Hispanic Fandom Breathes New Life Into Major League Baseball

April 3, 2017 Author: Roy Eduardo Kokoyachuk

Anyone who has ever attended a sporting event in Latin America can attest to the passion of Hispanic fandom. The songs, chants, dances, banners and other traditions are similar to fan behavior elsewhere but with the intensity dialed way up.

In the U.S., Hispanic buying power recently surpassed Mexico’s entire GDP. When you add the fact that Hispanic consumer confidence is increasingly positive moving into 2017, you get a perfect storm of opportunity for U.S. sports leagues and franchises to harness Hispanic fan loyalty to elevate the entire industry.

Major League Soccer successfully tapped into the passion Hispanics have for that sport to help fill its stadiums and achieve record viewership in 2016. But come Spring, my attention turns towards baseball.

U.S. Hispanics are, and have long been, baseball fans. As a Latino growing up in Chicago in the 1970’s, I remember cheering for Iván DeJesús when he was traded to the Cubs and later being caught up in Fernandomania. Now, as a resident of Los Angeles, I go see Los Dodgers play when my Cubbies are in town. As I hoot and holler next to my fellow Latinos at ballgames, I’ve often wondered how successful franchises harness the power of Latino fandom.

Aside from drafting Latino players and sponsoring Spanish-language simulcasts, leagues and franchises successful at leveraging Latino fandom understand the elements of their sports entertainment offering that appeal to Hispanics and invest in supporting those features.

To figure out what drives Major League Baseball fandom among U.S. Hispanics and Multicultural Americans in general, MLB and mitú (a Latino-focused digital content network) recently embarked on an effort to deliver digital content that appeals to a younger multicultural audience. In support of that effort, mitú worked with ThinkNow Research to test multicultural fan attitudes against a Fandom Motivation Scale (FMS-r) based on one developed at Florida State University by Yousof Al-Thibiti (2004).

The FMS-r tests 21 fandom drivers in five dimensions including:

  • Quality of Game
  • Social
  • Escape
  • Boredom Avoidance
  • Sports Atmosphere

It turns out that multicultural consumers over-index in 14 of the 21 fandom drivers. Hispanics, in particular, enjoy baseball for reasons that appear to be culturally based. For example, when measuring appeal in the “Social” dimension, Hispanics over-indexed in agreement with drivers such as “Spend time with family/friends” and “Interact with others” at levels beyond all other ethnic groups. As one of the most family friendly of major league sports, MLB has an opportunity to leverage a Hispanic cultural desire to spend time with their families and create positive family experiences in and out of the ballpark.

Another dimension that Hispanics over-indexed in was “Escape”. Foreign-born Hispanics, in particular, were the most likely of any ethnic group to say that “Baseball is entertaining” and that they watch to “Escape everyday pressures”. U.S. Hispanics work hard and baseball gives them much needed escapism.

The game of baseball itself also appeals to Hispanics more than other groups. Of the seven drivers we tested to determine appreciation for “Quality of Game” U.S. Born Hispanics over-indexed in five, including “I like the skill of players”, “I like pitchers’ duels”, and “I like strategy of baseball”.

As the nation’s youngest ethnic group, U.S. Hispanics are breathing new life into America’s pastime. They may be passing some churros and Cracker Jacks but they know a great game when they see it and MLB is delivering.

Download the report here for additional insights:

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