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Multicultural event marketing is now taking off as marketers discover the power of combining targeted ethnic marketing with music, entertainment and sports.

While sports like soccer continues to be important area, music is stealing the show as marketers realize its power to inspire loyalty and passion among ethnic groups.

"Music is exploding as a corporate sponsorship vehicle for targeting ethnic groups, because it's a unifying force and a way of tapping into the passions of diverse ethnic groups," says Henry Cardenas, president of Cardenas/Fernandez & Associates, a Chicago-based Hispanic event marketing company.

Leading advertisers such as American Airlines, AT&T Corp., Miller Brewing Co., Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Visa USA will spend a record amount this year -- an estimated $10 million each -- on sponsorship of multicultural events.


That number is expected to grow by 20% next year, say event marketing insiders.

Leading multicultural marketers also are spending more on research to understand and target niche audiences through concerts, fairs, festivals and sporting events.

One example is Visa USA, which recently began researching and testing some new local sponsorships in the Hispanic arena, says Diane Salmon, an executive with Visa's Consumer Credit group.

Last month, Visa sponsored its first Hispanic concerts in Los Angeles, a series of three performances by popular Hispanic artist Juan Gabriel. Visa's co-sponsor was Banco Popular, the Puerto Rico-based bank that's one of the largest banks targeting Hispanics in the U.S.


As the largest group of ethnic consumers, Hispanics account for a majority of the sponsorship money spent on multicultural events in the U.S. Although most corporations are eying the emerging Asian market, few major sponsored events have emerged targeting Asian consumers.

African-Americans remain the target of many corporate sponsorships for events centering on business development, entrepreneurship, consumer product marketing and education at several major expos held each year.

Organizers of the annual "Black Enterprise/Pepsi Golf & Tennis Challenge" were so successful that in 1999 the magazine will sponsor its first-ever ski challenge for African-Americans; American Express Co. has already made a sponsorship commitment.

Drawing on music inspired by African-American artists along with other cultural influences, Vibe will sponsor its fourth annual Vibe Music Seminar in 1998 and next year will reprise this year's successful 35-city "Jamizon" concert tour visiting major cities and college campuses.

"Entertainment is the key to reaching youth cultures, and sponsoring these events is how advertisers get face to face with consumers and learn who they really are. It becomes a two-way street for marketers," says Len Burnett, Vibe's advertising director.


But Hispanic music and events will continue to draw the most sponsorship money in multicultural event marketing in the U.S. over the next several years, experts say.

American, Miller and Sears are expected to remain in the forefront as major sponsors. Each is credited with building a strong reputation among Hispanic consumers of community support through sponsorship.

Among retailers, Sears has made the biggest push into multicultural event marketing in recent years, with strong sponsorship across a broad array of channels and targeting African-Americans and Hispanic shoppers.


"Music is huge with these audiences, and we've made a big effort to understand the fast-changing tastes and interest of ethnic audiences," says Gilbert Davila, Sears' director of ethnic marketing.

Sears was the sole presenting sponsor of Gloria Estefan's U.S. concert tour from 1996-97, which included local marketing events in many cities.

A major sponsor of the biggest Hispanic fairs in the U.S., Sears has extended many of its sponsorships to include local integrated marketing promotions and store appearances of entertainment stars.

Last year, Sears created a mobile marketing vehicle called the Sears Fiesta Mobile, which travels among stores and events with a full sound system.

At each stop, the Fiesta Mobile creates entertainment and contests in conjunction with local radio stations, which are "crucial" to the local marketing effort surrounding events, Mr. Davila says.


This year Sears added a second Fiesta Mobile; a total of more than 250 appearances are slated next year.

Music is not Sears' only ethnic sponsorship target; recently, the company inked a deal to be a major broadcast media sponsor of the World Cup in France with Spanish-language network Univision.

The results of Sears' emphasis on Hispanic marketing is starting to be recognizable.

"We've identified over 150 stores with a significant Hispanic customer base and at these stores where we're routinely promoting our sponsorship of events and conducting entertainment-related promotions, we're seeing sales performances

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