Soccer without Borders (in an Absolut World)
Following is a preview of Latino Link: Building brands online with Hispanic communities and content from Paramount Books.
Miguel “Mike” Ramirez, one of the founders of MedioTiempo.com, tells me that their site was officially “born” on February 7, 2000. When it launched, the U.S. Hispanic market didn’t even enter their mind. They built Medio Tiempo for Mexico. Back then, only two options existed for Mexican-Americans to find news about Mexican soccer: the TV stations Univision and Telemundo. Typically, coverage for teams like Chivas, Pumas or Americas would last only a few minutes during sports shows and possibly be reported by a Colombian newscaster. Today, 500,000 unique visitors (according to Google Analytics) visit MedioTiempo.com from the U.S. on a monthly basis, or about 20% of their total audience, without having invested a cent in promoting their site.
“If you make the site appealing to the Mexican user and give them the feeling of what it’s like to be back in Guadalajara or Mexico City for the game, they will return again and again,” says Mr. Ramirez. “This shows the importance of good content. The user is one click away from leaving your site.” Here’s a sampling of their video content on YouTube….
The U.S. users find the site via search and word-of-mouth to get the latest, in-depth news about the teams that they love. Mr. Ramirez says this shows two things: the power of the Internet and the enthusiasm of soccer fans. Their user base perfectly reflects where Mexican-Americans live in the U.S.: 60% live in California and Texas while Arizona, Illinois and New York make up most everything else. In addition, their 2008 site survey showed that the visitors were almost entirely young men, below the age of 40, with over 90% of them owning a computer and cell phone.
Comments from their U.S. survey reflect users’ passion for soccer and desire to find hard-to-get sports news. Here are three select comments (translated from Spanish):
• “I like [MedioTiempo.com] because it’s an informative sports site that provides updates about what’s happening in the world of sports. I hope that you can continue informing us for a long time about Mexican soccer, especially my team – Cruz Azul. Congratulations for being the #1 medium for sports online. Greetings from Houston, Texas!”
• “I am a sports journalist based in Los Angeles and I’m always checking out Medio Tiempo for what you post on your site. In fact, I would be delighted to contribute to your site from Southern California”
• “Hi, my name is Juan. I am pleased with your site. The news allows me to find out what’s happening in the world of sports, without yellow journalism or anything controversial. You represent the positive side of sports with a good, impartial view. My team is “America” [soccer team based in Mexico City] and I follow their games on cable TV. Thank you for your site and I promise to be one of the faithful followers of your web site. Viva México!”
Looking ahead, Mike says that the worst strategy would be to maintain their current Mexico-centered approach. Medio Tiempo, which was acquired by Grupo Editorial Expansion (A Time Inc. Company) in 2008, instead needs to show U.S. Hispanics that they care enough to develop new products for them. With this in mind, Medio Tiempo is planning to launch a U.S. version of their home page with coverage of Major League Soccer (MLS) events, Mexican National Soccer Team games in the U.S. plus their core news about Mexico’s soccer teams. They have also put together a deal with Soccer United Marketing (SUM) who will sell their banner advertising inventory in the U.S. and promote the site among Spanish-speaking soccer fans. [SUM manages the promotional and marketing rights in the United States for Major League Soccer, the U.S. Soccer Federation, the Mexican National Team games in the U.S. and Club Deportivo Guadalajara (Chivas).] In addition, Medio Tiempo will expand their popular fantasy league to include visitors in the U.S. where that they can now enter to win prizes, such as a trip to the world cup games, whereas prior to 2010, the prizes were mainly available in Mexico.
If we were to make a heat map of MedioTiempo.com’s visitors in the U.S., it would probably look pretty similar to the Pew Hispanic Trust’s map below (with the exception of Miami) since Mexican-Americans make up just about 70% of the U.S. Hispanic population.
Or better yet, wouldn’t it look like the maps of the old Mexico since the heaviest concentrations of Mexican-Americans live to the North of the U.S.-Mexico border in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas? Prior to the Mexican-American war of 1848, these five states comprised the northern portion of old Mexico when California was known as “Alta California.” Absolut Vodka with their advertising agency Teran\TBWA created this “map-vertisement” billboard campaign for Mexico that tapped into Mexicans’ desire to return to an “Absolut,” (i.e. perfect) Mexico. While the company received a lot of criticism from their neighbors to the North, the campaign resonated well in Mexico. Your can read Deborah Bonello’s article on the L.A. Times or Absolut’s blog to learn about the details of the campaign.
In the virtual world, couldn’t we say that we already live in the “Absolut” Mexico? Medio Tiempo’s visitor traffic suggests that we do. Many Mexican-Americans already live in this larger, virtual Mexico where they keep in touch with family, friends and soccer scores online in Mexico even though they live in the U.S. However much controversy this billboard ad created, it provides a window of truth into the growth of the Spanish-language Internet.