This is the third in a series of blogs highlighting the major points made by the featured speakers at the Reaching Latinos Online event that took place in Washington, DC in December 2010. The first blog provides an overview and access to videos of the panel presentation, and the second is focused on key takeaways from Laura Godfrey’s presentation on GobiernoUSA.gov (link).

This blog presents three key takeaways from Saskia Sorrosa, the National Basketball Association’s Senior Director for U.S. Hispanic Marketing. Saskia is responsible for brand positioning, content development, event promotion and advertising efforts targeting the U.S. Hispanic market. In October 2009, she led the launch of the league’s integrated marketing campaign using a multi-channel strategy targeted to Hispanic fans, known as éne•bé•a.

Saskia shared the NBA’s strategy for reaching and engaging their Latino fans throughout the United States.The NBA began marketing to Latinos in 1995, and in 2000 became the first pro sports league to sign an agreement with a Spanish-language network Telemundo. The NBA also holds the distinction of being the first American pro sports league to have a Spanish language website (NBA en español).

1) Latinos like to be recognized but not singled out.

In 2008-2009, the NBA saw a decline in the size of their Hispanic fanbase and viewership. The league’s subsequent market research revealed that while their Hispanic fans liked to be recognized, they didn’t like to be singled out by language or ehtnicity (i.e., NBA en Español or NBA Latino). Because Latino fans regularly referred to the NBA as the éne•bé•a, it was a natural fit for the rebranding effort. Most importantly, NBA took the time to listen to their fans and develop a strategy that embedded the brand that Latinos were already familiar with into their overall marketing efforts.

The results of this strategy have been impressive. Hispanic viewership grew 17 percent in 2009-10 across all of its broadcast partner networks and their fan base grew nine percent by December 2009, even though the overall US Hispanic population grew by only four percent during this period. This season, numbers continue to increase with average Hispanic viewerwship up 45 percent to-date, over-indexing in comparison to non-Hispanic viewership across all networks individually as well as combined.

2) If you’re targeting a bilingual / bicultural audience, you should do your research to determine their language preferences for different types of media and content.

Saskia pointed out that the bilingual / bicultural segment in the United States has grown significantly in the last decade. This segment, which is composed of individuals who freely navigate back and forth between American culture and their Latin heritage, and between English and Spanish, has been key for the NBA since they first started reaching out to Hispanics in 1995.

The NBA’s market research indicated that their Hispanic fans prefer to watch games in English because they see it as a part of the American experience. Although the NBA’s Hispanic fans like to watch games in English, they like to read articles, particularly about their favorite Latino players, in Spanish. As a result of these findings, the NBA now offers all their videos in English and their articles and other types of content in Spanish. Key here is that they invested time and effort to understand the audience’s preferences.

3) Use social media to promote interaction with your brand.

The éne•bé•a currently has over 270,000 fans on Facebook and has also established a social media presence on MySpace, Twitter, Quepasa, MiPágina (Univision’s online community).

Saskia explained that this social media presence has given them the opportunity to take interaction with their fans to a whole new level and engage with them in real time. She pointed out that, unlike with their website, they can use social media to interact directly with their audience. One feature they offer, for example, is the opportunity for fans to ask the players questions. On Facebook and their other social media sites, they ask their Hispanic fans to submit questions, along with their name and country of origin, for the players. They select a few of the best questions and interview players in short informal video segments that are then shared via Facebook and the other social media plaforms. The result is an insiders’ feature that enables fans to feel directly involved and connected with the NBA.