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Hispanics Being Courted By NBA... The League Is Trying To Reach A Growing Audience By Promoting New Stars From Spain And Latin America

Hispanics Being Courted By NBA


Feb. 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003 The Orange County Register. All rights reserved.

The vibrant front page of "NBA en Espanol" features action shots of Dallas forward Eduardo Najera, Memphis forward Pau Gasol or San Antonio guard Emanuel "Manu" Ginobili, beneath the message "La Nueva Onda," which is Spanish for "The New Wave."

Each player's image rises out of his homeland -- Najera from Mexico, Gasol from Spain and Ginobili from Argentina -- on the cover's map of the world, a world with a Hispanic audience the NBA wants desperately to court.

For this All-Star Weekend, the NBA has tucked the eight-page advertorial into 13 Spanish-language newspapers in 13 major U.S. Hispanic markets.

Gasol, the 2002 Rookie of the Year, Ginobili and Brazil's Nene Hilario of the Denver Nuggets are among the rookies and second-year players invited to play in today's Rookie Challenge, but they already have earned MVP status among the league's marketing minds.

"We've found Hispanics to be very nationalistic, and they take pride in what players like a Gasol, a Najera or a Nene Hilario from their countries has done," said Arturo Nunez, Managing Director of NBA Latin America.

"This year we have more Hispanic players than ever before, and they've had a significant impact on the game."

Commissioner David Stern's NBA, which always has pushed for globalization, has 10 Latin American and Spanish players to showcase for Hispanics outside of the United States, which is home to the world's fourth-largest Hispanic population.

"We took one look at the 2000 U.S. Census," Nunez said, "and it was obvious what we needed to do."

In 2000, 32.8 million Hispanics resided in the United States, representing 12 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

An estimated 38.6 million of the 2002 U.S. population is Hispanic, according to the 2002 U.S. Hispanic Market Report produced by the Miami-based Strategy Research Corp.

The current buying power of Hispanics in the United States is $428 billion, with $250 billion coming from the top 10 U.S. Hispanic markets, as identified by SRC.

The U.S. Hispanic population is projected to reach 150 million and make up more than a third of the U.S. population in 2050, SRC reports.

"As a sports league, we can't afford to ignore the group," Nunez said. "The Hispanic players in the NBA might not be household names in the U.S. yet, but they are just as important to their countries as Shaq (O'Neal) and Kobe (Bryant)."

Nunez brainstorms ways to bid a basketball bienvenida to the Hispanic audience in the Top 10 U.S. Hispanic markets that are the locations for 11 NBA teams.

He considers the three-time defending NBA champion Lakers, the Clippers and the 2004 NBA All-Star Game, all tied to Los Angeles, the No. 1 U.S Hispanic market with 7 million Hispanics bearing $77 billion of buying power.

Nunez makes plans to publicize Gasol, Hilario, Ginobili and fellow Argentines Juan "Pepe" Sanchez (Detroit) and Ruben Wolkowyski (Boston), Belize's Milt Palacio (Cleveland), Puerto Rico's Carlos Arroyo (Utah) and the Dominican Republic's Felipe Lopez (Minnesota).

With Najera of the Western Conference-leading Mavericks, Nunez hopes Mexicans, who account for 66.1 percent of the U.S. Hispanic population, will follow the hard-working sixth man from Chihuahua, Mexico.

The league helps Najera hold clinics for Mexican youths, arranges autograph signings and retail appearances in Mexican communities and promotes him on "NBA en Espanol" and with other league mediapartners.

This year, the NBA partnered with Telemundo -- the Spanish- language U.S. network the league acquired last year for $2.7 billion -- to air 15 games. Eight NBA teams have Spanish-language radio game broadcasts that can complement the Web site.

Already, the NBA's initiatives have scored domestically, as reflected in rising figures in the 2002 ESPN Sports Poll.

Of the 124 million in the NBA's U.S. fan base, Hispanics make up 14.5 percent, the greatest portion of any U.S. major pro sports league including the NFL (11.4 percent). Major League Soccer and boxing, however, rely even more on Hispanic viewership, with Hispanics accounting for 18.2 and 17.4 percent, respectively.

More Hispanics give "favorite sport" status to the NFL (25.3 percent), with the NBA second (15.6).

"U.S. sports leagues, particularly the NBA and the NFL, need to make sure that the Hispanic market is being properly served," said Majorie J. Rodgers, the NFL's senior director of brand and consumer marketing.

"We're challenged to try to get Hispanics to become fans of truly American sports that, unlike soccer or baseball, they did not grow up playing."

Like the NBA, the NFL used the latest census to launch a concentrated marketing effort for the Hispanic audience in 2002. The NFL partnered with Lumina Americas, a Hispanic marketing firm, and conducted 883 phone surveys across 10 U.S. markets, including Los Angeles/Orange County.

"We found that so much of what's important to Hispanic sports fans is also important in the NFL: hard work, team concepts, social connections," Rodgers said.

"They also like to come together to watch sports, which is how most people watch soccer and the NFL."

The NFL has teams in seven of the top 10 U.S. Hispanic markets and awarded its newest franchise, the Houston Texans, and its next Super Bowl, to the No. 5 market.

Last month's Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego showed the NFL's Hispanic outreach. There were Latino business seminars, Pepsi Latin Day appearances at the NFL Experience by San Francisco quarterback Jeff Garcia and six other NFL players, and a football clinic in Tijuana led by former Miami Dolphins wide receiver Nat Moore.

"Being a Mexican American makes me want to follow Hispanic minorities and their sports, whether it's the Rams, the Raiders, the Angels, Lakers or the Dallas Mavericks with Najera," said Gus Herrera, 54, of Santa Ana.

"Sports are sports in any culture."

Advocates of stray imports have become pets' best friends


USA Today

(Copyright 2003)

If you have not seen the plight of stray animals -- dogs, cats and horses -- that roam our streets and beaches in Puerto Rico, starving and often abused, you can't imagine how grateful we are to U.S. shelters that have been willing to take at least some of the dogs ("Animal shelters in USA send away for more strays," News, Jan. 31).

I've been working in animal welfare for 13 years, and progress has been due almost entirely to advocates of pet imports, such as the Save a Sato Foundation, who donate their energy and resources to help alleviate some of the suffering of stray animals.

Paula M. Crandall
Dorado, Puerto Rico

Don't forget about home

I was surprised to read that dogs are being brought in from outside the United States to satisfy the need for adoptable pets in the Northeast.

I live in Moore County, N.C., and serve on the board of Animal Advocates of Moore County, a non-profit animal rescue group. It would be most welcome to consider saving some of the thousands of dogs and cats that are euthanized each year here in Moore and neighboring counties.

USA TODAY's story was heartwarming, and the fact that some regions have a dearth of strays is encouraging. But there is an epidemic of unwanted animals in certain regions of the USA. Charity should begin at home.

Kate Stapleton
Pinehurst, N.C.

Spay and neuter pets

I was pleased to read that unwanted dogs are being imported for adoption in the United States rather than being left to die in their native countries. However, many communities have a dog-and-cat- overpopulation crisis and far more dogs and cats than they can find homes for, resulting in the deaths of millions of animals.

As long as people continue to demand puppies from breeders and pet stores, this crisis will continue.

The U.S. Postal Service is trying to publicize this issue with a new set of stamps encouraging people to spay and neuter their animals. I hope readers will request and purchase these stamps from their local post offices and use them on all of their letters.

Thank you, USA TODAY, for reporting on this issue.

Nora Kramer
San Francisco

Choose shelters over pet shops

Many cities' pounds are going overseas for homeless dogs.

What a great idea.

Much of North America seems to be catching on to what many have known for years: There is a serious problem with stray dogs and cats, and adoption is a kind and effective way to acquire a wonderful pet.

I adopted three out of my four pets, and they turned out fine. The one I bought from a breeder almost died because of the lack of care it had received there, even though I paid considerably more for getting him.

People should seriously consider avoiding pet shops and breeders because they contribute greatly to the overpopulation crisis.

Adopting from a shelter saves lives and results in loving, affectionate and grateful companions.

Richard Hansen
Phoenix, Ill.

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