Expo is all business

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Hispanic event marketing evolves from cultural themes to a venue for local business people with the second annual Latino Expo, planned for Nov. 5 in New York.

Unlike many cultural festivals cropping up around the U.S., Latino Expo shuns merchandise and food sales, and offers minimal entertainment. Instead, the emphasis is on education and building relationships between marketers and the Latino business community.

A mass marketing campaign backs the event, including local TV and radio advertising, in-store signage in 15 Pathmark supermarkets, and ads in Noticias del Mundo and Urban Latino Magazine. Admission is $5 in advance, $7 at the door; 10,000 are expected to attend.

Unlike the majority of cultural festivals, no products will be sold at Latino Expo but samples will be distributed.

"This is a serious show, and even our entertainment is on the serious, or educational, side," said Julie Frank, president of Julie Frank Enterprises, which organized the show.

CREATED `50-PLUS' SERIES

Well-known for creating the "50-Plus" series of events bringing sponsors together with senior citizens, Ms. Frank said she realized the Latino community lacked an event with a strong business focus and saw an opportunity last year.

She has ceased offering the "50-Plus" events for the time being, Ms. Frank said, and plans to stage Latino Expos in other cities.

The expo targets thousands of New York area Hispanics who own or work in small businesses; one of its key missions is to create bridges between corporations and Latinos. Included will be seminars, speeches and how-to demonstrations, many themed around healthcare and financial services.

"Hispanics are a big force in small business, and large corporations are trying to reach out to this sector in the role of suppliers, vendors and also to hire them," Ms. Frank said.

`FORTUNE' 500 PARTICIPANTS

Although only one of the many Hispanic festivals mushrooming in the U.S., Latino Expo is unusual in the number of Fortune 500 companies it has attracted, including several returning after the introductory event.

Sponsors include Fleet Bank, which is touting Latino Expo on its Times Square marquee throughout October; Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.; Colgate-Palmolive Co.; and Lincoln Mercury Co. Other participants interested in recruiting employees through the event will include Bayer Corp., Du Pont Co., Johnson & Johnson, Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. and Pfizer.

Colgate-Palmolive was a sponsor at last year's Latino Expo and for 2000 has returned with a larger commitment including distributing samples and health education materials to attendees.

The company's goal at the event is to show its commitment to the Hispanic community; it's also using Latino Expo as a way to spread the word about new products including Suavitel fabric softener, said Ricardo Martinez, Colgate's director of Hispanic marketing.

Colgate is sponsoring a performance at the event by Ballet Hispanico, a New York dance group, and gave away scores of free tickets to the expo at supermarket events.

`A KEY TARGET AUDIENCE'

Bristol-Myers Squibb also is repeating its participation at the event and will provide information and education to attendees about the importance of cancer screening and HIV prevention and treatment. The company's oncology division is the sponsor.

"We saw heavy attendance last year by small business and entrepreneurial people, which are a key target audience for us because we recognize this is a rapidly growing group of the population and we want to reach them in a variety of ways," said John Kouten, associate director of public affairs for Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Several New York area Lincoln Mercury dealers are sponsoring Latino Expo and will host seminars on leasing vs. buying cars. The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce is backing the event and will host an Entrepreneur Forum, and the Hispanic Theater Network will have a presence to increase awareness of its wide range of its activities.

"Although Hispanics are a fast-growing group in America, they don't have a long history with American corporations," Ms. Frank said. "Fortune 500 companies are eager to change this, to build a bridge to these consumers and introduce them to new brands and business opportunities."

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