Monday, December 19, 2005

Say Salsa! and get a 5 dollar discount

First Part of a Multi-Part Series on the Latino Marketing and Identity in Professional Baseball:

The amount of Latinos in Major League Baseball (MLB) has exploded over the past fifty years, and foreign-born Latinos totaling some twenty-five percent of the current players. The same goes for the Latino population of the United States at large, which has grown to become the largest minority in the country. It makes sense that professional baseball would seek to tap into this market, because the sport itself had seen declines due to strikes in past season, such as the 1994 strike which cancelled the World Series. They have gone about this in various ways, including both sport and team-specific campaigns. Most recently, the sport-wide Latino Legends promotion concluded during the October 2005 playoffs, but had several problems with it concerning identity and selection. The World Baseball Classic is also conceived partly as a marketing and identity project. More team-specific promotions include the Philadelphia Phillies’ multiple Latino awards and a New York Mets’ media blitz targeted towards Latinos in New York City. The majority of the marketing schemes target pride in being Latino, the identity of Latinos, and potential Spanish-speaking fans.

Major League Baseball has no doubt seen the numbers signifying that Latinos have become the largest ‘group’ in the United States outside non-Hispanic whites. Because pro baseball is a business, the attempt to infiltrate this market has been for the reason of making money. However, some statistics back up this trend to target Latinos more. From 1996 to 2000, most sports saw a decline in people who considered themselves fans of that sport. African-Americans and Latinos were both polled and professional hockey and professional soccer saw the biggest drops. Golf and professional wrestling saw large gains from both African-Americans and Latinos. Major League Baseball saw a 2.7% decline of African-American fandom during this time period, while Latinos actually increased 1.2%, making it the only sport besides golf or professional wrestling to see a gain from either group. The numbers show that interest in the sport has picked up, and that further marketing towards Latinos would probably be fruitful for professional baseball.

Latinos are becoming more interested in baseball, and Major League Baseball has tried to appeal to them in several ways. One major campaign was the recent Chevrolet Presents the Major League Baseball Latino Legends Team. The title displays the primary sponsor prominently, like much marketing in sports. The Chevrolet car company’s tie-in with baseball made sure that ballots for the team would be located in all Chevrolet dealerships. The rest of the voting took place on the internet, on Major League Baseball’s official website. No voting at ballparks, during games, occurred, even though millions of fans go to every team’s games. As a result, only one million and six hundred thousand ballots were cast, much lower totals than this year’s All-Star game. Why voting was not allowed at ballparks is a mystery. Even baseball’s executive vice president for business recognized a flaw in the voting: “I’d guess that more people go to a ballpark then to a Chevy dealership, but it’s pretzel logic to punish us for doing the promotion.” Though they recognized that voting would greatly increase if ballots were given to fans attending games, they chose not to use this method, for no reasonable reason. A sports marketing executive predicted Latino participation in the promotion would be miniscule, and this proved correct, as participation was miniscule across the board. ---

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