Hispanic NASCAR Fans Break The Mold

It is surprising how many companies make the "se habla espanol" mistake: They assume that, to tap the $925 billion buying power of Latino consumers in the U.S., one can simply translate general marketing efforts into Spanish.

Nothing could be further from the truth. To really make the most of this extraordinary opportunity -- to win the hearts and minds of the greatest proportion of Hispanics possible -- you need to understand that their likes and dislikes, desires and concerns, are often vastly different from those of non-Hispanics.

One internationally prominent marketer that knows this and has been working hard to understand and appeal to U.S. Hispanic consumers is NASCAR. The sport signed on its first Hispanic driver, Juan Pablo Montoya, in 2007; and today, 38% of U.S. Hispanics consider themselves at least "casual fans" of NASCAR -- essentially the same proportion as for non-Hispanics (42%).

A key aspect of marketing to Hispanics is accurate research -- and a new report on Hispanics and NASCAR from Knowledge Networks and sports marketing agency rEvolution takes a top-quality approach to representing all aspects of the Hispanic community in the U.S. The study points out that, to grow deeper roots among Hispanics, NASCAR needs to turn its casual Latino followers into "avid fans" -- and that will require thinking about the marketing of the sport in some slightly different ways.



The driver is not king (or queen): Although non-Hispanic NASCAR fans tend to become very focused on a favorite driver, Hispanics are much less engaged at this level; only 19% are aware of Montoya, and, in general, they tend to root for the most successful drivers. So bringing in more Latino drivers may not have the effects one might expect.

Build the family unit: Hispanic NASCAR fans often do not know friends or family members who share their interest -- so they do not experience the same sense of community that non-Hispanic fans often feel. Finding ways to make the sport more "social" could help solidify this fan base.

Speed gets attention: 59% of Hispanic NASCAR fans say that the speed of the cars was a key factor in attracting them to the sport; so highlighting that aspect of NASCAR could be destined to draw more interest from Latinos.

One important aspect of this study is its representation of Hispanics who do not use the Internet at least occasionally -- a remarkable 44% of the U.S. Latino population. We have found that the problem is more one of lacking access than lacking interest; and so part of this study was use of an unusual, ongoing panel in which non-Internet Hispanics are given laptops and online connections so they can take part. As a result, we know the opinions of a vast number of Latinos who would be missed by conventional online research.

Recognizing the importance of U.S. Hispanic consumers is step number one ... but getting to know them on their own terms through accurate research is a bigger challenge. Be sure your approach to learning about Hispanics is nuanced as this fast-growing community.

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