Hispanic soccer fans are the goal - East Valley Tribune: Business

Hispanic soccer fans are the goal

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Posted: Sunday, May 21, 2006 7:22 am | Updated: 4:19 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

PORTLAND, Ore. - On a dusty soccer field in a working-class neighborhood in Barcelona, Spain, two youngsters piece together their dream team of superstars for the World Cup. ‘‘Cisse. Kaka. Zidane. Beckham . . .’’

As they do, the actual players trot from around corners onto the field where the boys, who might be 12, form them into squads.

‘‘Impossible Team,’’ Adidas’ Spanish-language World Cup advertisement, is fantasy. But no Spanish skills are needed, and it’s being aired worldwide.

The bait is a universal love of the game.

The stakes are staggering as companies lunge for a slice of the Hispanic market in the United States during the once-in-four-years blowout June 9 through July 9, this time in Germany.

Across town from Adidas’ North American headquarters, at Nike, which sells $1.5 billion a year in soccer shoes, apparel and related items, the appetite for sales to the soccer-loving Hispanic population in this country is just as keen.

‘‘We consider that we have two national teams, Mexico and the United States,’’ said Nike spokesman Nate Tobecksen. He added that Nike, which has contracts with both teams, sells more jerseys in this country for the Mexican team than for the American squad.

Nike pre-Cup activities have included a 70-foot-tall replica of a Mexican team jersey in Los Angeles, with people invited to sign it and wish the team luck. Members of Mexico’s national team are made available to meet with American fans.

Nike has partnered with Google for a 14-language initiative, ‘‘Jogo Bonito’’ — ‘‘Play Beautiful’’ in Portuguese — a campaign that highlights defending champion Brazil, and Eric Cantona, Manchester United’s ‘‘player of the century’’ in 2000.

Tens of millions of fans have logged on; online Jogo tournaments began in February.

While many advertisers chasing the Hispanic market in the United States are saving their best shots for the games themselves, activity is picking up.

On the Spanish-language TV network Univision, which will broadcast the entire World Cup, a player inside a glass of Miller Lite kicks a soccer ball that arcs gracefully among the bubbles. A Home Depot ad reminds viewers that ‘‘Your house is your playing field,’’ and advises getting it fixed up for a summer of soccer. TNS Media Intelligence estimates World Cup revenue for Univision, the largest Spanish-language TV network in the United States, will be $200 million, although not all of it is new money.

The window is brief, the stakes are massive, the target is fast moving and those who follow it say, in effect, that people who want to reach today’s Hispanic market had better not try it in an outmoded way.

There are roughly 42 million Hispanics in the United States.

Four of the six Spanishspeaking World Cup countries this year have fewer people than that.

Advertisers spent $3.3 billion going after $800 billion worth of Hispanic spending power in the United States in 2005, and the World Cup concentrates that market.

That doesn’t mean milking it is easy. Habits are changing and stereotypes are fading fast. Advertising Age predicts that Hispanic online spending in the United States will grow by 32 percent this year, compared with 25 percent for the larger population.

Increasingly, say marketing specialists, Hispanics mirror an expanding and sophisticated demographic, a mix of farm owners, farmworkers, doctors, businessmen, construction workers, educators, lawyers, labor leaders who vote Democratic, evangelicals who vote Republican, and a large bloc that doesn’t vote.

Some speak Spanish but prefer English. Some speak neither — or a mixture. Mexico alone recognizes 62 ‘‘living’’ languages, most from poor rural areas that supply many immigrants.

David Carter, president of the L os Angeles-based Sports Business Group, says that while soccer is a common bond, it doesn’t bundle up a monolithic market. Advertisers need to know that.

‘‘The growth of the Hispanic market and its disposable income is just incredible,’’ he said. ‘‘The ability of corporate advertisers and sponsors to use soccer as a trigger point makes incredible sense. It has been going on for some time.’’

Soccer, he said, is among the international languages that can bring the market together. But businesses targeting ethnic markets ‘‘have to appreciate the cultural norms, the role sports can play.’’

‘‘While it can be used as an entry point, you should not make the mistake of treating it all the same,’’ Carter said.

Campaigns aimed at Hispanic consumers are expanding into such fields as financial services and technology.

‘‘There is a sports demographic,’’ Carter added. ‘‘But if you look at the faces, you understand the reach soccer has, and (you) had better appreciate the nuances.’’

Otherwise, he said, ‘‘People will feel put-upon, typecast.’’

Six teams from Latin America — Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Paraguay, Costa Rica and Mexico — plus Spain have World Cup slots, leaving most Hispanic countries on the outside.

Juan Guillermo, who tracks Hispanic trends for Wizard of Ads in Houston, says that doesn’t matter.

‘‘I’m from Guatemala,’’ he said. ‘‘My home team has never made it to the World Cup. But that doesn’t mean we’re not crazy about it.

‘‘It’s a primal thing. It’s cultural. And if you are bilingual or Spanish-dominant you will want to hear the games in Spanish. It’s in the Latin blood that runs through our veins.’’

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