Revolutionizing Sports Fandom: Engaging Young Bilingual Latino Fans

In the dynamic landscape of sports fandom, one demographic stands out for its potential to reshape the future: young bilingual Latino fans. These individuals bring a unique perspective to sports, craving innovative ways to express their passion for the game. But that passion goes beyond the field to the experience, whether tailgating or engaging with brand activations. For brands to truly connect with these fans, they must seek to understand and cater to their needs, redesigning the fan experience to create a more inclusive and engaging community.

But what does that look like? Traditionally, sports fandom has been defined by loyalty to teams and players. But that’s evolving as bilingual Latinos navigate between cultures and languages. Understanding cultural nuances and generational differences within the Latino community can translate into higher ticket sales, greater demand for merchandise, and overall fan engagement for leagues.

Because of this, major sports leagues, such as the NFL and MLB, are increasingly embracing the importance of diverse narratives and communities within their fan base. 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 Latinos and invest in supporting those features.

Tapping into this demographic represents a substantial economic opportunity. With nearly 20% of the US population identifying as Latino and 40% considering themselves avid sports fans, there's immense potential for growth and innovation. However, capturing the attention and loyalty of young bilingual fans requires more than gestures like heritage nights, which can be perceived as performative if not integrated into a broader engagement strategy. Engagement demands a deep understanding of Latinos' cultural backgrounds and preferences and a commitment to authentic representation. Sports leagues must incorporate these insights into their growth strategies, ensuring the fan experience reflects the diverse communities supporting them.

In this episode of The New Mainstream podcast, Jesus Chavez, co-founder and CEO of CABRA Sports, delves into Latino sports fandom, exploring the strategies and cultural insights driving the industry’s evolution.

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Viewers Looking Forward to World Cup Despite Controversy

The 2022 World Cup is scheduled to run from November 20th till December 18th. The tournament was moved from its usual June/July slot because of the intense summer heat in host-country Qatar. The temperature, however, is not the only heat surrounding the tournament. Human rights abuses by the firms building the stadiums and infrastructure to host the event have gotten as much, if not more, coverage than the qualifying matches that lead up to the tournament. Qatar's laws against homosexuality are also creating tension at a time when World Soccer is trying to become more inclusive.

These controversies, however, do not appear to have diminished fans' interest in the quadrennial event, especially here in the U.S., with athletes returning to the tournament after failing to qualify in 2018. This, along with an overall increase in interest in soccer in the U.S., will likely result in strong viewership. To gauge interest in the tournament and measure how the controversies might affect viewers' opinions of sponsors, we conducted a nationally representative survey of 1,550 respondents. We found that 44% of U.S. adults are either somewhat or very likely to view at least some matches. This is an improvement over the last time the U.S. qualified for the tournament, when 37% of respondents in our 2014 survey said they would be watching.

Download the report here.

As usual, Hispanics are the most likely to say they will tune in. Mexico's national team, Argentina, Ecuador, Uruguay, Costa Rica, and (technically not Hispanic) Brazil, will be playing in the tournament. Those teams, along with Team USA, are expected to draw Hispanic viewers who would like to see the FIFA World Cup Trophy return to the Americas.

Millennials primarily drive interest in the tournament.

Forty percent of Millennials are soccer fans. They are twice as likely to be a soccer fan than Gen X and 25% more likely than Gen Z. Major league soccer matches in Atlanta, Seattle and Cincinnati regularly draw larger crowds than baseball games. Millennials are also the age group most likely to watch the World Cup.

Streaming Edges out Regular T.V.

When asked how they plan to watch, streaming edges out broadcast television by 52% to 48%. This holds true across racial groups, except for Hispanics who are slightly more likely to view on T.V. (56% vs 54%).

The only group to report a higher likelihood to watch games on regular T.V. over streaming are Baby Boomers at 69% vs. 34%. The rise in streaming's popularity is evident across all types of content. Sports, however, has been a holdout in that the major networks are generally viewed as the best place to view live events. However, the fact that the World Cup audience skews younger is bolstering streaming over broadcast. Fox Sports and Telemundo and their respective streams have the U.S. broadcast rights for the U.S. Likely viewers, however, are not yet aware of that since 52% of respondents said they would watch on ESPN vs. 35% on FOX and 21% on Telemundo.

Qatar Controversy

Awarding the World Cup to Qatar has been controversial. Accusations of bribery being the reason the tournament was awarded and the fact that the country could not host the tournament in the summer because of excessive heat are concerning but their poor human rights record has garnered the most attention. Building the soccer stadiums in a country with summer highs of 108/109 °F and weak worker protections has caused the death of 6,500 foreign workers. Additionally, homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and punishable by up to three years in prison and death under sharia law for Muslims. This has led some brands who normally sponsor the tournament to pull out of this year's event. Others have issued statements condemning the human rights abuses but have stopped short of pulling their sponsorship.

Fans, however, generally support brands that sponsor the World Cup. Fifty percent say that sponsorship positively impacts their impression of the brand while only 7% say sponsorship would negatively impact their opinion. Negative opinion towards sponsorship is in the single digits across all demos except for Gen Z. 22% of Gen Z say that sponsoring the World Cup this year would diminish their perception of a brand.


While controversy surrounds the 2022 Qatar World Cup, viewership in the U.S. is likely to remain strong and the potential for backlash against sponsoring brands will remain low. The fact that it will be played in the fourth quarter makes it difficult for brands to stay away since it's when most Holiday ad spending takes place. However, brands that choose to sponsor World Cup events this year should also demonstrate their support of the LGBTQ+ community and workers' rights to make it clear where they stand.

In a time when U.S. viewership of international sporting events like the Olympics is declining, more attention will be placed on the expanding World Cup audience. Americans will be tuning in, or more precisely, logging on. Brands that care about staying relevant need to be there with them.

Download the report here.

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Culture and Opportunity Drives Surge in Hispanic Boxing Fandom

Sports fans have been predicting the demise of boxing for years, but lovers of the sport say that trope is played out. Boxing may be controversial, but its fans love the heated rivalries and public feuds that make the headlines, and they're willing to pay for ringside seats.

Latinos are one of the consumer groups driving this craze that often goes unnoticed. While boxing may be declining in popularity among other demographics, it's thriving with Hispanics thanks to the likes of former boxer turned promoter Oscar De La Hoya and the new generation of boxing's elite, like Javier Fortuna, Ryan Garcia, and Canelo Alvarez. Boxing is the ticket to a better life for some Latinos, and for others, it is a cherished tradition passed down from generation to generation, as families gather to watch the fights and cheer for their heroes.

The fandom is paying off for some networks. Of the 25 largest pay-per-view events, 14 featured Hispanic fighters. Spanish-language networks Telemundo and Univision broadcast boxing regularly, while English-dominant networks can't seem to commit. Boxing has proven to be a viable and accessible medium for brands interested in reaching Hispanic audiences.

Roberto Andrade, a feature writer at ESPN, joins us on The New Mainstream podcast for a casual conversation about Hispanics and boxing and why pairing the two just make sense.

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