasons. Additionally, the fights are shown in their entirety, without music, sound effects, or clever editing. You will see exactly how the fights went down.

Cover Image courtesy EPIX

A summary of the most exciting news in multicultural sports marketing. If you’re trying to keep up, consider this your one-stop shop.

  • ESPN is bringing back ESPN8. “The Ocho” will take the place of ESPN2 on Aug. 8, offering 24 hours of off-beat programming. KFC will sponsor all 24 hours of programming in a series of vignettes that will run throughout the day. Within the lineup will be the 2018 Dodgeball World Cup, the US Open Ultimate Championships, the Spikeball East Tour Series, Major League Eating, the Cornhole: ACL Pro Invitational, and the World Championship of Ping Pong.

 

  • Van HeusenVan Heusen has become UFC’s first-ever “Official Men’s Dress Furnishings Provider,” with UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw and UFC welterweight contender Stephen Thompson starring in a new commercial highlighting the Van Heusen Flex collection of men’s shirts and pants. The commercial and campaign creative will be placed across national and local cable television, and display ads on select retailer sites. According to a Washington Post poll, 38% of mixed martial arts fans are African-American, and 31% are Hispanics.

 

  • OTT DAZN is planning on creating original lifestyle content including documentaries, talk shows and podcasts as part of its international expansion. “In a market like the US where we’re very strong in combat sports rights but don’t have much else, we need original content,” said DAZN chief executive James Rushton, to Digiday. “Part of our challenge is, we have to turn these boxers back into superstars.” The platform is set to launch in September with only boxing and martial arts rights and will be supplementing that coverage with an original daily news show offering an inside look at what fighters get up to outside the ring.

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  • Top Rank BoxingBoxing promotion company Top Rank signed a new seven-year partnership with ESPN. As part of the deal, ESPN will provide live coverage of 54 boxing events per year, as well as delivering previews and post-fight analysis programmes, archive and studio content and new shows.

 

  • UFC confirmed its first-ever event in Beijing, China, taking place at the Cadillac Arena on Nov. 24. “China is the next frontier for the growth of UFC and the sport of mixed martial arts, and this market is paramount to our success internationally,” UFC Vice President of Asia-Pacific Kevin Chang said. UFC will be working together with Endeavor China to deliver the live event.

 

  • Clemson University locked in a 10-year contract extension with Nike, that will run through the 2027-28 academic year and grant the athletic department more than $58 million in apparel allowances, direct cash payouts, and royalties. “Nike is one of the premier brands in the world and we’re excited to build upon our relationship,” said Dan Radakovich, Director of Athletics, Clemson University.

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  • FedExFedEx expanded its partnership with the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies to become the franchise’s first-ever jersey sponsor. The FedEx logo will be integrated into the team’s newly designed Nike uniforms for the 2018/19 season.

 

  • Major League Baseball and ESPN announced that the 2018 MLB Postseason will begin exclusively on ESPN on Oct. 2. The National League Wild Card Game presented by Hankook will also be available on ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Deportes Radio and the ESPN App. 31% of MLB players are Latino, according to ESPN.

 

  • UFC signed a multi-year marketing partnership with meal delivery service Trifecta Nutrition. The agreement represents a brand-new sponsorship category for UFC. In return, Trifecta will have a branded presence at the UFC Performance Institute and an activation presence at UFC’s live events. Trifecta will use UFC branding to create custom delivery boxes and to promote national sweepstakes for UFC events.

What: Chivas Regal activated its Chivas Fight Club for Gennady “GGG” Golovkin’s Cinco de Mayo Fight on Saturday.
Why it matters: Chivas has been able to tap into GGG’s fervent Latino fan base with this strong connection to the champion boxer.

Brands are always looking for ways to bring fervent fans of teams, sports and leagues into the fold in support of their products. Since fans tend to support the companies that help their favorite entities, the most direct way to attract them is through a straight sponsorship.

But Chivas Regal (@ChivasRegalUSlaunched an even stronger connection to the ardent supporters of middleweight boxing champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (@GGGBoxinglast year, giving fans special treatment at his win on Saturday vs. Vanes Martirosyan in Carson, Calif. The Chivas Fight Club provided those fans with access to exclusive content, interviews and more from the famed boxer and his team, including Mexican trainer Abel Sanchez (pictured above with GGG).

GGG was selected because he stands for the principles he believes in and represents the heart and soul of the fighter in all of us.

The initiative helped Chivas gain access to those superfans through special giveaways and activations at the Cinco de Mayo bout, after a successful run at GGG vs. Canelo Alvarez in September in Las Vegas.

Through the campaign, special themed cocktails were made with boxing-themed names like “The Undisputed Champion,” “The Eliminator” and “Fists of Fury,” each utilizing different liquors in the Chivas family. Fans were able to become free members online and on-site at Saturday’s fight.

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For Chivas, partnering with GGG makes great sense in connecting with his fervent Latino base. The Club’s materials note that GGG was selected “because he stands for the principles he believes in and represents the heart and soul of the fighter in all of us. GGG comes from humble beginnings much like that of the Chivas Brothers, who created Chivas Regal.”

Chivas has a strong social media component to The Chivas Fight Club, encouraging the use of the hashtag #FightForIt as members share their own stories of what they are fighting for. It’s an on-message connection that reflects GGG’s own history.

“This movement is special to Chivas as it brings to life our core values, embracing the mixture of cultures and importance of shared success, as every person has a unique battle they fight with passion, gloves on and off,” said Shefali Murdia, Brand Director for Chivas Regal, Pernod Ricard USA, in a statement. “Like the Chivas brothers, Gennady comes from humble beginnings and has allowed his dreams to push him to where he is today, all while staying true to his values and Winning the Right Way.”

See the Chivas Fight Club TV commercial here.

Cover Image Credit: Randall Slavin

What: Combate Americas drew strong ratings on its two live April broadcasts, “Combate Estrellas I” and “Combate Estrellas II” on Univision and Univision Deportes, as well as in Mexico on Azteca 7.
Why it matters: Combate Americas is positioning itself as a premier destination for Hispanic MMA fans, and advertisers have followed.

Combate Americas (@combateamericas), which bills itself as the premier Hispanic mixed martial arts franchise, last week announced the ratings for its first two, live 2018 events, which aired on consecutive Fridays, April 13 (Combate Estrellas I) and April 20 (Combate Estrellas II), in the U.S. and Mexico. Showing the early strength of the new brand and growth of the sport in the Latino community in general, Combate CEO Campbell McLaren (@campbellcombatewas pleased with the numbers.

“The amazing growth of our TV ratings confirms we are the hottest MMA promotion in the world,” McLaren said in a statement. Portada featured McLaren and Combate in an exclusive Q&A last month heading into the events.

According to its release, “Combate Estrellas I,” airing on Univision (@Univision) and simulcast on Univision Deportes Network, drew 583,000 viewers, including a strong 296,000 in the 18-49 demo in the U.S., while garnering more than 4,000,000 pairs of eyeballs on Mexican powerhouse broadcaster Azteca 7.

Combates Estrella II, exclusively broadcasted on UDN, had 200,000 viewers.

In the Hispanic world, Combate Americas has taken the most focused steps, and advertisers have taken notice.

MMA, which began to find a more mainstream audience in the last decade in the U.S. through UFC and other promotions’ agreements with Fox, CBS, AXS TV and others, continues to be a hit with a Latino community steeped in the boxing world. What was one more of a “Wild West” has trimmed somewhat to a more manageable roster of promoters, each finding a niche in the sport.

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In the Hispanic world, Combate Americas has taken the most focused steps, and advertisers have taken notice. Anheuser-Busch’s Estrella Jalisco (@EstrellaJalisco), Advance Auto Parts (@AdvanceAuto), Double Cross Vodka (), HOT 6 Energy Drink and Battle Boom Gaming were all partners for Combate Estrellas II, with fighters from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Guatemala and Argentina among the athletes competing on the cards.

Combates Estrella III, featuring some of the preliminary bouts not shown in the first two events, aired on UDN this past Friday. The next broadcast is set for May 11, live from Sacramento, in Combate Mexico vs. USA.

Cover Image: Credit Combate Americas

What: Ray Flores has become one of the most prominent broadcasters and ring announcers in MMA and boxing.
Why it matters: Flores has set a high standard and serves as an outstanding role model for Latinos in the sports broadcasting word, particularly in combat sports.

The sport of mixed martial arts has grown a lot in the last decade. Top stars have become more recognized outside just its main fandom and the UFC, the sport’s leading organization, is covered by most major media outlets, in line with other top leagues.

As a teen growing up in East Chicago, Ind., Ray Flores‘s love of boxing grew from his family’s fandom and frequent gatherings to watch big fights. When a fellow East Chicago native, Miguel Torres, broke into the sweet science (and eventually moved to MMA), the 17-year-old Flores (@SBRFlores) decided to bring his love of combat sports and intrigue with the world of broadcasting together.

“It started at smaller shows, at the Hammond (Ind.) Civic Center, I did a local interview with Miguel, then I started doing commentary for his fights, that was back in 2005,” Flores told Portada this week via telephone from his current Chicago home, in between international trips to cover the sport. “I paid my way to cover fights in Las Vegas, Columbus, wherever, got to meet the UFC people, and finally got to cover my first UFC fight in 2011, Miguel vs. Antonio Banuelos in Las Vegas, UFC 126.”

Flores […] was tabbed last July as the in-arena host for the whirlwind, four-day Floyd Mayweather/Conor McGregor press tour which included stops in Los Angeles, Toronto, Brooklyn and London.

Through this and other experiences, Flores caught the attention of MMA’s most influential executives. It’s led to work as a ring announcer on the fast-growing Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on NBC, ESPN, Fox, FS1 and NBCN, and last June the now 31-year-old was selected as the lead play-by-play commentator for PBC on FS1.

Boxing: His First Love

Flores has kept to his boxing roots as well, as he was tabbed last July as the in-arena host for the whirlwind, four-day Floyd Mayweather/Conor McGregor press tour which included stops in Los Angeles, Toronto, Brooklyn, and London.

And while Flores believes boxing is still supreme among the Hispanic fan base, he thinks that with the right marketing MMA can achieve the same level of success in the community.

“I definitely see going ahead more people getting involved,” he noted. “The UFC is trying to expand to Mexico, Latin America. ‘Goyito’ Perez, Cain Velasquez, they’re out there educating the fan base about what’s going on. With the right marketing, the UFC and Bellator can do that. There’s so many boxing fans, they just need a big star to come to the forefront and mobilize fans towards MMA.”

Though he downplays his role, Flores is paving the way for Hispanics on the broadcasting front in the sport. His work with mainstream outlets like ESPN Radio, CBS, NBC as well as top Hispanic media such as Galavision and Telefutura have gained him acclaim.

“A lot of other people have paved the way,” added Flores, “like [ESPN and ESPN Deportes’] Bernardo Osuna. I’m just trying to carry the torch in combat sports.”

Fans can catch Flores’ work on beIN Sports on February 8 for Roy Jones Jr. vs. Scott Signon, PBC on Fox on February 17 and on Facebook Boxing on February 24 alongside Paulie Malignaggi.

Portada speaks with some of the key players in multicultural sports marketing to gather insights on their goals and priorities for 2016. Views and forecasts from leaders at Tecate, Amtrak, Elemento, TeamWorks Media, GLR, Fox and AC&M Group.

By Gretchen Gardner

chivasThe growing Hispanic market has become increasingly key for American brands’ marketing efforts. But it’s not an easy task to develop a strategy that works for such a diverse, segmented audience. Hispanic Americans hail from such diverse cultures and geographic regions and have different levels of insertion into American culture, making it difficult to group them all into one market.

But one thing is clear: Hispanic-Americans love sports. In fact, a Nielson study indicated that 94% of Hispanics identify themselves as sports fans, while 56% would say they are avid fans. So how are key players in sports marketing making plans for 2016?

In Portada’s conversations with industry executives, there was a consistent mention of the ever-evolving landscape of digital marketing. There is no single platform that commands the attention of the entire Hispanic market, so messages and branding must be distributed among broadcast media, social media, and physical locations like stadiums or arenas.

Futbol and Boxing Dominate

Speaking of stadiums and arenas, two sports have proven to be key: Soccer and boxing.

Gustavo Guerra
Gustavo Guerra

Gustavo Guerra, Brand Director for Tecate beer at Heineken USA confirms that the brand is focusing strongly on opportunities in these sports, as it wants “to become synonymous with the biggest games and fights focusing on these moments where fans gather to watch their passion points.” The brand worked on increasing engagement around both sports through bringing the fans physically together, bringing Chivas, the most popular football club in Mexico, for a friendly match in the U.S., hosting online forums for the Mayweather Pacquiao fight, for which Tecate was the exclusive beer sponsor, and hosting viewing parties for other big games or fights.

In 2016, Tecate wants to continue to help fans “have familiar and authentic experiences when they’re enjoying their favorite sport.” Tecate plans to build on the fact that it is the #1 beer in Mexico, and assures us that they’ve “just scratched the surface” in this appeal to Hispanics’ biggest passions.

Language is optional, but relevancy is a must!

Marco López, a partner at agency Elemento L2, agrees that

Marco Lopez
Marco Lopez

soccer is the key to reaching Hispanic audiences in 2016, as staying “culturally relevant with a compelling story” is key to his agency’s strategy. And what about language? “Language is optional, but relevancy is a must!” Lopez also mentioned the power of insight as an alternative to those who cannot acquire the rights for properties or teams, citing Beats by Dre during the World Cup as an example.

But it’s not all about soccer. Tab Bamford, Business Development

Tab Bamford
Tab Bamford

Manager at Teamworks Media, a Chicago based Sports Marketing Agency, suggests that their biggest opportunity for 2016 was non-soccer content. “The market is saturated with really good soccer content already, and there are a lot of other sports that Hispanic fans are excited about and engaging with that marketers and sponsors are neglecting,” Bamford said. And not all sports are created equal, as Bamford highlights that “there are nuances that need to be recognized when talking about different sports, much less with different audiences. Being aware of both the macro audiences and the niches is paramount to succeeding.”

The market is saturated with really good soccer content, and there are a lot of other sports that Hispanic fans are excited about that marketers are neglecting.

WATCH HIGHLIGHTS FROM PORTADA’S 2015 SPORTS MARKETING FORUM:
(2016 Edition: September 21, 2016!)
Nascar Driver Daniel Suarez (VIDEO)
Total Market or Hispanic Market? Who cares, only Gooolaaazos matter (VIDEO)
Gustavo Aguirre Associate Brand Manager Coors Light at MillerCoors (VIDEO)
Fernando Fiore – Interview (VIDEO)

A Focus on Engagement

What’s more, Hispanic sports fans are not just numerous, but also sophisticated and connected, and demand engaging content about the teams they love says Jose Ortega, Director of Digital Media at Fox.

Jose Ortega
Jose Ortega

Ortega emphasizes Fox’s efforts to engage with Hispanic sports fans “in a more user-friendly way,” providing them with “in-depth articles, behind-the-scenes access, programming grids and results for all the leagues and teams across all sports.” Ortega also highlights the importance of expanding the multi-platform presence, re-launching their website to include “more video and mobile experiences for users.”

Luis Gutierrez
Luis Gutierrez

Luis Gutierrez, Vice President of Sales at GLR Networks, the production and distribution arm of PRISA Radio, also spoke of the importance of engaging with Hispanics, not just exposing them to brands, as they continue to provide “great play-by-play spots analysis” for Chivas, and six other teams in the Mexican Liga through coverage by people like DR.Z and Alex Pazos.

Because Hispanic audiences are so passionate about sports, brands

Crystal Hudson
Crystal Hudson

with little connection to sports must find ways to get in on the action. Crystal Hudson , Principal Officer in Sports & Affinity Marketing at AMTRAK says that in 2016, the brand’s biggest opportunities will be in “partnerships with teams and properties that have specific Hispanic marketing initiatives and programs” like the NY Mets with Los Mets and Washington Wizards with Latin Nights. To Hudson, language does present a challenge, though: “sports sponsorships are expensive, so diversifying messages (i.e. using both Spanish and English across assets) becomes very challenging and cost-prohibitive.”

Jaime Cardenas, CEO of AC&M Group, also notes that merely sponsoring sports teams or events for brand exposure is no longer cost or message-effective, as “the main value of a sports sponsorship comes from engaging with fans to expose them to the sponsor’s message, not only on site at games but also at retail, digital and social channels.”

Cost-Effective Alternatives?

While the Olympics, Euro Cup and Copa America Centenario provide many opportunities for sports sponsorships in 2016, like Amtrak’s Hudson, Cardenas acknowledges that not all clients can afford sports sponsorships,and the challenge for 2016 will be to “find creative ways to leverage the heightened awareness to a particular sport or event and turn it into an engagement opportunity for our client’s brand.”

The main value of a sports sponsorship comes from engaging with fans to expose them to the sponsor’s message, not only on site at games but also at retail, digital and social channels.
jaime cardenas
Jaime Cardenas

Cardenas also speaks about the  difficulties associated with customizing messages to targeted fan segments, because “the challenge has always been that the more you customize the message the more expensive it is to produce, and the more waste in terms of exposure.” Instead of giving up on hyper-targeted messages, Cardenas’s agency will be working on delivering those messages through less expensive options.

AC&M is currently exploring one of those options: youth soccer clubs. The agency has found that in terms of ethnicity, household income, age and gender, these clubs hit the mark, providing that magical combination of “content (sport, athlete, league, team, etc.), language (Spanish vs English), and consumer (Mexican, Colombian, Dominican U.S. born, foreign born, moms, millennials, etc)” that so many agencies covet. And it’s no secret that targeting youth is an effective way to spread a message, as young adults are some of the most connected people around.

A seasoned sports agency CEO, Cardenas is well aware of the challenges that 2016 will bring any brand or agency looking to appeal to the Hispanic market. “When you look at how diverse the Hispanic market is, and the number of options available from sports properties and events, it is easy to understand why sports marketing for Hispanics is more complex than for general market. However, we also know that if you find the right mix the results justify why it is important to use sports to connect with Hispanic consumers.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

DOWNLOAD PORTADA’S 2015 SOCCER MARKETING GUIDE!.

Gustavo Guerra, Brand Marketing Director, TecateGustavo Guerra serves as brand director for Tecate and Tecate Light, Indio and Bohemia, part of the Heineken USA portfolio of Mexican brands.  Guerra is responsible for strategic planning, creative content and public relations for the Mexican beer brands. He also plays a key role in building a strong partnership with the commercial team, the distributors and the brand team at Heineken Mexico. In the below interview with Portada, Guerra talks about how his brands celebrate  the character of all Hispanic bicultural men 21 and older, and highlights that boxing is the second most-watched televised sport for his target audience after  soccer.

Portada: Can you explain Tecate’s involvement with boxing and why this sport is so important for Tecate’sMarketing?

Gustavo Guerra, Brand Manager, Tecate.:“Tecate and Tecate Light have been longtime supporters of boxing and for the last seven years we have positioned the brands very strongly with a 360 degree approach designed to ensure the brand is celebrating the character of all Hispanic bicultural men 21 and older. Not only does the sport align with our communication strategy “con caracter”, boxing is also the second most-watched televised sport among our target behind soccer.”

Portada: When it comes to reach out to Spanish-dominant and English-dominant Hispanics is Boxing as important to reach both Targets or is it different depending on the target?
G.G.: “The great thing about our target, bicultural consumers 21 and older, is that they speak both languages and choose when to use it. Therefore, all of our marketing communications are bilingual to ensure we’re reaching these consumers through a variety of touch points from digital to retail and social media.”

Portada: Please explain what your main Box Marketing activities in the U.S. are
G.G.: “We always take a 360 degree approach that includes retail initiatives (cross-merchandising promotions for viewing parties, POS and displays featuring images of the fighters, mail-in-rebate offers with the purchase of Tecate beer, etc.), social media campaigns to continue expanding the interaction with consumers and support hand-in with Top Rank, one of the most important promoters in the industry, of the biggest boxing fight of the year such as Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr vs. Bryan Vera (March 1, 2014), Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley (April 12, 2014) and many more.

How do you support these activities with actual media buys (digital, print and TV)?
G.G.: “We support all of our marketing efforts with a mix of OOH, radio, TV, PR and social media campaigns in both Spanish and English, varying by markets.” (SMV 42 is Tecate’s media agency)

 We know you have the http://deportes.univision.com/solo-boxeo-tecate/ program. Please explain the details of the program (from the actual media buy to more content marketing types of activities).
G.G.: “Since boxing is such a big priority for the brand, we want to be involved in every level by not only supporting big fights but also sponsoring amateur and small fights like the Solo Boxeo Tecate program. Our main marketing activities with this program include PR and branding efforts. Solo Boxeo Tecate is a live action show that features Top Rank contenders as well as up-and-coming superstars such as Jessie Magdaleno, Jose Ramirez, etc.”

We are developing a program around 2014 World Cup that includes a significant media buy.

You were the marketing and commercial director of Club Deportivo Guadalajara S.A. de C.V. How do you see the U.S. Soccer Marketing scene? Do you think Mexican soccer can become even more important?
G.G.: “Since I’ve been living in the U.S. I have seen an increase in the number of brands using soccer as part of their marketing tactics to reach Hispanic consumers at various acculturation levels. Sponsorships and level of activations range from MLS to National teams, as well as support for amateurs similar to what we did in the past with Copa Tecate. Regarding Mexican soccer, we’ve seen a greater presence of talent making an impact in the U.S. For example, the Mexican National Team has executed its U.S. tour for the last few years and teams from La Liga have been invited to play matches in the U.S. so that fans have the opportunity to experience their favorite team live. For Hispanics, soccer is going to continue to be a key passion that will transfer through generations making this sport a stronghold in the marketing world when trying to reach this target.”

Is Tecate planning any marketing around the 2014 World Cup?
G.G.: “Indeed, we are developing a program around 2014 World Cup that includes a significant media buy (TV, radio and OOH campaigns), social media and PR support, as well as grassroots support in key markets.”

Prior Interviews with Tecate brand managers on their Hispanic and general market strategies:

3.1.2013:  Why Tecate chooses Inspire to reach second generation Hispanics

2.7.2012: Tecate’s Felix Palau on the creative agency change

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”