News Column

Celebration of Culture and Commerce

September, 2003, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

Hispanic event marketing has existed for decades, but in recent years it has reached critical mass. Alongside traditional venues such as Calle Ocho in Miami, Fiesta Broadway in Los Angeles, and the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York, cities such as Phoenix, Kansas City, and Chicago now host get-togethers with a big Hispanic draw.

While mariachi festivals and regional holidays occur year-round, the concentration of events during Hispanic Heritage Month makes this the high season for corporate marketers seeking a face-to-face presence in the Hispanic market. Sponsorships available this month range from community fiestas patrias to the Hispanic Heritage Awards at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. (see "Calendar of Events" on the pages that follow).

However, given the fierce competition for Hispanic dollars, merely stringing up a banner in Spanish just won't cut it anymore. "The market has evolved beyond the political pressures that some companies would face if they didn't have, quote, diversity efforts," says Luis Garcia, owner of the San Antonio-based advertising agency Garcia 360°. "Some misinterpreted that as, 'Well, as long as we hang a banner at this event we should be OK.' Now it's a fundamental business decision that says, 'Our business depends on our ability to attract and keep Hispanic customers.'"

Mr. Garcia often recommends that his clients target their advertising to niche-market Hispanic events. At the same time, he believes major events that dominate Hispanic Heritage Month can help a company hoping to reach the Hispanic community.

"It seems Hispanic Heritage Month tends to cluster a lot of events during the month [or] month-and-a-half, so advertisers realize that gives them a window on their calendar to focus on activities for the Hispanic community," Mr. Garcia adds. "The challenge is to stand out. If you attend some of those big events, it's just a mass of people and advertisers. The advertiser has to be careful not to get lost in the clutter. But sometimes it's good for a company just to have a presence."

Obviously, marketers aren't the only beneficiaries of partnerships between corporations and Hispanic events. Antonio Tijerino, CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Awards Foundation, has seen his awards event and associated programs such as scholarships benefit from some companies' desire to do more than just attract Hispanic consumers. "Our sponsors are here for the mission ultimately, not just to be part of the celebration, and therefore somehow show they are involved with the Hispanic community," he says. "I think it runs deeper than that, and they are completely connected to us on a commitment level that goes beyond selling products."

Because the Hispanic Heritage Awards Foundation's mission is to promote strong role models, Mr. Tijerino must be selective about which corporations sponsor its events. "We're flexible as long as it makes sense to the ultimate mission," he explains. "We've had requests from some sponsors that just didn't make sense. We've had to say no, and that's not an easy thing to do in this environment, but it has to make sense with our mission."


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