The NBA Launches Its First Major Push for Hispanic Audiences

League Lags NFL, MLB, but New Effort Comes With Multiplatform Approach to Tap Growing Market, Fanbase

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NEW YORK ( -- The pro sports league that was the first to realize the importance of establishing a global presence is finally addressing a key component of its fan base at home.

The National Basketball Association today launches an estimated $7 million to $10 million season-long ad campaign aimed at the growing Hispanic market, which the league said accounts for 15% of its total U.S. fan base of 120 million fans.

The NBA has reached out to the Hispanic community before through a number of initiatives, but this is the league's first multiplatform Hispanic marketing campaign, putting it years behind its counterparts at the National Football League, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer in terms of a dedicated effort toward Hispanics.

That's somewhat ironic, given that the NBA was the first major U.S. professional sports league to embrace the possibilities of new fanbases and to market the game overseas, particularly to fans in Europe and Asia. Players such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Charles Barkley were treated like rock stars at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics, the first year NBA players were allowed to participate in the Olympics.

'Rebranding the NBA'
"I wouldn't say this is a new effort. We've been conducting events in the Hispanic market since 2000, and we've done it in the past through our internal assets like Spanish-language websites and radio broadcasts," said NBA Senior Director of U.S. Hispanic Marketing Saskia Sorrosa. "What's new is we want to make sure we keep those existing fans engaged. We're rebranding the NBA to this audience."

The league partnered with Hispanic agency Bromley Communications, San Antonio, to create the campaign. Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, is the NBA's main ad agency.

In addition to the 18 million Hispanic fans, the NBA has six U.S.-born Latino players and 19 players from Spain and Latin America currently on 2009-10 preseason rosters. The NBA has played 25 preseason games and one regular-season game in Latin America.

"Initially, the NBA did an RFP [request for proposals] a couple of years ago, so this is a few years in the works," Bromley's chief operating officer, Jessica Pantanini, said. "They came to us and said, 'We're not sure what to do.' Being based here in San Antonio with the [NBA's] Spurs and with a large Hispanic population, we have some unbelievably avid NBA fans. We had a few ideas."

How to say NBA
What they came up with was éne-bé-a, which is how Hispanic fans already refer to the NBA. The elements of the campaign include:

  • TV spots featuring the Suns' Leandro Barbosa, among other players, on Hispanic networks such as Telemundo, Univision, Telefutura, Discovery en Espanol, CNN en Espanol, MTV3 and other channels.

  • A new Spanish-language site, which will include exclusive webisodes featuring NBA Latino players, news breaks and features, photo galleries, etc.

  • Content on Spanish-language social-networking sites including Facebook, Twitter and MiPagina.

  • Grassroots events such as Es Tu Cancha, Spanish for "It's Your Court", which is an initiative to improve and renovate basketball courts in Hispanic neighborhoods throughout the country.

    The éne-bé-a TV creative debuts today on both English- and Spanish-language outlets across the country. The league already has a deal in place with ESPN Deportes to telecast weekly NBA games in Spanish, which will include the Eastern Conference finals this season, and 11 NBA teams already feature live Spanish-language radio broadcasts of games.

    "Originally, we used to talk about the U.S. Hispanic market as just the top 10 markets, like New York, Los Angeles, Miami," said Ms. Sorrosa, who said she watched Mr. Jordan play when she was a child in her native Ecuador. "Now, migration patterns are such that there are places that have a significant Hispanic population that you normally wouldn't think, like Portland and Denver."

    Both Portland and Denver have NBA franchises.

    The éne-bé-a campaign will run through the entire season. There are four TV spots, which will change in December, again in February or March, and again for the playoffs in April.

    Ms. Pantanini said it was important to create a campaign that addressed the Hispanic market but didn't pander to it.

    "Latinos don't want to be called out for being Latino," she said. "We want to be respected for who we are. We felt like the idea of éne-bé-a speaks to them, but doesn't call them out."

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