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El N.B.A.: Diverse Marketing Or a Technical Foul? – MMXLII

El N.B.A.: Diverse Marketing Or a Technical Foul?

While searching for this NBA commercial that targets their Latino demographic and celebrates this demographic with their annual ‘Noche Latina’ promotion, we came across an article that pointed out huge flaws in this marketing push. With the Latino demographic being the largest growing, such flawed marketing is something for brands to take notice of. On the flip side of it though, is this flaw really a flaw or a nod to separate cultures co-existing in a particular space. Give us your thoughts after you read it.


Every March the N.B.A. reaches out to the country’s fastest growing minority with Noche Latina, a campaign to celebrate Hispanic heritage. And every March some bloggers criticize the league for its most visual and commercial aspect: the jerseys worn by certain teams. Instead of translating team names like Heat (Calor) or Bulls (Toros), the N.B.A. simply puts a definite article in front, for a Spanglish touch, with El Heat and Los Bulls.

“Does the N.B.A. really think fans would be baffled by ‘Los Toros,’ ” asked one blogger. “It’s like saying, ‘Yeah, I speako Español.’ La N.B.A. can do better.”

Another complained,  “Why the league would go to such lengths to pander to a certain demographic, yet insult everyone’s intelligence during the process … Toros vs. Espuelas sounds intriguing … and also conveys a more committed stance to the Noche Latina theme.”

The N.B.A., of course, does not have the same level of participation from Latinos as baseball, but the growing Hispanic audience in the United States and abroad is vital to its future. Those “El” and “Los” jerseys actually reflect how committed the N.B.A. is, said the league’s vice president for multicultural marketing, Saskia Sorrosa. Noche Latina started in 2006-7 with players wearing flags from Latin American countries on their jerseys, but the fans did not respond — sales were poor — and players complained, saying it felt demeaning “to have a flag under their armpit,” she said.

The league did extensive market research to learn what fans wanted and said it got a much stronger response to the jersey names it chose than a true translation. (The league also expanded the event to include culturally relevant music and food.) “Fans didn’t relate when the name was in Spanish,” Sorrosa said. “This is what they were using in their own conversation.”

Latino marketing experts said they agreed.

Felipe Korzenny, director and founder of the Center for the Study of Hispanic Marketing at Florida State, said it would have been a tactical error to translate because Latinos do not see the team names as words — lowercase “heat” or “bull” — but as proper nouns, brand names that have equity. “They don’t translate Coca-Cola or Clorox into Spanish,” he said.

Imagine trying to translate iPad into Spanish, he said. (In fact, Korzenny said, he often hears Latinos who think Colgate is a Spanish word and do not understand why Americans do not pronounce it Col-gat-e, as if it were a Spanish word, with three syllables and an accent at the end.)

Beyond that, the use of an article in front is commonplace in the Latino community, especially in the United States. “It is natural for an audience that speaks two languages,” Korzenny said.

The term for switching between two languages in a conversation is “code-switching,” he said, and added that it is common in sports: in baseball, the word pitcher or catcher is not translated by Latino fans; the words simply become “el pitcher” and “el catcher.”

“I grew up in Mexico and I agree, that’s the way we spoke,” said Jorge Ortega, creative director at the Latino-focused marketing group Wing. While he said it would be cool to have uniforms that read “Toros” or “Espuelas” the N.B.A.’s approach is “where we are right now — the culture is assimilating and becoming more multilingual.”

[Source: Off the Dribble, a blog via NY Times]

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