NFL Hopes U.S. Hispanics Ready for Football

Ben Klayman, Reuters, January 29, 2009

The National Football League hopes Hispanics in the United States are ready for some good ol’ American football as well as tickets, jerseys and other gear that make the sports league one of the most profitable.

When the Super Bowl between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals kicks off on Sunday, the league will tackle the problems of boosting its appeal to Hispanic sports fans.

Of all the major North American sports leagues, “football is probably going to be the toughest sell for the Hispanic market,” said Richard Ettenson, marketing professor at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Arizona.

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In conjunction with the Super Bowl, the NFL is tapping into media deals with Spanish-language broadcasters, Latin celebrities and the teams’ profiles outside the United States to lure Hispanic viewers.

“We’ve really ramped up our efforts to physically create a lot more tailored and customized ways for what is a rapidly growing Hispanic fan base to connect with the NFL throughout the year,” NFL director of marketing Peter O’Reilly told Reuters.

“It is a major, if not the major, growth priority from a fan perspective,” he added in a telephone interview.

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In the last few years, the NFL, which boasts the strongest TV ratings and largest broadcast deals of all North American sports leagues, has cut deals with a variety of media partners and corporate sponsors to further expose itself to U.S. Hispanic fans raised in soccer-loving households.

In conjunction with these networks, the league offers “NFL 101” introductory shows to explain the rules and action.

Hispanics in the United States are a desirable demographic because of their growing numbers, financial clout and youth.

Their collective buying power in 2012 could reach more than $1.2 trillion, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia. That would be larger than the 2008 gross domestic product of all but 11 countries.

CRITICAL FOR GROWTH

The NFL’s efforts are critical if the league, with more than $7 billion in annual revenue, is to continue growing. That is especially true in a recession that has pinched the NFL, forcing it to cut almost 14 percent of its workforce.

“It doesn’t take a whole lot to figure out there’s a lot of potential growth within the Hispanic market,” said Lino Garcia, general manager of Walt Disney Co’s ESPN Deportes, which has televised Monday Night Football games in Spanish since 2006.

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Telemundo provides Spanish commentary for NBC’s NFL games on Secondary Audio Programing or SAP, and at the Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida, it will show a flag football game between former NFL players and Latino celebrities, as well as a concert featuring Latino musicians.

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