Peter O'Reilly knows how to sell American football to Latinos. A former marketing executive for the NBA, he has been instrumental in the NFL's steady increase in marketing budgets to target U.S. Hispanics on and off the TV screen, in English and Spanish.
"Our biggest challenge is that there is a very large and passionate fan base within the NFL -- 28.5 million Hispanics watched the NFL in the last season -- but the perception is that it is not as culturally-relevant as other sports," he says.
Known for a hands-on approach to marketing and an almost obsessive love of data and research, Mr. O'Reilly, 37, also knows when to let the creatives take charge.
"What's great about Peter is that he understands the value of speaking to Hispanic fans but he trusts us entirely in the creative approach to doing it," says Mauricio Galván, managing partner and executive creative director at Vidal Partnership, the NFL's agency for Latino efforts for the last three years.
For instance, it was hard for Mr. O'Reilly, a native New Yorker, to understand that non-Americans find the transition from the metric system confusing. Yet Vidal perfectly paired the passion for the NFL that Mr. O'Reilly wants to relay with a Hispanic fan explaining to a friend what a yard is in the silver award-winning TV spot "Yarda." Instead of just showing the distance a yard measures, the fan eloquently describes how "one yard can be everything...and nothing; One yard can make you a hero." Images of great American football moments play in the background. Then realizing he's gotten carried away, the fan holds out his arms and says "It's sort of like this much."
Mr. O'Reilly and his director of advertising, Robert Stecklow, particularly liked that rather than aiming to be a funny commercial, the spot was all about passion for the NFL, with a humorous twist at the end.
His job includes fan strategy as well as marketing. All the NFL clubs, for instance, will do something to highlight Hispanic Heritage Month this fall, Mr. O'Reilly said. In Miami, where singer Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio recently bought a stake in the Dolphins, Ms. Estefan and Latin Grammy-winner Marc Anthony will sing the national anthem at a Dolphins-New York Jets game Oct. 12.