What: Rafael Nadal, 17 years and 80 career singles titles after his 2001 debut, transcends both the Spanish and English speaking world.
Why it matters: Nadal has found unparalleled success in the marketing arena as well, with a wide variety of sponsors, comfortably across languages and countries.

Nadal (Wikimedia commons si.robi)

The US Open (@usopen) has been a global event that draws close to 800,000 fans each year and becomes a global brand that is much more than just a tennis tournament in New York that rings Labor Day weekend every late summer.

Into that global mix, especially since the last American male to win the event was Andy Roddick (@theARFoundationin 2003, is a kaleidoscope of international athletes all with their own appeal not just in New York but across America, and perhaps no bigger draw for brands is Spain’s Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal).  More than Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic, or even rising Americans like John Isner? Yes, Nadal. More than Argentinian and former US Open Champion Juan Martin del Potro? For sure. But why is Nadal’s sponsorship value, which according to Forbes, is in excess of US $27 million, so high, and how does it transcend both the Spanish speaking and Anglo world of tennis in America?

The easiest answer is style and grit. “For a game that is very much built on decorum and tradition, Rafa is fearless, and fans of any language and background love that,” said Randy Walker (@TennisPublisher ), a longtime tennis insider and publisher of many books on the sport, as well as the website World Tennis. “His attributes, overcoming injury, surmounting huge leads, and showing his emotions need no language and they are what anyone who loves spirit can appreciate.”

…[T]hat translates well to all kinds of brands looking for a crossover cultural and athletic connection.

Nadal’s portfolio is led by Nike (@Nike), who has had him on their handpicked tennis roster since 2008 and has built global campaigns around his stylish appearance for several years. Kia Motors (@Kia_Motors), another global disruptive brand, has worked with him since 2004 and has extended his partnership to 2020. Tommy Hilfiger (@TommyHilfiger) made Nadal a global ambassador in 2014 and he has been one of their centerpiece personalities since then.

There are regional brands like Telefónica (@Telefonicawho use Nadal as a global ambassador in key regions like Europe, Asia, and Central, and South America, Banco Sabadell, watchmaker Richard Mille and Babolat, who has had a longstanding relationship with him around the world as well.

Latinos, especially affluent, upwardly mobile and digital-first millennials, continue to crave culture and tradition while embracing that’s where Nadal fits the equation so well. He is Spanish language and manner first, but he fits well into a generation that loves style and flamboyance, which translates across the Atlantic and across cultures. Oh yes, and he wins, as he has done on the blue courts of the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center three times, including last September. However, even without the wins, Nadal’s brand and style fit better with the casual consumer than almost any other tennis player today, this side of Serena Williams or the now aging Federer. It comes down to culture.

Subscribe to Portada’s daily Sports Marketing Updates!

Gustavo Kuerten (Wikimedia/I, Steff)

“You see the cultural connections, especially for Latino players, every time they come to the Open,” Walker added.  “I remember when Andrés Gómez played and did so well at the Open, all the Ecuadorians rich and not so rich would come out and support him with everything from flags to pots and pans,” Walker added.  “The same happened with Gustavo Kuerten and the Brazilian fans and even this year in qualifying when veteran Dominican player Victor Estrella Burgos almost made the main draw. Their support transcends cultures and is infectious for the sport, and that translates well to all kinds of brands looking for a crossover cultural and athletic connection.”

While the USTA searches far and wide for its next male champion and invests millions into grassroots programs at getting Latinos involved and active in tennis across the country, their ability to capture, which has not yet really happened, a Spanish speaking ambassador to further expand the reach of the Open is right in their midst. Rafael Nadal is edgy, gritty, flamboyant, telegenic and athletic, traits which speak volumes to brands, and he has gotten to make that connection to millions around the world.

His brand and his partners are perhaps the best next step to cross a cultural divide for the game of love, and there is no better place to keep that relationship going than Flushing Meadows. Regardless of the outcome in the rest of the fortnight, Nadal the ambassador has done his job, on and off the court.

What: Both Gerard Piqué and Alex Rodriguez have been in the news lately for bold and successful business ventures.
Why it matters: These athletes are paving the way for other Latin and Hispanic athletes to recognize that they too can find financial success outside of their sport both during and after their playing days.

Kobe Bryant made headlines recently for his Oscar-winning documentary Dear Basketball, and he has since been lauded as the next great athlete to succeed in business ventures beyond their own sport. Kobe is following the trail blazed by fellow basketball stars Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson in this regard, but it should be highlighted that two Hispanic and Latin superstars have been making entrepreneurial headlines of their own: Gerard Piqué (@3gerardpique) and Alex Rodríguez (@AROD).

Subscribe to Portada’s daily Sports Marketing Updates!

Piqué is showing that Hispanic athletes can also join the movement of athletes looking to become financial powerhouses.

Gerard Piqué: Soccer Star and Tennis Entrepreneur

Gerard Pique
Gerard Piqué: the world’s best defender and a leading entrepreneur (credit: TSM Plug)

Gerard Piqué is currently working on his master’s in business at Harvard University while also leading the charge to create the World Cup of Tennis, which will fill the hole that the Davis Cup leaves behind. Piqué is also a leader, writer, and ambassador of The Players’ Tribune Global (@PlayersTribune) initiative and has multiple other investments and business ventures. Apart from these impressive initiatives, he’s taking FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) on the path towards winning an impressive double of LaLiga and Copa del Rey championships. The usual path for athletes’ financial success off the field has usually been to develop their brand and social media appeal as much as possible and then lock up endorsement deals that net them revenue for appearing in commercials. Though Piqué strikes these types of partnerships as well, he is bucking convention by seeking unique opportunities in the market to grow different businesses. This type of entrepreneurship is more associated with someone who has been trained in finance all their life, but Piqué is showing that Hispanic athletes can also join the movement of athletes looking to become financial powerhouses.

Rodríguez has piggybacked off of his successful investment firm A-Rod Corp to create space for himself on a channel that usually shows coverage of the New York Stock Exchange.

Alex Rodríguez: A New Type of Television Personality

Alex Rodríguez has become a business mogul and has turned his financial prowess into his own CNBC show (credit: John Anderson, The Austin Chronicle)

Another figure making the most of his business instincts and intellect is Alex Rodriguez. He not only has garnered rave reviews as a host on MLB on Fox, but he is also the star and host of a new show on CNBC called Back in The Game. The premise of this show is that Rodríguez helps former athletes regain a hold on their finances. His MLB on Fox position, in which he offers truly insightful commentary and meshes well with his high-profile co-stars, is more in line with jobs typically associated with former athletes: broadcasting, coaching, etc. The CNBC show, though, is a new example for retired athletes, particularly those who are Latino, to follow. Rodríguez has piggybacked off of his successful investment firm A-ROD CORP (@_ARodCorp) to create space for himself on a channel that usually shows coverage of the New York Stock Exchange. Rodríguez has used the money he earned from his mega-contract with the Yankees not only to invest in fruitful ventures, but he is showing athletes, regardless of background, that they can take an active, responsible role in their financial success.

When a Latin or Hispanic athlete joins the ranks of the Billionaire Athletes Club, they will deserve much of the credit.

Inspiration for Other Latin and Hispanic Athletes

The biggest impact of athletes such as Piqué and Rodríguez will likely be seen years down the line. There will be a kid out there, though, in Barcelona, Miami, or elsewhere who will look at their examples and be inspired to not just work hard on their game, but also cultivate their mind and dream bigger than just ball. Motivation does not have to come from one type of source, but there is something to be said for being able to look up to someone out in the world who looks like you, sounds like you, and is breaking barriers that you did not know were possible. Whether it is through their own ventures or the inspiration the path they carved for others, when a Latin or Hispanic athlete joins the ranks of the Billionaire Athletes Club, they will deserve much of the credit.

Subscribe to Portada’s daily Sports Marketing Updates!

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!

What: The Miami Open, one of the five largest tennis tournaments in the world, has a strong roster of Latino partners led by Presenting Sponsor Itaú.
Why it matters: Situated in a strong Hispanic market and moving even deeper into a dense Hispanic population next year, the event is an increasingly valuable property for marketers.

Play has begun in the main draw of the Miami Open (@MiamiOpen), which is completing its last year of competition at its longtime home, the Tennis Center at Crandon Park Key Biscayne, Fla., and moving north to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami next year. While that has occasioned some consternation among tennis traditionalists in South Florida, the increase in acreage, courts and various accompanying sponsor areas could open up more partnership opportunities, including those courting the Latino fan base, for whom the Hard Rock’s adjoining Florida Turnpike may offer easier access than the Rickenbacker Causeway to the Keys has.

Latino companies abound among the roster of sponsors for the event, which has spanned more than three decades with various names, prominently the Lipton Championships and Ericsson, NASDAQ-100 and Sony Ericsson Open. Three years ago, Itaú (@itau), headquartered in Brazil, became the presenting sponsor, and boasting 5,000 branches in Latin America, it is the most visible Latino brand on the Key Biscayne grounds.

Subscribe to Portada’s daily Sports Marketing Updates!

But it’s far from the only one. Latin American telecommunications giant Claró and Juan Valdez coffee (@JuanValdezCafe), the popular brand name of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation, are at the Host Sponsor level, among such international brands as FedEx, Lacoste, MasterCard and Peugeot. The Brazilian high-end tennis tour agency Faberg (@fabergtour) rounds out the list.

The companies that align themselves with the Miami Open get the best of both worlds, an association with the best players in the world at a time when tennis is just coming into focus in North America this year, and the ability to showcase their brand as best in class across both the Latin American and American tennis audience.

“As a legacy sport that reaches a high net worth audience, tennis, especially an event like Miami that is now being transformed under Steve Ross, is still a prime activation spot for brands,” said Chris

Roger Federer practicing on Wednesday at the Miami Open

Lencheski, longtime sports marketer now at MP & Silva as well as teaching at Columbia University. “The companies that align themselves with the Miami Open get the best of both worlds, an association with the best players in the world at a time when tennis is just coming into focus in North America this year, and the ability to showcase their brand as best in class across both the Latin American and American tennis audience. It’s a smart play on both sides.”

March and August are the two months during which the tennis world focuses on the U.S. Annually following the successful WTA Premier and ATP 1000 event in Indian Wells, Calif., another high-profile, two-week tournament in a region with high Hispanic influence, Miami has often billed itself as the “fifth major.” That status, during a time when the sport gets so much attention here, has made it a good fit for marketers.

Even more so than in Indian Wells, Latino brands have connected to the multicultural fan base in Key Biscayne. The move 25 miles north into the more densely populated Miami Gardens, potentially accessible to tens of thousands more fans, many of Hispanic heritage, gives Miami Open partners a huge advantage in reaching that base.

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 image courtesy Miami Open

What: ATP star Rafael Nadal’s recent comments at the Australian Open may have an effect on his marketability moving forward.
Why it matters: The world’s No. 1-ranked player has been a spectacularly successful pitchman for numerous products across various categories, but will his remarks praising Margaret Court and bashing the ATP schedule cause sponsors to rethink their commitments to him?

(Wikimedia Commons/Mikelokok)

His recent exit from the Australian Open and failure to win the year’s first major won’t affect World No. 1 Rafael Nadal’s value whatsoever. The Spaniard’s actions and comments, however, very well could have an impact on his brand partners down the line.

In the span of a few matches, Nadal (@RafaelNadal) managed to potentially hurt his long-term value with two separate but equally unsavory moments. Following his third-round win over Damir Dzumhur, Nadal addressed fans in an on-court interview saying, “It’s very special for me to play in Margaret Court Arena for the first time in a long time.” But considering how Margaret Court —the former Australian tennis star for whom the arena is named after— has drawn widespread criticism for her staunchly anti-gay and anti-transgender views, Nadal’s comments could seem of poor taste to sponsors.

How could this affect some of the long-term partners Rafa has, especially as the tennis legend’s career wanes and brands around the world become warier of engaging with athletes who may stray from the mainstream?

Especially because days before the Australian Open commenced, tennis’ biggest ambassador Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing), who is a gay woman, remarked, “If I were playing today, I would not play on it,” referring to Margaret Court Arena. Days later, Nadal conceded defeat to Marin Cilic after falling behind 2-0 in the fifth set of their quarterfinal match. Opting not to gracefully accept defeat, despite the unfortunate and untimely injury to his right leg, Rafa attacked the ATP Tour, resuming his longtime claim that the intensity of the schedule causes injuries.

“Somebody who is running the tour should think a little bit about what’s going on. Too many people getting injured. I don’t know if they have to think a little bit about the health of the players. Not for now that we are playing, but there is life after tennis. I don’t know if we keep playing on these very, very hard surfaces what’s going to happen in the future with our lives,” he added.

Potential Effect on Partners?

How could this affect some of the long-term partners Rafa has, especially as the tennis legend’s career wanes and brands around the world become warier of engaging with athletes who may stray from the mainstream?

“The value that Rafa Nadal has brought to the sport of tennis, and to his brand partners, is almost immeasurable. He has changed the game and brought millions of new fans to the sport and its partners,” said Columbia University professor and longtime sports marketer now at MP & Silva, Chris Lencheski. “However, like all aspects of our business, public perception and current value play an even bigger role, and the use of athletes as brand ambassadors has never been more in question. Would we like to see elite athletes like Rafa go gracefully? Sure. Sometimes that doesn’t happen the way we would like. Will his recent comments and actions diminish his long-term value for his biggest partners? That remains to be seen.”

For now, Nadal still has the long-term support of one of all of his biggest sponsors, including Kia Motors, who tweeted their support, following his shaky Aussie stunt. Kia vowed that they will be along for Nadal’s journey “together as always.” The rest of his key brand partners include Nike, Babolat, Telefonica, Banco Sabadell, Richard Mille, and Tommy Hilfiger, none of which have expressed any concern about Rafa short-term, and obviously still see the investment for the long-term as his brand matures from player to spokesperson. Nadal has always been a safe bet, and like Roger Federer (@rogerfederer), he has shied away from controversy and has let his racquet do the talking. That is what has made him such a valuable global brand ambassador; a great look, a humble, hardworking approach, and amazing success.

Will that change if controversy keeps coming? Brands will run if the public tide shifts, but for now, they will watch and weigh the benefits of a great champion and ambassador vs what may have been a misstep or two.

Cover photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Carine06

What: The “Top 10 Highest-Paid Athlete Endorsers of 2016” list released by the marketing agency Opendorse features four golf players, and one of them has just 111K followers on Twitter.
Why It Matters: Influence is about more than social media numbers, and brands should evaluate other factors when making endorsement decisions.

According to the Forbes list of the ‘World’s Highest-Paid Athletes,’ Portuguese soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo earned US $88 million last year, which makes him the best-paid athlete of the year.

Ronaldo is also the athlete with the most followers on Twitter. But being the highest-paid and most-followed player does not necessarily make him the right influencer for every brand.

Resultado de imagen de roger federer
Roger Federer

According to Forbes, over 2016 Ronaldo managed to make $32 million through brand endorsements. This number might impress some, but it is almost only half of the $60 million generated by Swiss tennis player Roger Federer, who was the athlete that made the most money off of endorsements in 2016.

Choosing one influencer over another “is not that different from the way that the general market looks at sponsorships,” explains Michael Neuman, EVP and Managing Partner at Scout Sports and Entertainment. It doesn’t matter if they have the most followers on social media: brands must think about what athlete draws the admiration and dedication of their fans.

As Neuman adds, endorsement deals “depends on the brand’s strategy. If a brand decides they want to reach the sports fan and they sponsor a league or the team, staying in the sports genre, the athlete makes the most sense.”

Subscribe to Portada daily Sports Marketing Updates!

Nissan, for example, works with both sports influencers and celebrities from other areas. “With our global Champions League sponsorship we also have Gareth Bale and El Kun Agüero as brand ambassadors. But we also have local ambassadors that go from a local pilot to any other sport. It depends on each of the campaigns,” explains Pablo Cárdenas, marketer at Nissan Mexico.

The sports where the athletes wear helmets, like football and hockey, don’t tend to have the highest number of athletes with endorsements.

When choosing an athlete to become a brand’s face, there are some sports that definitely work better than others. “The sports where the athletes wear helmets, like football and hockey, don’t tend to have the highest number of athletes with endorsements because there isn’t the recognition that you have with a basketball player or even a baseball player,” says Neuman.

Resultado de imagen de nbaThe NBA is the league with the highest number of players involved in endorsement campaigns in the United States right now.  “I would say basketball has the most, and hockey has the least,” he adds.

This explains why Lebron James is the second-highest-paid athlete when it comes to off-the-court endorsements, with an income of $54 million through sponsorships during 2016. The NBA player also made it to the headlines after signing a lifetime deal with Nike, rumoured to be worth over $1 billion.

Taking a look at the marketing agency Opendorse’s top 10 highest-paid athletes of 2016 (see below), one will notice many tennis and golf players. But these types of deals don’t always get featured heavily on the streets due to the types of contracts that they sign. Even though the athletes might make less on the contracts, they are more exclusive, and targeted at a narrower audience with a higher acquisition power.

In a world where popularity and social acceptance seems to be directly related to how many followers a person has on social media, these numbers do not mean much in the sports endorsement market. Although soccer players like Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are the two most followed athletes on Twitter, they are far from making the list of the top 10 largest contracts.

#AthleteSportEstimated Cost Per Tweet in USDTwitter followersTotal Yearly endorsement earnings in USD millionNotable endorsement deals
1Roger FedererTennis31,6606.7M60Wilson, Nike, Rolex, Mercedes-Benz, Gillette, Credit Suisse
2Lebron JamesBasketball185,32834.5M54Beats by Dre, Coca-Cola, Kia, McDonald’s, Samsung, Nike
3Phil MickelsonGolfN/A111K50KPMG, Rolex, ExxonMobil, Callaway, Barclays
4Tiger WoodsGolf34,3806.18M45Nike, Upper Deck, Rolex, Hero MotoCorp
5Kevin DurantBasketball80,38815.5M36Nike, 2k Sports, Sprint, BBVA, Beats by Dre, Panini
6Rory McIlroyGolf16,2693.1M35Nike, Bose, EA Sports, Omega, Upper Deck
7Novak DjokovicTennis33,9526.96M34Adidas, Pugeot, Head, Uniqlo, Seiko
8Rafael NadalTennis53,63312.1M32Tommy Hilfiger, Kia, Nike, Babolat, Telefonica
9Jordan SpiethGolf8,7081.74M32AT&T, Coca-Cola, Rolex, Titleist, Under Armour
10Cristiano RonaldoSoccer258,85950.6M32CR7, Nike, Tag Heuer, Herbalife, Monster Headphones, Sacoor Brothers
Source: opendorse.com, Twitter

A recap of news and trends in the Sports Marketing world as compiled by Portada’s Editorial team….

Marc Anthony’s Magnus Media Moves into Sports Marketing

MLB spot stillMAGNUS Media announced the inception of MAGNUS Sports, a fully integrated division dedicated to the worldwide representation of major athletes. MAGNUS Sports has completed its first initiative by forming a joint venture with premier boutique baseball agency Praver Shapiro Sports Management and the signing of Cuban-born, 4-time Major League All-Star pitcher Aroldis Chapman. Founded earlier this year by international music icon Marc Anthony, MAGNUS Media has been building a roster of top-tier entertainers, artists and influencers and brings to the venture its expertise in entertainment, branding, marketing, social media, and content development. Praver Shapiro is widely recognized as a leading Sports Management Agency specialized in representing Hispanic baseball talent, and providing a comprehensive array of services designed to address the unique needs of the professional athlete both on and off the field. Marc Anthony said, “Baseball, like music, is an ingrained cultural passion for many Latinos throughout the world, and there’s no shortage of amazing stars of Hispanic origin. Despite that, until now there hasn’t been an enterprise specifically designed to meet their needs.”

GLR’s 10th Anniversary: Chivas of Guadalajara Partner

Prisa_logo_2010-300x119-280x165Radio network GLR is celebrating its 10th Anniversary in the U.S. GLR Networks was first launched in 2005 by Spanish media company, PRISA Radio, in hopes of tapping into the network radio market and to serve as the content production and distribution arm of PRISA Radio here in the USA. Since their launch, GLR has created and syndicated over 32 shows and has grown their network of affiliates to over 150 radio stations around the country, continuously improving ratings across the board. One of the most successful programs among affiliates has been the exclusive radio rights of Chivas of Guadalajara. According to Benny Herzog of LBI Media Inc., “Houston is passionate for Chivas Soccer. As partners with GLR, Liberman Broadcasting’s Houston Flagship Radio Station of All Soccer in Spanish, KEYH “La Ranchera” 850 AM and 101.7 FM is proud to be able to fulfill the appetite for Chivas Soccer. We feel it is very important to be able to bring the fans of Chivas as much coverage as possible in Houston. Hispanics have one sports passion and it’s soccer.”

Grupo Pegaso Gains Rights for Abierto Mexicano Los Cabos

The ATP announced that Bogota’s ATP World Tour 250 tournament would be transferred to Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, Mexico, following acquisition of the event by Grupo Pegaso. The Abierto Mexicano 250 Los Cabos, will have a total financial commitment of nearly US$800,000, ranking as the highest in its category in the Americas Region. The new hard court tournament will take place from August 8 to August 14 in the 2016 season and will become part of North America’s Summer Tour. With this partnership, Grupo Pegaso reaffirms its commitment to Mexico’s development in the sport industry by delivering and organizing high quality events, and further consolidation of men’s professional tennis in México. Grupo Pegaso began operations in 1994 with the purpose of promoting projects with strong social commitment, which over time delivers global importance for Mexico in the most dynamic sectors of the economy.

iHeart Media Ends Relationship with ESPN Deportes for Chicago Radio Station

ESPNDEPORTES_100x100iHeart Media Chicago said it is ending radio station 97.5 FM’s relationship with ESPN Deportes, the Spanish language arm of the sports media company. The station 97.5 FM is one of several in iHeart Media’s stable of Chicago radio outlets. As of Feb. 1, 2016, per a new local marketing agreement with Chicago businessman Pedro Segura, the founder of Prime Dental Manufacturing, 97.5 FM Poder, as the station will be known, plans to air a Mexican Regional format, a blend of music, entertainment and information targeting Hispanic adults.

Nissan steps up College Sports Investment

Nissan_ride_of_life_06Nissan is kicking up its marketing involvement in U.S. college sports with a multi-year campaign to sponsor athletic events and programs at 100 colleges around the country, Automotive News reports. The campaign will put Nissan’s name onto signs at stadiums and arenas in football, basketball, baseball and other sports at 27 colleges and universities by the end of December, and at 100 schools in 2016. Jeremy Tucker, Nissan North America vice president of marketing communications and media, declined to reveal the price tag for the sweeping campaign, but acknowledged that it would be significant. The commitment will extend from permanent sports field signage and sporting event media sponsorship, to athletic scholarships, facility upgrades and academic tutoring for athletes. It will cover sports from huge NCAA college football stadiums down to soccer, swimming, bowling tournaments and golf meets.
This summer, Nissan purchased stadium naming rights for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans. The team is not only located in Nissan’s headquarters city in Nashville, but the team’s name conveniently plays into Nissan’s relaunch into the full-sized pickup segment this winter with a redesigned Titan.

CHECK OUT: Bold Worldwide’s Brian Cristiano: GoPro and Red Bull are Two Examples of Brands that Do it Right