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Francisco Lindor

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What: Several Latino stars have the potential to be strong marketing faces of baseball.
Why it matters: As brands look to grab the Hispanic audience via baseball, a young crop of players is ready to make big splashes into the 2020’s.

Credit Keith Allison

Baseball takes its beginning of winter siesta for the next few weeks, as the period from the just-completed Winter Meetings (@WinterMeetingsto the annual awards presentations in mid-January becomes a good time for respite, with the exception of winter ball in the Caribbean, reflection and a look ahead.

A lot of the buzz in Las Vegas this past week was around the marketable new faces in MLB (@MLB), many of whom are Latino, and several, like free agent Manny Machado, still to find a home

With a look forward in mind, we talked to the folks at La Vida Baseball (@LaVidaBaseballto get a feel for who the marketable Latino stars are that brands should, and will have an eye on as pitchers and catchers report and companies look for the big splash of marketable names.

All one needs to do is look at the increasing number of Latino players getting All-Star Game votes and selling jerseys to see there is value off the field as well.

Here’s a look at five to watch:

  • Javier Báez, Chicago Cubs (Puerto Rico)
  • Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians (Puerto Rico)
  • Machado, team TBD (Dominican-American)
  • Ronald Acuña, Jr., Atlanta Braves (Venezuela)
  • Carlos Correa, Houston Astros (Puerto Rico)

While there are a lot of variables that play into making a list in mid-December the list shows the great depth of where brands can be looking in select markets. Machado, for example, is still a free agent. If he signs the largest contract in baseball history with the New York Yankees (@Yankeeshe is immediately number one on any list, even with the character questions that were raised in the postseason.

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 two hottest rising names on this list are Báez and Acuña.

Báez has become must-see TV in Chicago with a young Cubs team that has been in the postseason in four consecutive years. His dynamic play, electric smile and overwhelming charisma on the field make him a target for brands almost as much as he is for the lens of a camera.

Ronald Acuña, Jr. Credit: Flickr/Thomson200

Acuña didn’t make his major league debut until the end of April but was named the National League Rookie of the year. He jumped into the top 20 jersey sales in 2018 in spite of the late start to the MLB season and doesn’t turn 21 until Dec. 18. Being in a major market with a team that appears to be beginning what could be another extended run of success could make him one of the faces of baseball in the future.

Two Cuban players who just missed the top five are Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig and White Sox second baseman Yoán Moncada. Puig has been in the middle of some significant trade rumors lately; his ultimate destination could impact his market appeal. On the other end of that same conversation, Moncada could benefit from the White Sox appearing poised to spend big money on significant free agents. If Bryce Harper or Machado signs with Chicago’s south side franchise, Moncada’s profile could jump in 2019.

“The on-field game being played at the major league level is young, exciting and dynamic. And many of the players emerging in the new generation of superstars are Latino,” said Tab Bamford, managing Director, La Vida Baseball. “All one needs to do is look at the increasing number of Latino players getting All-Star Game votes and selling jerseys to see there is value off the field as well.”

From sneaker companies to beverage brands to traditional packaged goods, the push for multicultural around three key sports: soccer, basketball, and baseball, has never been stronger. If you are looking to hitch a ride on a star train in baseball, here’s the list to start with. MLB’s Hot Stove may be dialed down a bit, but the business side never shuts off.

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Cover Image: credit Keith Allison

What: Francisco Lindor’s All-Star Game appearance in Washington, D.C. helped enhance his status as one of the league’s rising stars on and off the field.
Why it matters: A crossover standout like Lindor, who has appeal not just to Latinos but to a wide variety of fans, can be what baseball needs as it struggles to market outside of die-hard fans, to younger audiences.

There he was in the midst of the biggest night of stars for Major League Baseball (@MLB ‏) in the summer of 2018, shining as bright as a personality as anyone else and then some. The Cleveland Indians’ Francisco Lindor (@Lindor12BC), a young, athletic, multilingual personable star, chatting up Joe Buck (@Buckand crew on the FOX Broadcast from his spot at shortstop, live in the midst of the All-Star Game (@AllStarGame ‏) in Washington as play was developing all around him.

Not only was he answering questions and giving fans a true “look-see” into the goings on on the field, Lindor was chatting up players around him in English one minute, Spanish the next, with the ease of a talk show host. He also didn’t miss a beat as he tracked down a short 7th inning popup in left field, still conversing with the guys in the booth as the inning ended. At a time when some are questioning the marketability of a young generation of stars, the 24-year-old Puerto Rican seems to be ready to assume the mantle not just for Latino fans, but for all of America as the Tribe (@Indiansmake their play in the season’s second half and beyond.

…in a time when many are questioning the lack of marketing effort put forth around some of MLB’s brightest stars, the Puerto Rico native might be ready for a big next step.

The smooth conversation during the national broadcast wasn’t the first time even that day that Lindor let his personality do the talking. He arrived for the MLB red carpet sporting a stylish backpack and hat, with skinny jeans and no socks, as comfortable with the cameras as he is on the diamond. “His sense of calm and style is impeccable,” said La Vida Baseball (@LaVidaBaseballEditor In Chief Adrian Burgos. “If Prince came back as a ballplayer, he would be Lindor; he epitomizes cool.”

Cool is anything the 24-year-old now Floridian has been on the field again this year, ranking among American League leaders in everything from runs (first as of 7/25) to home runs (5th) to WAR (4th). His brand value is also sizzling.

According to opendorse (@opendorse), the leading platform for pairing athletes of all backgrounds with brands using social media metrics, the man known as “Mr. Smile” has amassed over 84,000 new followers on Instagram since Opening Day, seventh among all active MLB players in growth since the season started. He is also 5th overall amongst Latino stars and gaining fast, trailing only Giancarlo Stanton, Manny Machado, Jose Altuve and Javier Baez.

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That on and off appeal hasn’t gone unnoticed in a world well outside Cleveland now. When LeBron James exited Ohio for the L.A. Lakers earlier this month, New Balance (@newbalance), which made Lindor their global ambassador for baseball, started lobbying that James’ massive downtown billboard be replaced by one of Lindor. The campaign itself fit well into his rise on the field, and was amplified by the national stage last week in Washington, where media big and small suddenly saw star power on the rise. Other brands, like Pepsi, Taco Bell, Lids, and Franklin have started to hitch their ride on Lindor’s growth, and in a time when many are questioning the lack of marketing effort put forth around some of MLB’s brightest stars, the Puerto Rico native might be ready for a big next step.

credit: Flickr/Erik Drost

“Francisco has a rare mix of being comfortable around both the English and Spanish speaking fans, partially because he came to the mainland U.S. at such a young age and grew up in baseball in a multilingual and multicultural environment,” Burgos, who has followed Lindor throughout his career, added. “Cleveland might not be L.A., but his personality and performance will transcend that city, and he is a great fit for what baseball needs: a young, savvy, telegenic crossover star, it’s very exciting to see his potential playing through.”

Now that potential still has a ways to go, both on the field and off. To effectively rise above Ohio and find his way to Madison Avenue consistently, the Indians need to stay in the competitive mix. A healthy season, combined with a vibrant personality for a sport that is working to grow telegenic, multicultural stars is a marriage that sells, and sell Lindor can do.

For brands, for baseball, to the growingly engaged and business savvy Latino audience, and most importantly, to mainstream America, Francisco Lindor is raising the bar. A new star shown brightly in the Nation’s Capital, now it seems ready to take its place in a bright multicultural constellation.

We all should enjoy the view.