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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: After the World Cup, it’s baseball’s Latino stars’ turn to show off in the All-Star Game and associated activities.
Why it matters: Baseball’s Latino numbers are higher than ever. Companies are figuring out the best ways to transfer that star power to marketing strength.

The best news coming out of the World Cup for sports business in the United States was the aggregate power of Latino activation. It played out across broadcast numbers, social engagement and brand activation. The ROI from all who looked to the Latino demo, from millennials and Spanish-first speakers to families and women, was a landmark. It should pave the way for a less adverse media audience to find better ways to engage across all sports.

So what about baseball? This week’s All-Star events in Washington, from the Futures Game to The Mid-Summer Classic, had more star power with Latino ties than ever before. The brand power of these stars, from established veterans like Manny Machado and Jose Altuve (@JoseAltuve27), to rising names like Jesús Luzardo (@Baby_Jesus9) are not just the names and faces of baseball. They can be its marketing life blood.

Baseball has committed stars who understand their legacy and want to continue to give back to the game that has brought them so much.

Baseball Brand

Last Friday at the American History Museum in Washington, La Vida Baseball (@LaVidaBaseballhosted a panel called “Giving and the Game.” The packed event showcased the history and the opportunities that Latinos have to grow the baseball brand. We can attribute this to the way the game is so deeply rooted in culture, from Cuba and Venezuela to Mexico and Panama and beyond. The event was hosted by baseball historian and La Vida Editor In Chief Adrian Burgos Jr. And the discussion covered a wide variety of topics. Presenters were Mets Special Assistant General Manager Omar Minaya, and José Antonio Tijerino of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (@HHFoundation ‏).

“When you look at the business of baseball, you cannot overlook that 32 percent of the players today in the Major League alone are Latino. That number continues to rise,” Tijerino said. “The game is ingrained in the culture across Latin America. That’s a really powerful message that can help grow the sport that needs to continue to get out there. Baseball has committed stars. They understand their legacy, as well as wanting to continue to give back to the game that has brought them so much.”

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Manny Machado (Wikimedia Commons/Keith Allison)

Minaya was also ebullient about the power of Latinos. As a result, he talked about the commitment of players young and old. He talked about storytelling and making sure that the traditions learned continue on. That’s a message that brands need to hear more of as they pick the areas where they will spend their dollars.

Latinos’ Responsibility

“Leadership is all about responsibility. Therefore, we as Latinos, from the front office to players of all ages, have to grow the game of baseball. We have to grow it and not just on the field but in the community,” he said. “Our athletes today have the ability, especially with social media, to help transform society. That’s because they are revered, and not just in the countries where they come from, but in the cities they play in today or have played in in the past.  They understand that responsibility and as a result how that can translate into helping baseball continue to grow as a sport and a business.”

Still, even with All-Star rosters dominated by Latino surnames, 25 in total, the opportunity for business growth lies ahead. MLB has made big strides in recent years to better develop and assimilate young Latino stars into the business and branding side. Therefore, teams like the Diamondbacks, the Mets, the Yankees, and the Astros have put a premium on marketing their stars to a Latino fan base. They use very targeted programs. Meanwhile, Madison Avenue is still trying to figure out the multicultural mix that shows a return. It remains a challenge. It is one that seems to move more and more to the forefront. That’s because Latino spending increases and millennials are finding their niche in sports engagement.

Partners

This year we have seen companies like New Era (@NewEraCap), Pepsi (@pepsiand 5-Hour Energy (@5hourenergystart to incorporate young Latino stars into crossover promotions. But the growth has been slow, although now more steady.

“Brands need to recognize that ‘Latino’ is a multicultural reality. And for many Latinos in the United States soccer is not the number one sport. Baseball is as young, exciting and profitable as it has been in generations. And the on-field product is becoming increasingly Latino,” added La Vida Baseball’s Managing Director Tab Bamford. “There are tremendous individual ambassadors in the game, and brands don’t see the untapped potential in baseball.”

Baseball can learn a great deal from the success of the World Cup with Latino engagement and activation. Its multilingual stars are more front and center and transcendent in numbers than ever before. Now it’s time to put those personalities on center stage for partners. Specially for those reticent about interacting with players whose background wasn’t always All-American. “All Americas” is becoming in vogue.