Hispanic fans target of the NFL

NFL struggles to get Hispanic fans
The Latino Journal E-News

The National Football League (NFL) has had its eye on the growing Hispanic population in the United States (U.S.) for the past several years, offering special events, playing a regular season game in Mexico City, and even creating a Spanish version of Madden 2008 video game. There is no question this is the NFL’s toughest sell, whose number of Hispanic players is beginning to grow, but whose Hispanic audience is not growing as expected. With Hispanics now numbering one-third of Major League Soccer’s audience, can the NFL take the right steps in courting the largest minority group in the U.S. to become rabid fans?

Specifically, the NFL has made major strides toward attracting more Hispanic fans that include:
Encourage Spanish-media game broadcasts (radio and TV);
Use Hispanic celebrities to promote games (Gloria Estefan recently purchased a portion of the Miami Dolphins);
Have recruited more Hispanic football players;
Use former Hispanic NFL players for color commentary during broadcasts;
Promote the NFL to Latin-American countries;
Allowed EA to produce a Spanish version of Madden ’08 video game with Luis Castillo on the cover; and,
Held a regular-season game in Mexico City (filling the stadium with 103,467, the largest crowd ever for a regular season game.)

Although these efforts are a good start, they still fall way short to create a warm and fuzzy relationship with Hispanic sports fans. And if the NFL wants its annual revenue to grow, it knows the Hispanic market will be key.

"It doesn't take a whole lot to figure out there's a lot of potential growth within the Hispanic market," says Lino Garcia, general manager of Walt Disney Co's ESPN Deportes, which has televised Monday Night Football games in Spanish since 2006, in a recent interview. "As the market grows, clearly there's more opportunity to increase the fan base of the NFL and increase our potential viewers for the sport as well.”

But are the NFL’s efforts sufficient to create a strong Hispanic following? The NFL knows this is not sufficient and has created a “Hispanic Task Force” to take the game to Hispanic communities around the country. Still, some Hispanics believe this is a good step toward creating young converts, but fails to connect with the Hispanic community as a whole.

The NFL website clearly shows that Hispanic players have been around for the past 80 years, a fact that is not well promoted in the Hispanic community. In addition, of the 253 Hall of Fame inductees, only four are Hispanic, of which one has a Hispanic surname. The selection of NFL players for the Hall of Fame are considered by a Selection Board comprised of media representatives, a list that also lacked any Hispanic surnames.

“Look, there are 32 teams with rosters of 45 players per team, and they (NFL) can only come up with 24 Hispanic players and only one poor version of Madden ’08 in Spanish” says GameStop retail manager George Saldana, who is also an avid football fan. “The NFL doesn’t market great Hispanic players either, like when Tony Romo (Cowboys) went up against Jeff Garcia (Eagles) on a Monday Night Football game. There was no special promotion by the league or the media, a complete missed opportunity.”

NFL Hispanic Facts:
First Hispanic NFL player: Ignacio “Lou” Molinet, 1927;
First Hispanic NFL draft pick: Joe Aguirre, 1941;
First Hispanic starting NFL quarterback: Tom Flores, 1960.
First Hispanic #1 NFL draft pick: Jim Plunkett, 1971.
First Hispanic NFL head coach: Tom Fears, 1967.
First Hispanic Football Hall of Fame inductee: Tom Fears, 1970.

Hispanic Football Hall of Fame Inductees:
Ted Hendricks (Colts/Raiders) – Country of Origin: Guatemala
Steve Van Buren (Eagles) – Country of Origin: Honduras
Tom Fears (Rams) – Country of Origin: Mexico
Anthony Munoz (Bengals) – Country of Origin: U.S.

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