July 29, 2009

Waiting Eagerly for the World's Biggest Sporting Event

I vividly remember the World Cup 1994 finals at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena – Brazil versus Italy. Penalty kicks. 3-2. Brazil wins! A group of us rushes onto Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena to join several hundred soccer fanatics to celebrate Brazil’s fourth World Cup title. People cheering and dancing. Drums banging. We’re all Brazilians for the moment. What a feeling. All this comes back to me as we are now just one year from the start of World Cup 2010 in South Africa. I can’t wait.

I’m a fervent fan of the world’s game. But now I have a slightly different perspective than I had in 1994 – that of a sports PR guy. Clearly, my career choice was no mistake.

I’m always interested to see what brands do to capitalize on an event that captures an audience unsurpassed by anything else on this planet, and how they strategically use the World Cup to connect with Latino consumers. Sure, official FIFA partners will play their part with ads, promotions, etc. Coca-Cola is busy polishing the streets worldwide for the “FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour by Coca-Cola” (starts on September 24 in Cairo). But are other beverage brands standing on the sidewalks and letting this captive audience march by them?

I hope not. After all, this is an event that every four years brings countries to a stand-still and drives grown men to tears. In my view? Those brands that don’t have the millions of dollars needed to utilize that iconic logo still have a powerful opportunity to engage consumers (not just sports fans) in really authentic ways. In ways that truly connect with the fans and somehow enhance their experience.

One example I can offer up occurred in 2006. Our client, a mobile communications provider, partnered with the Univision Network to provide its subscribers with video highlights of World Cup matches minutes after the conclusion of the match. This was the first time this had been offered, and we seized the opportunity to tell the story to both sports and technology media. In addition to distributing the standard press materials needed, we provided phones to key Hispanic media across the country so that they too could experience this technology while keeping up-to-date on all of the video highlights. The media coverage that we secured was great, with many sportscasters showing the new phone and technology during their nightly sportscast.

Importantly, it was memorable to those who experienced it. It was the kind of thing that had media, rabid fans – and even casual fans – huddled around phones to re-watch clips – to re-live the experience because it was too sweet to let it pass quickly.

It’s really a no-brainer that Latinos love soccer, and the opportunities to reach them utilizing World Cup are endless, especially if a brand has the internal cheerleaders to kick this through the proper channels and seize this moment.

We have been fortunate enough to represent forward-thinking brands that appreciate the passion of the World Cup which is especially prevalent among U.S. Latinos. Yet not one of these clients has ever been an official partner or sponsor. Some have budgets for multi-layered campaigns, but most have modest budgets that require PR creativity (and a little bit of persuading to the legal department). What they’ve all had in common? They all understood that the passion for the game is what matters the most.

I’m not yet sure if I’ll be in the streets of South Africa in 2010 (though I will be if I have my way). But I know I’ll be watching it somewhere with friends. And as the final seconds of the clock run out in the final match in Johannesburg, for that moment we will all be Brazilians or Italians or Argentineans or Spaniards. All of us? We’ll be fans of fútbol.

What memorable moments have you had around fútbol or any other sport?

Mario Flores is partner and managing director of Sportivo. He can be reached at Mario.flores@sportivo.us.

July 15, 2009

Latinas Influencing Latinas

After nearly 17 years in this country, I’ve become what marketers would refer to as “acculturated.” Yet I realize that some of the opinions I value most are those of two foreign-born Latinas who help me manage my daily life: my housekeeper and my nanny. Sonia and Ana have become my “influencers” in that they shape many of the decisions and choices I make in both my personal and professional life.

Sonia and Ana are from Guatemala. They are Spanish-dominant and overwhelmingly consume Spanish-language media. They speak English but feel more comfortable with Spanish, and family and religion continue to play an important role in their lives. Both share an incredible work ethic (something you don’t find every day in today’s professionals), a sense of humor and an innate wisdom about life in spite of the enormous challenges they have overcome to be in this country. They love me unconditionally and treat my family like their own.

I have witnessed how these women, as well as many immigrant and technically “un-acculturated” Latinas, have the ability, knowledge and experience to influence beyond their own inner circles of immediate family, relatives and comadres. In categories such as food, beverages, household products, healthcare and even fashion, estas dos mujeres have influenced me a great deal. Ana, for example, knows exactly what to buy for us at the market; she helps me stay on budget and has been savvy enough to convince me to shop more carefully to save on organic produce and other products.

Sonia now purchases many clothing items for my kids because she finds them at very affordable prices in downtown L.A. Ditto for the beautiful custom jewelry pieces that I love. And of course, home remedies! Their recommendations have led me to question what I purchase and try other brands or alternatives I can make at home.

A lot has been said lately about influencer marketing, segmentation and the growth of the acculturated Hispanic segment. More and more, emphasis is being placed by some on reaching the acculturated Latina – like me. Reaching out to women like Ana and Sonia has become “un-cool” to some marketers, or too easy or not challenging enough to others.

But yet, as some marketers are racing to deliver influencer-marketing programs, how can they ignore Ana and Sonia? I have heard some marketers claim that the more acculturated women like me are influencing women like Ana and Sonia. Could it be the other way around? Why not open ourselves to this possibility?

If you consider yourself an acculturated Latino(a), do you have examples of less acculturated Latinos influencing your choices?

Roxana Lissa is Founder and President of RL Public Relations + Marketing. She can be reached at Roxana.lissa@rlpublicrelations.com.

July 1, 2009

La mantequilla de maní y el arte de la adaptación (Peanut butter and the art of cultural adaptation)

We speak español at RLPR, though we sometimes misinterpret each other. Tal vez es porque hablamos argentino, peruano, panameño, mexicano, salvadoreño, puertorriqueño and more – so we have to do some work to decipher each other’s dialects. While this is unquestionably conducive to our ability to do good work, it comes with its challenges. On more than one occasion we’ve been distracted by the impromptu Independence Day celebration in the kitchen with pisco sours - not to mention the dispute that arises when the drink’s origin gets called into question (Peru vs. Chile, anyone?).

About six months ago, I was thrilled at the arrival of my colleague Ana Cerón to RLPR. Ana came to us following a successful PR career in Mexico DF followed by two years of Hispanic marketing here in Los Angeles. While most of our agency folks are bilingual and bicultural (Ok, our CFO isn’t, but his Spanish is getting better every day), the task of proofing the writing often gets delegated to those of us who learned our conjugaciones and pretéritos perfectos in la madre tierra.

So when we got a heavy duty writing project - the Spanish-language adaptation of a client website - I called Ana. This project included a few hundred recipes and frankly, nothing gets a bunch of Latinos as confused and excited about language as what to call your favorite childhood food. I mean, our earliest memories - our IDs - are riding on this one, gente! Who can forget el postre especial de la abuelita. And don’t dare call it a crepa if it was in fact a panqueque. ¡No te atrevas…carajo! (Disclaimer – carajo and other words are not that bad where I come from.)

And off went Ana. I said to her: “Some of these have already been translated, but take another look since it’s been a while.” A few days later, and to my dismay, I noticed that a lot of the ingredients and even some recipe names had been changed. I needed an explanation.

Yanka: Oye, ¿qué paso con estas recetas?
Ana: Es que tenían muchas palabras que no se usan.
Yanka: ¿Cómo? ¿Qué es esto de crema de cacahuate? Se dice mantequilla de maní.
Ana: No. Es crema de cacahuate. Maní suena extraño.
Yanka: Llama a la argentina. (El árbitro más cercano.)
Romina: Nosotros no usamos mantequilla de maní. Comemos dulce de leche… En todo caso, se dice MANTECA de maní.
Yanka: Me alegra que ya todo esté claro. ¿Y qué es esto de nieve de mora? Te digo que es sorbete de arándano…

And this exposes briefly why launching campaigns in the Hispanic market is practically an art form. While it may seem easy to translate something, the writing process alone is intricate. We think of our target consumer and in some cases need to discuss minute details to figure out what to call a sandwich.

Beyond translating a text, we publicistas need to figure out who the campaign will reach and where: is it Southern California or DC? Young bilingual Latinos or Spanish-dominant moms? How do we reconcile the differences when we go nationwide? In some cases, it even makes sense to resort to English-language words that we wouldn’t be caught dead using in conversations with our primos back home. All in the name of dealing with cultura in the press.

Which is why I’m happy to have Ana and the dozens of folks here at RLPR whose cultural experiences and knowledge are so valuable to our day-to-day work. We’re blessed to have an amalgam of countries represented. Even if it means shocking the occasional intern who’s not yet used to our daily harangues on language and culture. Next week: dulce de leche: ¿uruguayo o argentino?

So, gente - what other words cause you to argue with your Latino friends and family? Share in the comments - we want to know!

Yanka Burgos is Vice President at RL Public Relations + Marketing. She can be reached at yanka.burgos@rlpublicrelations.com