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What: The new San Diego Seals of the National Lacrosse League are extending their reach south into Mexico to cultivate the rising Hispanic audience for the sport.
Why it matters: Deemed the fastest growing sport in areas like Southern California, lacrosse has new fertile ground and a new team with fresh ideas to find new Hispanic fans on both sides of the border.

Joe Tsai

There has been so much talk about lacrosse being the fastest growing sport in the United States in the last few years, especially on the grassroots level. One area that the sport has really taken off is in Southern California, where more than 100,000 young people have taken up the game in the last few years alone, and high school and some college programs have begun to take root.

Another area where lacrosse is growing in SoCal is on the professional side, where the San Diego Seals (@SealsLax), owner by former Yale lacrosse player and cofounder of Alibaba (@AlibabaTalk) Joe Tsai enjoyed a near sellout and a win over the Rochester (NY) Knighthawks in their National Lacrosse League (@NLLhome opener last week.

What made the win even more historic was the fact that the Seals, seeing a marketing opportunity for both the professional side and for fan development, became the first team ever in the NLL’s 33 year history to broadcast games in Spanish.

The Seals brought on Síntesis TV (@sintesis_tv), which serves the San Diego and Baja Mexico region to carry their home games. Síntesis TV was founded in 1985 and offers objective and truthful information about the Baja California region, also at a National and International level. Síntesis TV broadcasts through open television signal in San Diego County and Baja California on channel 50.4 and in Northern Mexico channel 71 IZZI. Osvaldo Samaniego and Jorge Camacho called the game, and will be back in the broadcast chairs for the remainder of the schedule, a portion of which will be carried in English on Bleacher Report Live (@brlive), with continued talks of a local English language carrier also in the mix.

That exposure brings new fans at all levels, and with that come brands looking to get more engaged with a growing diverse audience that is becoming more affluent and engaged.

But Lacrosse in Spanish and in Mexico? “The Latino sports fan in Southern California remains one of the most passionate and ardent, and we see this as the perfect way to introduce the sport, the team and the brand to that audience from day one,” said Josh Gross, Vice President, Business Operations for the Seals. “There are thousands of people who cross the border both socially and for business from Tijuana to San Diego and vice versa, and we want to be able to bring what we are doing to them in a way that’s easy, and this partnership we felt is a natural to cultivate fans in the entire region.”

The partnership also makes great sense for Síntesis, which is also looking to expand its audience, and sees the Seals, and live sports as a great fit.

“We want to introduce and bring the sport (of lacrosse) to Mexico, and if possible someday through our live stream to other countries, with our partnership to broadcast Seals games, our audience will see this great fast paced game that embodies teamwork and high spirit action,” said Octavio Islas, Producer/Company Consultant for Síntesis. “We are planning to also create entertaining short film like tutorials and promos to introduce and promote the game, the Seals and league play to the Mexican, Latino, Central and South American audiences. It is a great growth opportunity for the team, the station and for lacrosse that didn’t exist even a few months ago.”

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 model for NLL and the Seals is not dissimilar from the toe dip we have seen MLB (@MLB), the NFL (@NFL) and the NBA (@NBAmake in recent years into the Mexican market. Even the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings (@LAKingshave started to look south to grow audience, all seeing the cultural and brand success soccer has had in taking Liga MX (@LIGABancomerMXmatches and the Mexican National team north for exposure. That exposure brings new fans at all levels, and with that come brands looking to get more engaged with a growing diverse audience that is becoming more affluent and engaged.

“Our games are exciting, affordable and the sport caters to a demo that likes fast-paced,” Gross added. “Those aspects speak a lot louder than the language the game is broadcast in, but in being able to deliver a Spanish broadcast makes the barrier of acceptance just that much lower, and we think has a huge upside.”

While other pro franchises in So Cal have looked to the traditional Anglo audience first, the Seals, with their multicultural first play, are following in the disruptive growth pattern that has made NLL such a hot property in recent years. Indoor lacrosse is not your traditional sport, but its traditions run deep in lacrosse culture, and if its new franchise in San Diego can help unlock a Latino audience, the audience growth will be quite impactful, well beyond Southern California.

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What: The Los Angeles Kings have ramped up outreach to the Latino community with ESPN Deportes Spanish broadcasts and a Mexico City clinic.
Why it matters: While most L.A. teams have added Spanish broadcasts, only a handful of NHL teams have followed their lead; the success of the team’s commitment may sway others to follow suit.

Francisco X. Rivera and Nano Cortés

We have seen the success that the Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnightshave had with Spanish language hockey broadcasts in the desert, and their increased awareness around embracing all things Latino. Can their Southern California rivals be next into the mix?

This season the Los Angeles Kings (@LAKingsare looking to try the wayback machine, albeit for 10 games to start, by bringing Spanish language NHL broadcasts back into the fold for the first time in 20 years. So far, so good.

How unusual is it to hear hockey—NHL hockey anyway—in Spanish? Other than Vegas’ success, only Chicago (@NHLBlackhawks), Florida (@FlaPanthers) and San Jose (@SanJoseSharkshave pushed Spanish language broadcasts. Still, for the 3.3 million people who both have an affinity for sports and speak Spanish first in L.A. County, let alone the 50 % of the residents who identify as Hispanic or Latino, the idea isn’t that crazy.

…[T]he Kings efforts show an affinity to identify and cultivate a niche that has been left undeveloped.

Hockey is still being introduced to the Hispanic community in some ways after all these years. With all we have going, this guarantees we can penetrate into the Hispanic market on this platform.” Mike Altieri,  (@MichaelAAltieri), the team’s head of communications and broadcasting, told the LA Times last month, and the results have been pretty solid, especially on social media.

There is certainly a market for Spanish language sports in L.A., with the Dodgers having has Spanish language games since Walter O’Malley brought the team west (Fernandomania didn’t hurt, either!). The Lakers (@Lakers), Rams (@RamsNFL), Clippers (@LAClippers), Angels (@Angelsand Galaxy (@LAGalaxy), as well as LAFC (@LAFCand Chargers (@Chargers), all have Spanish language broadcasts, with only the Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucksnot trying to make the mighty connection to the tech savvy and increasingly affluent demo.

There is also a strong affinity to try and connect fans of soccer with hockey vs. American football given some of the ebbs and flows of the sport, but it’s an experiment worth noting, with very little risk and potential reward. The reward? New fans for one, casual interest in the game number two, and brands who may see the crossover as valuable to their ever-expanding and sometimes challenged outreach to the Latino community in finding extra value around sports.

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!

Luc Robitaille

That added value is also seen in the community, where the Kings went far south to host a three day camp in Mexico City last month. The camp was held at the La Pista Interlomas ice rink and hosted over 100 youth ice hockey players ranging from 10-18 years old. The state-sponsored Sports Diplomacy program is focused on youth empowerment and coach development for ice hockey in Mexico.

“We were thrilled with the opportunity to teach our great game to the youth of Mexico. The fundamentals of hockey are important skills for both physical and mental development and we were excited by the attendance and greatly encouraged by the level of talent that exists within Mexico’s youth hockey community,” said Kings President, Luc Robitaille. “We are already planning our next visit and the chance to expose even more kids to the game of hockey.”

Now is suddenly hockey going to surpass the Latino interests tied to baseball, soccer or even the NBA (@NBAand NFL (@NFLquickly? No. However the Kings efforts show an affinity to identify and cultivate a niche that has been left undeveloped, one that continues to grow and has solid crossover potential down the line, especially with no other NHL franchises entering the space to the far south, or for that matter east or even north to the Bay Area.

If you are going to own a market, own it all, and that’s what “Los Reyes” may be doing, on air and in community.

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Cover Image: Kings/NHL.com

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