by David Mitchel, Vice President of Marketing at Norton Mitchel Marketing

Now that the NBA regular season has ended and the playoffs have begun, it is the perfect time to reflect on some of the more notable occurrences in the league this year. In terms of marketing, one of the more notable occurrences was Noche Latina (Latin Night in Spanish). Noche Latina is the NBA’s flagship Hispanic marketing initiative. In various NBA arenas in the month of March, teams in cities with high Hispanic populations (Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, Phoenix, San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, Chicago and New York) celebrated Latin culture through a multitude of game night activities. The 2009-2010 season was the fourth consecutive season that the NBA engaged in the Noche Latina promotion. It will likely be back for a fifth season next year. With Noche Latina, the league has a quality basic idea in how to conduct a multicultural marketing initiative. However, the league has taken actions with Noche Latina that have diminished its effectiveness in the Hispanic community. If Noche Latina is to have the effect of increasing brand awareness and fostering positive brand beliefs about the NBA amongst Hispanics, it must change for next season.

The NBA must be recognized for its understanding of the importance of the Hispanic marketplace. In the press release that announced Noche Latina events for March 2010, Saskia Sorrosa, the NBA’s Senior Director of Hispanic Marketing, said “With Hispanics comprising 15 percent of our fan base, we have a responsibility to connect with them in meaningful ways.” The first step in creating successful Hispanic marketing initiatives is to understand the importance of the group. At the 2000 Census, Hispanics made up 12.5% of the United States population. This is when Hispanics officially became the largest minority group in the US, surpassing the 12.3% African American population. This data fulfilled a controversial 1978 prediction by Time Magazine that Hispanics would soon become the largest minority group. By 2005, Hispanics accounted for 14% of the US population. When the 2010 Census information is released, it is likely that Hispanics will comprise at least 15% of the US population. With 15% of the NBA fans reportedly Hispanic and Hispanics likely comprising 15% of the US population at the present time, one could surmise that the NBA is doing at least an adequate job in building the brand amongst Hispanics.

With Noche Latina, the league is doing many positive things. Noche Latina consists of events such as pre, post and in-game Hispanic/Latino cultural celebrations and the launch of www.nba.com/enebea in Spanish. As an example, when the Miami Heat hosted Noche Latina, they featured salsa dancers outside the arena at halftime, Latin routines/performances by the Heat dancers during timeouts and a performance by Latin Jazz artist Tito Puente Jr. during player introductions. The website, www.nba.com/enebea, is the best part of the NBA’s Hispanic marketing strategy. It is a resource that is available every day, covering the league in Spanish. A true marketing initiative must be a consistent focus, not an isolated event.

The Miami Heat are a shining example of this. Eric Woolworth, President of Business Operations for the Heat, said “Because Miami has the largest Hispanic fan base in the NBA, for us, every night is a Latin night.” Of all the teams that participated in Noche Latina, the Miami Heat appeared to be the most organized. The Heat had the most information about their Noche Latina events posted on their English language website in comparison with other NBA teams. For Noche Latina to be truly meaningful across markets, all teams should promote Noche Latina by following the standard set by the Heat.


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