Major League Baseball teams have developed strategies to attract Hispanics to their own events. It's been paying off: An ESPN Sports poll in 2006 reported that 62 percent of U.S. Hispanics are Major League Baseball fans, compared to 59 percent of the general population.
Mr. Del Prado says Hispanics represent 44.6 percent of the Dodgers' annual attendance. "I tell people all the time how important our Hispanic marketing and the Latino buying power is," he says. "If took just the Latinos in L.A., you'd have the seventh-largest city in the country. The fan base is huge in numbers and in dollars."
"We've done polling and learned that Latinos are our most loyal fans, they listen to more broadcasts, and they spend more money at the concession stands," he says. "We have experienced a lot of growth through our Latino fan base. That's what separates us from the rest."
Other teams are trying to keep pace with the Dodgers, including their American League neighbors, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Hispanic billionaire Arte Moreno purchased the then-Anaheim Angels in 2003 and successfully lobbied to attach "Los Angeles" to his franchise's name. He would later add talented free agents such as outfielder Vladimir Guerrero, pitcher Bartolo Colon, and shortstop Orlando Cabrera.
The moves placed the Angels in position to cut into the Dodgers' substantial Hispanic fan base, which Mr. Del Prado admits "can never be taken for granted."
In August, hiss team held its 10th annual Viva Los Dodgers festival, which turned a section of its parking lot into an outdoor concert complete with booths packed with the Dodgers' key vendors.
While the first Viva Los Dodgers promotion attracted 500 fans in 1997, this year's event drew more than 10,000 spectators, who were treated to an autograph session with Mr. Mota and current outfielder Luis Gonzalez, along with performances by musical artists such as Gloria Trevi and Fanny Lu.
Chorizo and Cervezas
Special events have also paid dividends for other Major League Baseball teams looking to build Hispanic fan bases. For the past two summers, the Milwaukee Brewers have devoted one game to salute its Hispanic audience by transforming into the "Cerveceros."
The team dons jerseys featuring the Spanish translation of "Brewers" and auctions them off after the game, with proceeds going to various area Hispanic scholarship funds.
As part of "Cerveceros Day" in 2006, the organization introduced a new link to its sausage-themed group of racing mascots – "El Picante," a sombrero-wearing chorizo that was marketed into a bobble-head doll for this year's promotion.
"In the past two years, both of those games have been sellouts and our Hispanic chamber of commerce pre-game tailgate fiestas drew 1,000 last year and 1,500 this year," says Rick Schlesinger, executive vice-president of business operations for the Brewers. "So, it's been very successful for us. Just in terms of awareness in the Hispanic community, we think we've make people much more familiar with the Brewers. We've made a lot of inroads there."
Mr. Schlesinger says Hispanics represent the fastest-growing demographic in southeastern Wisconsin, and the largest Hispanic neighborhood in Milwaukee is two miles from the Brewers' home – Miller Park.
"We've wanted to show people that Miller Park is a fan-friendly place that will make you feel comfortable," Mr. Schlesinger adds. "Even if they aren't die-hard baseball fans, it's a place you can bring your family, which our research tells us is important to the Hispanic demographic."
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