Latinos: The NFL’S Secret Commercial Weapon


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Latinos have become the new niche market for the NFL, with a skyrocketing Hispanic audience quietly emerging as one of the reasons for the game’s continuing unbridled success. In 2012, the NFL attracted a record number of Hispanic viewers, and Super Bowl XLVII drew in nearly 10 million Latino viewer ages 12 and up, according to Nielsen statistics.
Those numbers are even higher this season.
“Without overstating our role, there is a role the NFL can serve in terms of being a bridge to American culture,” says Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s vice president of fan strategy and marketing.
“The NFL is such a strong American passion and a badge of our culture. In a lot of American communities, football is a glue.”
The league credits the phenomenon to a decade-long plan to build a Hispanic fan base developed by former commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
That plan led to the NFL hosting a game in Mexico City in 2005, which is credited as a springboard for attracting and developing a Latino fan base.
A godsend for the NFL has also been the stardom of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, the son of Mexican immigrants whose tight family has not been shy about proudly talking of his American Dream story in becoming the face of what has long been called “America’s Team.”
“The Cowboys have such a strong Hispanic fan base, you can’t help but see the number of fans that support us at training camp and through the year,” says Romo.
“It’s awesome to be part of a team that gets that support, and I just really appreciate the support they give us.”
According to an ESPN poll, some 25 million Latinos in the United States identify themselves as NFL fans who have helped make the last two Super Bowls the most-watched TV programs – in English or Spanish — among U.S. Hispanics.
This season the NFL also recognized Hispanic Heritage Month by engaging in league-wide and team-sponsored initiatives focused on the Latino communities in NFL team cities that surpassed anything done in the past.
Additionally, the NFL has been involved in education efforts explaining the complex rules of the game, in presenting NFL-related programming on both Univision and Telemundo, and in simulcasting Spanish-language commentary during English-language broadcasts.
Latinos and the NFL
For the league, it has been an incredible marketing success especially considering that beyond Romo, there are few Latinos playing in the NFL. Latinos make up less than one percent of players…
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