BY MANNY RUIZ
Twitter: @PapiBlogger, Instagram: PapiBlogger
If Hispanicize 2015 aspired to inspire and empower Latinos, I think this year we truly crushed it.
Yes, we heard many naysayers say that SXSW and other “competing” events in March would steal our thunder but by the grace of God – and I do mean that literally – Hispanicize 2015 defied everyone and C-R-U-S-H-E-D it!
Thanks to many great media partners as well as our own leading social media influencer networks DiMe Media and Being Latino, coverage of Hispanicize 2015 easily blew past a billion impressions for the event ALONE – and that’s not even tabulating what many of our sponsors generated from their own separate efforts! In terms of attendance, counting all five days of Hispanicize 2015 and the various offsite events that we held, more than 3,200 total attendees interacted with Hispanicize 2015 at one point or another.
At least 1,800 of those were credentialed for the hotel part of the experience of this year’s event which also included 165 speakers at 64 sessions. (At one point on the first day of the event we actually took the rare caution of halting registrations fearing we would have more people than we could accommodate). Suffice to say, as we look towards 2016, these are good dilemmas to have.
LATINOS DON’T NEED OTHERS TO ‘VALIDATE’ US ANYMORE
Many things stand out about this year’s event but one of the BIGGEST IDEAS I’m very encouraged about is what USA Today correspondent Rick Jervis alluded to in his now classic piece about what makes Hispanicize shine: Latinos are MAKING their own opportunities happen and WE DON’T NEED Silicon Valley or SXSW or anybody else to VALIDATE us any further. Since no one is truly helping us, Latinos will lead their own way forward, thank you very much, and Hispanicize is at the heart of that movement. Pa’lante!
For everyone who’s told me in the past that Austin is where Latinos need to be because SXSW is where the “mainstream” is, I say, “Sorry, Charlie but Miami IS that place.” Even though Austin is a great town (and my second home at that), Miami is the truly diverse, empowered metropolis of the “New Mainstream”and Hispanicize is proving that “mainstream” investors need to be HERE to discover and see the so-called “brown” faces and talent that organically converges in Miami. With all due respect to other cities, no other city in the nation reflects the present and future of empowered Latinos more than Miami does.
THE TECLA AWARDS ROCKED
The first annual Tecla Awards for excellence in Latino blogging, micro-blogging and social media and digital marketing were an instant hit to kick off Hispanicize 2015 and if you were one of the lucky ones who got in you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Presented by Toyota Latino (who also renewed with us as this year’s official automotive partner for the second year in a row) the Tecla Awards looked stunning and proved that when Hispanicize does an award show, you can bet it will kick a**.
The program featured a beautiful red carpet, awesome musical performances by Mr. Pauer and Chino y Nacho and a fast-paced, casual-styled awards program that everyone tells us felt high energy, efficient and spot on for the social media world it represents.
We are proud of the way this year’s inaugural edition went and are grateful for the hard work that more than 30 members of our national advisory board did to judge the entries that were voted for based on the nominations that were submitted. As we look towards the 2016 installment of the Tecla Awards you can expect tons of refinement to every single aspect of the awards program from how we accept submissions, to the judging process and the show itself, etc… A los ganadores y nominados, I say and will say again, congratulations! (You cans see the full list of winners here).
TARGET’S #SINTRADUCCIÓN OPENING RECEPTION
When it comes to throwing the Hispanicize event’s signature party, no one does it quite like Target, the exclusive retail partner of Hispanicize 2015. This year Target #SinTraducción opening reception was a gorgeous and whimsically themed event that played to the brand’s new Hispanic marketing program about cultural words that just don’t translate well in English (I.e. Sobremesa, arrullo, among others).
Target transformed the hotel’s ballroom into a festive red-and-white themed party filled with food, drinks, music and even comedy from Erik Rivera. The event was so engaging that even host Jorge Bernal of Telemundo/NBCUniversal’s Tu Mañana LIVE! could not quiet the room.
Even though the #SinTraduccion reception lasted almost three and a half hours nobody seemed to mind because the networking and camaraderie were great and the Latin cover band Target brought to play their latest Latin music collection Tartara kept everyone on the dance floor. No one wanted that night to end to the degree that once #SinTraduccion concluded more than a few Latina digital influencers and journalists spontaneously raided the Hispanicize music team’s headquarters at room 3308. What happened in that room, stays in that room!
THE GREATEST LATINOVATOR OF ALL TIME
This year’s class of Latinovator Award recipients were as strong as they’ve ever been with a line up that featured YouTube star Dulce Candy, actor Luis Guzman, TV innovator Alberto Ciruana and entertainment legend Mario Luis Kreutzberger Blumenfeld (aka Don Francisco).
All of the Latinovators excelled in their interviews but if you ask anybody, Don Francisco’s Latinovator Award moment (which Cricket Wireless-sponsored and which he chose to do standing up), was simply the best one from 2015 – and possibly all time! The Sabado Gigante star’s inspirational stories, anecdotes and messages had many in the crowd crying, and yes, we have the video of his interview! We will be sharing it next week during our annual #Hispanicize2015Rewind!
HISPANICIZE MUSIC PLATFORM GREW
In its third year the Hispanicize Music Festival took its boldest steps yet with a line up that was brimming with Latin GRAMMY award-winning artists from start to finish. In addition to Chino y Nacho, this year’s headliners also included Luis Fonsi and Gente de Zona.
The biggest music milestone we achieved this year was not only scoring great artists but that the Gente de Zona concert at South Beach’s historic Fillmore represented the first time we opened a major Hispanicize event to the general public. The concert was a packed house success and now that we have a major concert event under our belt – and the lessons we needed to learn with them – we feel even more confident about making more nights open to the public for general admission in 2016.
In the spirit of continuing to spotlight up and coming music talent this year we once again featured the Artist on the Rise stage. This year’s roster of happy hour performers included Bright and Loud, Irene Diaz, Canyon Cody, Mariachi Flor De Toloache, Jean, as well as Palo! and Arias Martin who opened up for Luis Fonsi during the Positive Impact Awards.
Not only were the performances rocking, the Hispanicize 2015 Music track also featured some great panels that covered everything from the current state of salsa, to the DJ scene, how brands and bands can work together, as well as an exclusive intimate artist Q&A with Gente De Zona where they revealed for the first time that their next single is a collaboration with Marc Anthony.
3M’S POSITIVE IMPACT AWARDS
Presented by 3M, our second annual Positive Impact Awards (PIAs for short) brought a huge spotlight to outstanding Hispanic Americans who serve their communities by doing good. I call the Positive Impact Awards the most important program of Hispanicize because they symbolize everything we need to be said about Latinos: that we are great Americans who work hard, love our fellow neighbors and serve our nation.
This year’s PIAs were co-emceed by Miss USA Nia Sanchez, a class act for more reason than I can detail here, and actor Luis Guzman, a supremely gifted Puerto Rican actor who is also very down to earth.
This year’s Positive Impact Person of the Year were Alicia Rascon and Laura Donnelly, co-founders of the Austin and El Paso-based Latinitas, an organization that empowers young women using technology as a tool to discuss issues. The other winners were Dr. Daniel King, Superintendent Pharr Independent School District, Pharr, Texas, an innovator in public education; Karina Andrea Quintana, a Florida International University Engineering Student of Miami Springs, Fla., who has advances the growth of science, technology, engineering and math careers by reaching out to other students; Nora Sandigo, an outstanding Miami-area foster parent, who lends support and provides resources to her community and Irene Martinez Jordan an educator and advocate from Denver who champions the needs of children and seniors.
The part of the PIAs that brought a smile to my face definitely seeing the heartfelt performance Fonsi gave but the part that made me laugh was the moment Tito Puente Jr. jumped on stage to perform los timbales with Palo! A lot of people didn’t know this but his incredible performance was not planned! Ironically Edward James Olmos did the same thing during Sheila E’s Positive Impact Awards performance last year, prompting me to think that this is perhaps a new tradition. Who knows who will jump on stage next year.
ARGUABLY OUR BEST HISPANIC MARKET INDUSTRY AGENDA EVER
The event’s Hispanic marketing and public relations agenda, the very foundation that began what is now the Hispanicize event, was once again comprehensive and complete in its broad survey of trends, research and case studies ranging from millennials to music. Top sessions put the Total Market Debate on trial and also featured new insights on Generation Z, a new topic you’ll start seeing market chatter about (thanks Sensis!).
One of the most impressive moments of the Hispanic market industry track took place when my partner Lance Rios of Being Latino skillfully led a town hall discussion with NINE speakers from top digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Univision, Telemundo, etc… Some people were so impressed by the rare session that they were left wondering what was more miraculous that the mostly Latino audience did not speak for more than an hour or that Lance was able to conduct the insightful conversation coherently with NINE speakers at one time!
Among the other brands who spoke at Hispanicize 2015 were Wells Fargo, Walt Disney World, Cricket Wireless, Coca-Cola, YouTube, Toyota, Target, Tabasco, Shea Moisture, Verizon Wireless, McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts, Transitions, and more! A Who’s Who of top Hispanic marketing agencies large and small also played key roles at the event but this year we need to give extra special thanks to República who signed up to be our creative agency from day one and left their finger prints on everything from the event’s new logos to our web site and so much more! Other agencies playing a big roles were Boden PR, Sensis (one of only two original sponsors of the event and still going!), Alma (who arrived with pop!), Golin, RL Public Relations, Pinta, Balsera Communications, Newlink Group, Hispanic Market Advisors and the Hispanic Public Relations Association (HPRA).
Not enough can be said of our event’s official research partner, the Latina-owned and operated Conexxión Research of Houston. I was encouraged to work with Conexxión and to see that they are an outstanding national research firm that works with integrity and strong follow thru. Conexxión Research led two of our best regarded sessions about Latina and Latino millennials.
THE HISPANICIZE – NAHJ PARTNERSHIP STRENGTHENS
One of the biggest accomplishments of this year’s event is the strengthened alliance between Hispanicize and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ). This partnership began to take shape last year during the president of the NAHJ’s immediate past president Hugo Balta. Balta, who this year served as the chair of our event’s Hispanic Journalist Showcase, put the foundation for our alliance in motion last year when we partnered for the first annual “State of Hispanic Journalists Survey”. This year his successor Mekhalo Medina not only renewed that joint survey but also expanded our collaboration to include a national program that Fox News Latino funded for up to 400 NAHJ member journalists to be able to be fully comped to attend Hispanicize 2015.
The Hispanic Journalist Showcase that Balta organized for us this year tackled tough issues and was as empowering and educational as you would expect it to be. For four of the five days of Hispanicize, our event had the privilege to host numerous top Latino journalists and news anchors you typically only see at the NAHJ. Prudential Financial even hosted a first-of-its-kind session that many said was “The View” ala Latina. Titled “Latinas Dish: A Cultural Roundtable with the Nation’s Most Powerful Latina Journalists,” the special session featured Maria Elena Salinas, Co-Anchor, Noticiero Univision; Cynthia Hudson, SVP and General Manager, CNN en Español; Shirley Velasquez, Executive Editor, Latina magazine, Myriam Marquez, Executive Editor, El Nuevo Herald; and Mercedes Soler, anchor of CNN en Español’s Realidades en Contexto program.
Mekhalo, Hispanicize is thrilled to be collaborating with you and your team at NAHJ and as we turn our attention to your national convention you can be sure you will have our full support. We’re excited about this partnership!
UNIVISION RAISED THE BAR
While it’s true that Hispanicize has the benefit of owning its own social media networks, it took major media partnerships to achieve the extra special media coverage that we generated this year.
The star media partner of this year’s event was our presenting media partner Univision Communications who truly became one with the event and helped us shine brighter than ever from start to finish. Univision aired national stories on “El Gordo y La Flaca” and “Sabado Gigante” and also conducted DAILY interview stories on their top-rated morning show “Despierta America”. In addition to providing the event with social media support, Univision also brought a cavalry of their top talent to host our awards programs, interview celebrities, emcee and more. Among the top Univision talent who participated at Hispanicize 2015 were Chiquinquirá Delgado, Alberto Sardiñas, William Valdes, Danilo Carrera and Gloria Ordaz.
In addition to Univision, we were also proud to partner with NBC Universo and Telemundo as our social media partner. NBC Universo and Telemundo interviewed key digital influencers daily in their large, block-like social media set and played prominent roles in key sessions related to the future of Spanish-language TV and the topic of Social TV.
CNN en Español joined us as a media partner this year for the first time and we were delighted with everything they did. A definite career highlight of my life was doing a 30-minute interview about my career live on the national TV show Cala with Ismael Cala. His show was the first place I ever shared on TV my story of being bullied in school. (Ismael and I have since become quick friends).
Many other media outlets did a terrific job supporting us. Among those key partners were Latina, Fox News Latino, PRODU, The Miami Herald/EL Nuevo Herald, El Sentinel and El Sol Newspaper (who also sponsored the Spanish-language sessions of the Hispanic Journalist Showcase). HispanicAd.com was not an official media partner of the event but deserves credit for covering key stories and research unveiled at the event.
HISPANICIZE FILM FESTIVAL TOOK RISKS, EVOLVED AND WON!
With title sponsorship support from AARP and under the guidance of film festival veteran Calixto Chinchilla, who for the second year in a row led the Hispanicize Film Showcase, our film program took chances, evolved and won with screenings that were always full or nearly at capacity.
The biggest screening of this year’s festival was the biopic “Maria Montez” starring Dominican actress Celines Toribio. The red carpet screening was packed and in typical Hispanicize fashion even featured a cameo appearance by Hall of Fame Pitcher Pedro Martinez. Parallel to “Maria Montez” in the same movie theater, DiMe Media and Universal Pictures partnered to create a special reception and Latino digital influencers screening for the social media-centric horror film “Unfriended.” The screening for “Unfriended” was heavily promoted throughout the event and built a lot of buzz for the film at the event, the screening and even at the closing night concert with Gente de Zona.
In another film first for Hispanicize, DreamWorks Animation became the first studio to ever exhibit a film, “Home” at the event. The film’s cute characters became stars of our exhibit floor as the movie later premiered to a full audience.
Several important brands made their official Hispanicize debuts this year but among the most notable newcomers were Wells Fargo, Shea Moisture, Red Bull, Neutrogena, Facebook, WordPress.com, Samsung and Best Western.
Wells Fargo was arguably the most impactful debut because they made history as the first official bank sponsor of Hispanicize – a fitting first because Wells Fargo is also the financial institution most of the Hispanicize brands bank at. Wells Fargo made their debut count by sponsoring the Hispanic Journalist Showcase’s Media Entrepreneur Day, hosting a private breakfast for digital influencers and supporting the video recordings of several key journalist and cultural related sessions that we will be sharing online next week during #HispanicizeRewind15. Wells Fargo’s Mariela Ure, senior vice president and Hispanic segment strategy lead for Enterprise Marketing at Wells Fargo also participated as a panelist on the Hispanic Market Trends 2015 session.
WordPress.com was a major crowd favorite with digital influencers and journalists as they sponsored the first every WordPress.com Latino Day at Hispanicize. All of their sessions were packed and their exhibit space was constantly busy.
One of the funnest brands in the world, Red Bull, sponsored the event incognito until Hispanicize started because they wanted to surprise everyone with daily Red Bull Energy Breaks for attendees to sample their new, zero calorie, tropical flavors.
Shea Moisture arrived at its first Hispanicize with its guns blazing. The privately-owned, organic hair, body and skin care company featured continuous haircare treatment and massages. Hispanicize was also very privileged to host Shea Moisture CEO Richelieu Dennis, an African-born immigrant who like many Latinos shares an incredible story of overcoming tough odds to become a success. We were honored to have him speak at Hispanicize’s “Reaching Latina Millenials” panel sponsored by Latina-owned Conexxión Research.
Best Western made their Hispanicize debut this year and this is one I am personally proud of because in the past year since I first joined their team as one of their brand ambassadors and spokespersons I have seen BW take bolder and bolder steps to engage Latino influencers. In their first foray into Hispanicize Best Western held a private reception for influencers and hosted a session on how influencers can work with travel brands.
NEW, LAUNCHED AND IMPRESSIVE AT HISPANICIZE 2015
New products, services, research findings, partnerships and celebrity-related announcements abounded at Hispanicize 2015 as we once again served as a major launch pad for all things new and trending in the U.S. Hispanic market. Among the debuts and unveilings were:
Toyota unveiling their new Hispanic marketing campaign with and in the company of William Levy! A year after Coca-Cola brought Carlos Vives to unveil the new World Cup marketing campaign and theme song, Toyota took the wheel to showcase their latest ad work with Latino heartthrob. The session even included a Meet and Greet with Latina influencers and the behavior we observed was, um, a bit rowdy to say the least.
Rebtel, the Sweden-based long distance calling service, made their U.S. Hispanic debut through Hispanicize by sponsoring the Closing Night Concert Bash with Gente de Zona. Rebtel also partnered with DiMe Media to sign Los Pichy Boys to a major deal that will make Los Pichy Boys the face of Rebtel for the lucrative Cuban-American market.
Sprint and ASPIRA of Florida launched a new Sprint Mobile Mentorship Program that will connect students with prominent business leaders to serve as mentors, while also providing mobile devices with unlimited high-speed data, talk and text so that students and their mobile mentors be connected with the help of technology.
BTL Network is no longer a mystery name thanks to one of the most creative national debuts we’ve ever seen an agency make at Hispanicize. The Miami-based activation agency was responsible for leading numerous high visibility activations including Florida Blue’s quirky tropical themed area, the social media-wired karaoke machine as well as the Hispanic brands sit-down interviews. To put the icing on the cake, BTL even sponsored, designed and produced all of the event’s official t-shirts – less than a week before the show began! BTL’s effort paid off: On the first day of the event Despierta America’s producers featured their t-shirts on TWO national segments!
And speaking of impressive sponsor activations there were many that stood out beyond Target, Toyota and 3M, Based on the evaluations we’ve seen the most highly regarded exhibitors of this year’s event was a major dog fight between Florida Blue, P&G, ViveMejor, Shea Moisture and Coca-Cola. These and other brands demonstrated a caliber of engaging activations that collectively elevated Hispanicize.
DIME MEDIA DEBUTS
Hispanicize believes in the power of its own platform enough that we also made it the place to formally rebrand our digital influencer network from Latina Mom Bloggers to DiMe Media. DiMe Media ((which translates to “Tell Me”) retains EVERYTHING LMB has been offering clients for three years but is now a national network of Latina and Latino digital influencers on YouTube, Instagram, Vine, blogs and Facebook that develops tailored and culturally relevant campaigns that engage U.S. Hispanic consumers. DiMe Media sustains LMB’s legacy of helping brands connect with carefully vetted Latina and Latino digital content creators for branded marketing opportunities that produce results-driven programs. The Tecla Awards and the ENTIRE Latina Digital Influencers Showcase of Hispanicize 2015 that everyone’s been raving about was created by the DiMe Media team!
DIGITAL INFLUENCERS SURVEY
Speaking of DiMe Media, the network worked very closely with Boden PR and iBlog Magazine to create and unveil the second annual survey of Latina digital influencers. The survey focused on learning about the career, tech and business needs of Latina digital influencers and in a very clever twist Boden PR emphasized their strong support for influencers by giving several of them $1,000 cash scholarships to fulfill one of their most pressing business needs. The survey’s full findings will be released by iBlog Magazine shortly but one of the early findings is a golden one: 90% of all Latina influencers said they are planning to do more video in the coming year. (See more here).
So many people made this year happen but my top MVPs are always going to be the team that is right there in the trenches with me and that team begins with my dear friend and business partner Jay Cruz, a three-time MVP of the event and one of the hardest working and most humble people I have ever met. Jay can tell you some wild stories about how extra hard this year was compared to others and his support was invaluable.
Intergalactic honors also go to my wife Angela and my partners Lexi and Katherine, the trio whose work, sacrifice and ideas have consistently elevated the event to new heights. Vanessa James may not be our partner “technically” but her work on the music festival has been terrific and I’m glad she’s part of our extended familia. Pam Arana, professionally and PERSONALLY, you are and continue to be one of our super stars!
All of my business partners also played instrumental roles in one way or another in this year’s event: Piera Jolly, Cristy Clavijo-Kish, Lance Rios and Bill Gato. Few people realize how blessed I am to have partners who are not only talented but are themselves powerful and influential. This incredible core group makes our company’s executive management team as strong as any in our Hispanic market industry space and I feel blessed to call them my friends and partners.
A great job also goes to my dear friend George Cabrera, president of ASPIRA of Florida. George is a tireless advocate for the kids he leads and is always, but I mean ALWAYS, thinking like an entrepreneur. He and I came up with the idea of having ASPIRA buses transport our attendees to all Hispanicize events and our attendees never once complained knowing that it’s better for Hispanicize to pay ASPIRA a fee than to give it to another private company! Our experiment (one of many he and I have going) worked smoothly and will continue in 2016 if George permits it!
Another Bravo award goes to Matt Cherry, publisher of the blogging industry’s first and most respected trade media outlet iBlog Magazine. For his tireless work, follow through and invaluable support Matt is now part of our family. (Matt, we’re dubbing an honorary Gringo Latino). Thanks for being such a blessing to us and gracias for being a true friend to all Latino and non Latino digital influencers!
In addition to our entire national advisory board, an avalanche of friends and allies also PERSONALLY contributed to this year’s event. I KNOW I’m going to accidentally omit someone so please forgive me if that’s you. In my mind the roster of big friendly thanks includes the incredible production team of the Miami Media School (who recorded many of the event’s top sessions), celebrity stylist and jewelry designer Charlie Lapson (who personally gave me an expert fashion make-over), Kathy Cano-Murillo, Jorge Plasencia, Sonia Diaz, Nathalie Bruk, Susana Baker, Mari Santana, Nydia Sahagun, Jenina Nuñez, Unicornelio Primero, Inez Gonzalez, Dea Kazoleas, George “Urban Jibaro” Torres, Rikki Rincon, Jewel Figueras (love you Jewels!), Maylen Calienes, Gaby Natale and Melanie Mendez-Gonzales. Not even counting our 40-member advisory board it took more than 110 people to produce this year’s Hispanicize event including a great corps of volunteers led by Ingrid Vega. Volunteers, you are too many to mention here but please know that we are very grateful for your work!
A BIG APLAUSO FOR OUR 2015 SPONSORS
The presenting sponsor of Hispanicize 2015 and of the Positive Impact Awards is 3M. The official automotive sponsor and presenting sponsor of the Tecla Awards is Toyota. The official retail partner of the event is Target. The presenting media partner of the event is Univision Communications. The official bank sponsor of Hispanicize 2015 and of the Hispanic Media Entrepreneurship Day for Journalists is Wells Fargo. For the second year in a row the official Food sponsor is Vive Mejor. The official airline is JetBlue. The research sponsor of the event is ConneXión Research. The official trade media partner of the event is iBlog Magazine.
Other sponsors include: Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Cricket Wireless, Facebook, Tabasco, Red Bull, Neutrogena, Samsung, Telemundo/NBC Universo, Sprint, Prudential Financial, SheaMoisture, Hasbro, McDonald’s, Best Western, The Home Depot, Walt Disney World Resorts, Yelp, Florida Blue, WordPress.com, Rebtel, Martell Caractere, CNN en español, Fox News Latino, República, Transitions, Mazola, Visit Philly, BodenPR, Kelley Blue Book, Alma, RL Public Relations, Rebtel, United Healthcare Foundation, AARP, DreamWorks Animation, The Sensis Agency, Universal Pictures, Latina, Miami Herald Media Company, The St. Augustine Visitor’s Bureau, Diario Las Americas, Hispanic Market Advisors, El Sentinel, Sverve, Balsera Communications, BTL Network, Batanga’s iMujer.com, Golin, Fox Audience Strategies, d expósito & partners, H&M Communications, Juana La Iguana and Lingua Franca.
Media and industry partners included: the NAHJ, the Hispanic Public Relations Association (HPRA), PRODU, Cal State Fullerton University and Florida International University.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR 2016
A lot of you have already asked how we can possibly make 2016 better than 2015. For competitive reason I won’t reveal yet how 2016 will improve on 2015 but suffice to say we know it’s a presidential election year and we already know how 2016 WILL BE MUCH BETTER than 2015. We’ve announced the dates PUT THEM IN YOUR CALENDARS NOW: April 4-8, 2016.
We’re going full throttle for 2016 this month because being the best takes that much effort. To stay on top of all the headlines be sure to follow us on the Facebook page of Hispanicize AND on the national Facebook page of the event: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Hispanicize2012/. On Instagram and Twitter, just search for Hispanicize and see you real soon!