Dolphins' Monday Night Fiesta Was Hispanic Done Right

NFL Gets the Importance of the Latino Audience

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Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
As the salsa music gave rhythm to the night and the smell of Cuban food from Miami's Bongo filled the air, I watched the Energizer Bunny get inflated just past an archway where the AT&T brand was headlining. This was Calle Dolphins at Land Shark Stadium. Sure, one could write it off as a farewell to Hispanic Heritage Month with a Dia de la Raza date as a send-off. But that would not do justice to the global statement that Monday night's game between the Dolphins and the Jets made.

Yes, global statement. In fact, to that point, as my husband and I went back to the hotel at midnight, there was a message on his cellphone from Panama. Yes, they watch Monday Night Football in Panama. And they recognize that the Dolphins have embraced a Latino fan base, not just as a Hispanic Heritage-month marketing exercise, but as an authentic and relevant part of the brand. And it's not just because of the Estefans and the Anthony-Lopez' of the world, although their ownership stake in the Dolphins certainly adds to the equation. It's because of a consumer-centric owner in Steve Ross and his ability to understand that "todos somos americanos" -- and that includes the desire to be part of an iconic American sport and brand.

From the transformation of the Hank Williams "Are You Ready for Some Football" into a bilingual Estefan and Williams duet, to the Obama speech saluting the history of Latinos in the NFL with the obviously up-to-the-minute mention of USC's Mexican-American turned Jet's quarterback Mark Sanchez. This was an evening of imprinting the brand with a bilingual, bicultural identity. Not just lip service or superficial fiesta-like behavior that is here today and gone tomorrow.

Sure, we're on the road to the World Cup and great work is being done by brands who are maximizing soccer passions (kudos, for example, to Degree Men for their work with the Mexican National Team) and the Latin Grammys are ready to rock en espaƱol (kudos to Axe for their Latin Rock Band promotion). There is much to be said for those events where Latinos rule. But don't rule out the NFL or any other experiential and fan-based opportunities where Latinos are not "traditionally" the dominant players. This is an era where traditional and non-traditional can coexist.

Land Shark Stadium is perhaps the only football stadium to allow access to game viewing from the sidelines. It's an unbelievably energizing experience. Think about it like this. You can define sidelines in the old-school way and just keep letting opportunities to engage with Hispanic consumers go by because of [fill in your favorite Hispanic marketing phobia here] or you can define sidelines the way the Dolphins have and make them the hottest standing-room area in town because it lets you be part of the game in an authentic, meaningful, bilingual, bicultural way. What a way to "kick off" a post-Hispanic heritage year that celebrates the growing influence of Latinos in America (not to be read as a shameless plug for the CNN series, but heck -- while you're at it -- you should watch that too.)

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