[Intro] Last month, we broke down all MLS teams and how they connect with the Hispanic audience. Some teams’ efforts were minimal, but those of other teams were highly effective. Leading the pack was Sporting KC. After reading our post, Sinhue Mendoza, Latino Marketing Manager at Sporting Kansas City Soccer Club, reached out to us to share his thoughts. And, a simple call quickly turned into a highly insightful conversation.
Prepárate (Get ready!)
Fútbol is without doubt the world’s number one sport. But in Latin America, no one loves the sport more than Latinos. However, in the US, fútbol has not quite lifted the masses spirits like in the rest of the world.
Knowing that US Hispanics would be more prone to attend fútbol games because of their family traditions, teams focused on building sales teams to reach out to the Latino audience. What they did not do was build Hispanic marketing and communication teams to best reach these audiences, who in the long run could become brand ambassadors and diehard fans. And where there are diehard fans, there is high flying dinero. This is why marketing to Latinos can prove to be extremely beneficial.
But sports teams have to be ready
Ready to plan accordingly. Ready to invest in their audiences. Ready to speak directly to their audiences and keep them interested, involved and happy. That’s where Mendoza comes in.
Sporting KC, like many MLS teams, has a Latino Account Executive. But, while most MLS teams have no one there consistently planning, communicating and engaging with the Hispanic audience, that is not the case with Sporting KC. Today, anything having to do with the Latino market comes through Mendoza. And together with his colleague in the sales staff, their successes for the team are insurmountable.
Now, what makes this story really interesting is that instead of focusing on traditional media, Mendoza decided to go a different route. He decided to use social media to reach out to what are now loyal Latino Sporting KC fans. He began using the Sporting KC website in connection with the Latino MLS site in order to reach out to people. Soon after, he took the conversation to Facebook, but he realized that more had to be done.
After crunching the numbers on the amount of Latinos in social media networks, Mendoza expanded all of his campaigns; both branding and retail, into their website, Facebook, Twitter, and most recently, YouTube. The move has paid off quite nicely as Sporting KC leads all MLS teams in fan counts on every major Spanish language social media channel.
“I saw the numbers that said Latinos were on Facebook, and it (our social media presence) grew from that point. Social media is a big part of our marketing plan,” comments Mendoza.
(Note: This blog will go further in depth on Sporting KC’s social media strategy in Part 2 of the Sporting KC Story in December)
Bravo: (99 reasons to go social)
Since Mendoza began sharing all things Latino to his audiences on social networks, a new wave of fans have fallen in love with their now hero, Omar Bravo (#99). And they are also enamored with Sporting KC, whose decision to bring the Mexican national to their team was one of the smartest moves since the team’s brand change from the Kansas City Wizards to Sporting KC this past season.
Bravo’s presence, combined with Mendoza’s integrated social campaigns, has created a fan base so large that it now has its own seating section: La Sección 99 or Section 99 for our non-Spanish speaking friends.
And Mendoza says they are only getting started, “He (Bravo) is a legend, an icon where he comes from. And La Sección 99 is especially important for him and Sporting KC. Omar takes the time to go up there and take pictures with fans after the game and sign autographs in that section.”
Sporting KC also placed small cardboard cutouts of Bravo in small panaderías, taquerías, and other Hispanic establishments throughout the city. They have proven quite popular and even the Kansas City Star wrote an article about their strong influence in the Hispanic community.
With their success mounting, Mendoza is even using social media to enhance their broadcast campaigns, which are getting larger following a successful season. To no surprise to their fans, the team overcame a slow start and made it all the way to the semi-finals, only one game away from going to the MLS Cup.
Although with the help of La Sección 99 and their steadily growing fan base, Sporting KC looks like a real contender for the 2012 season.
So get ready. Because when you manage to connect positively with your audiences (Hispanic and non), you will need to be ready to speak with them directly in a way they will feel welcome and part of the team’s experience and success.
What are your thoughts on the work of Sporting KC and Sinhue Mendoza? Will other teams emulate their success towards the Hispanic audience? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned for the next article coming out in 2 weeks with an in depth look at Sporting KC’s Spanish social media.
Bio of Sinhue Mendoza
Sinhue Mendoza is currently the Latino Marketing Manager for Sporting Kansas City Soccer Club. He works with the club’s marketing department during the overall planning process by determining strategies for promoting the club within the Latino community and serving as the primary club marketing liaison for Latino-owned businesses and community partners.
His work experience ranges from team Media Relations, Public Relations, Athlete Representation Marketing, multicultural marketing and political campaign management. Mendoza completed a dual Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science from Syracuse University’s distinguished S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and studied politics from the renowned staff at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. He currently resides in Kansas City, Missouri.