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Listen like the NBA: ¡Con Emoción! (Part 1 of 2)

By January 30, 2012December 19th, 201412 Comments


The National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Hispanic platform, éne-bé-a, which we featured in a two-part series last season, is off to a fast start. With growth numbers almost unrealistic to any brand, the éne-bé-a’s key to their organic social media growth is being a great listener.

The éne-bé-a’s new “Emoción” campaign was born directly from listening to their fans, according to NBA Vice President of Multicultural Marketing Saskia Sorrosa. With this effort the NBA is taking their reach to Hispanic audiences to the next level.

Captivated by the emotion Latinos brings to the game, the éne-bé-a team, with the help of their Hispanic ad agency, Bromley Communications, is aggressively going after this audience. And they are very proud of the outcome from the “Emoción” campaign, in particular their TV and radio creative, which is an extension of their successful “Pobre Garganta” campaign from the 2011 NBA Playoffs.

“The campaign did well during the time it ran. Fans embraced it, and more importantly, identified with it,” Ms. Sorrosa said. “It highlighted the passion that Latinos bring to our game in a dramatic way and used a popular song by Coldplay that connected with both Hispanic and non-Hispanic fans to make the spot universally appealing.”

Check out the éne-bé-a’s commercial featuring Coldplay’s hit song “Paradise” below.


Growing During the Lockout

If you don’t follow sports, you may not have been aware that the NBA had a near season-ending, 161-day lock-out this summer/fall/early winter. It affected many fans, cities, players and businesses, but the éne-bé-a team did not give up on their drive to communicate with their die-hard fans.

“Fans were engaged and ready to tip off the new season,” Ms. Sorrosa said. “We ended 2010-11 on a high note, with viewership and attendance numbers significantly up from previous years. The intensity of competition, athleticism and exciting play from 2010-11 built up a lot of expectations, and that momentum followed through during opening week this year.”

Such positive outcomes are not pure luck; the team worked around the clock monitoring conversations to make sure they kept their audience’s interest and passion at the forefront of their strategy. Indeed, their ‘emoción’ campaign and the use of social media with cross promotion had much to do with their success.

“Our éne-bé-a Facebook page and Twitter feeds were an important resource for us to connect with our fans during the lockout.” Ms. Sorrosa said. “It allowed us to understand the general sentiment among fans, continue our engagement, and communicate relevant information in a timely manner. Our social media team also developed a @nba_labor Twitter feed, with official news from the NBA that focused on providing accurate information and updates on the state of CBA negotiations. This feed was especially important for media, including our Hispanic media, to ensure the news that was reported was accurate and up-to-date.”

The éne-bé-a page posting highlights from what is regarded as one of the best slam dunk competitions of all times

The éne-bé-a page posted highlights from past seasons during the lockout, such as this one from what is regarded as one of the best slam dunk competitions of all times

Interestingly enough, the NBA used a mixed media strategy to keep people ‘emocionados.’ They ran classic games and series on NBA TV, and then engaged fans online through social media as a reminder of why they loved the game to begin with. This worked to remind their audience ‘de los buenos tiempos’ (“the good ol’ days”) and of the greatness of the game, then and now.

“‘Fans loved reliving some of the best moments in the NBA,” Ms. Sorrosa shared. “Fans remembered the plays and commented about the matchups on our social media assets. It generated excitement, sparked conversation, and built anticipation for the new season to start.”

Latino Players and Latino Markets.

With the Big 3 in Miami, Carmelo in New York, and Chris Paul in L.A., the éne-bé-a internal team is looking toward the future of multicultural communications within these huge markets and across the country. To keep up with the opportunities, the group has transformed from a two-person team operated by Ms. Sorrosa, into a full-blown multicultural department targeting “Hispanics, African-Americans, Youths and Women.”

But even then, marketing to Hispanic sports fans can be tricky. As Victor Villalba, Manager of Spanish Language Broadcasting for the Dallas Cowboys, explains in Hispanic Marketing with ‘America’s Team,’ Hispanics are fans of a diverse group of players and, like many fans, they gravitate toward excellence.

“Fans are just fans of the game’s best players, not necessarily only the Latinos,” Ms. Sorrosa explained. “However, it helps strengthen the emotional reach. Having 27 Latino players, including those who are U.S. born, helps develop a deeper connection.”

For example, in Miami, Ms. Sorrosa explained, “48 percent of fans attending games are Hispanics, even before the Big 3” came together. Although she did acknowledge that it would “make it more compelling” for all fans, it is all about listening. Paying attention to your audience and responding quickly with the right message.

The Future. #LATISM. And Overall Success.

The éne-bé-a is already working incredibly hard at reaching Latinos in their native countries, which we will discuss in the near future. (Be on the lookout for our NBA Latin America story several weeks from now.)  A group we recommended for the NBA to follow was the Latinos in Social Media movement, better known as #LATISM.

“We’re not sure yet how we would partner with them, but it’s on our radar,” Ms. Sorrosa said.

What Ms. Sorrosa made clear throughout our interview is that the NBA is doing whatever possible to utilize available outlets and media channels to cross-promote their message to fans on both their English and Spanish-language social media assets. They observe conversations occurring naturally on Twitter and Facebook to gain insights about their fans all season round. Speaking with Ms. Sorrosa, it definitely feels as though there are big things coming for the éne-bé-a.

To share some perspective, here are some success numbers from Nielsen, one of the leading research groups in the country: Opening week of the 2011-12 season was up 26 percent in Hispanic viewership in comparison to the same time the previous year, which over-indexed in comparison to non-Hispanic viewership by 160 percent. Close to 6 million Hispanic viewers watched during opening week alone, not counting fans watching on ESPN Deportes.

We welcome you to share this story, as well as share your thoughts about any or all topics discussed in this story. Be on the watch for Part two next week with a focus on ‘The Numbers.’

About Saskia Sorrosa

Saskia Sorrosa, Vice President of Multicultural/Targeted Marketing for the NBA

Saskia Sorrosa, Vice President of Multicultural/Targeted Marketing for the NBA

As Vice President of Multicultural/Targeted Marketing for the NBA, Saskia Sorrosa is responsible for brand strategy, brand positioning, content development, event promotion, and advertising efforts targeted to the U.S. Hispanic, African-American, Youth, and Female segments. In October 2009, Sorrosa successfully launched the NBA’s first-ever integrated marketing campaign targeted to the bicultural, bilingual Latino fan, known as éne•bé•a (the pronunciation of the NBA in Spanish); followed in December 2010 by the launch of the league’s youth platform, NBA Hoop Troop.

Prior to assuming this role, Sorrosa launched and managed the Burson-Marsteller Medellin, Colombia office, where she was responsible for positioning and growing the firm in the Antioquia region, as well as broadening its client base.


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