David Beckham Needs to Embrace Hispanic Population in Miami For MLS Team to Be a Success

David Beckham’s much anticipated Miami MLS team cannot hope to be all things to all people. In a fickle sports market whose propensity for failing soccer franchises and under-appreciated sporting events of every stripe, the only way to go might be a hyper-local approach and Latino-centric approach.

David Beckham is a global superstar and no doubt is counting on “Brand Beckham” to elevate the relevance and prominence of the new team across the globe. However, that will do little if anything to sell tickets locally.

What has become obvious is that Beckham and his partners in this venture want the team to have a strong Miami identity, essentially displacing those fans in Broward and Palm Beach counties that have created the backbone for any local Americanized soccer entity in the past. And that is quite alright if Beckham does things the way he now needs to.

With the decision to jump in bed with Miami-Dade County and the idea of “Miami,” which is more a state of mind than anything tangible, the side should completely avoid the American soccer market. Those interested in MLS in the southeast Florida region will gravitate to the club anyway, and those already committed to support the second-division Fort Lauderdale Strikers who play 20 miles up I-95 will remain with their team. The support for the Fort Lauderdale club is largely Yankee (non-native Floridians who have moved from other parts of the country) and Northern European Ex-Pat (British, Dutch and German). And that demographic can be safely avoided for the new MLS team.

In the South Florida metropolitan area, the population is 5.7 million, two million of whom are Hispanic. In a recent poll of Americans age 12-24, ESPN found that soccer was the second most favorite sport. Only NFL was more popular. Among young Hispanic Americans, soccer was number one.

In the United States, the growth of the Hispanic American population has exploded from 14.6 million in 1980 to nearly 52 million in 2011. The Hispanic population is projected to nearly triple from 2011 to 2050 to 132 million. By 2042, minorities will be the majority in the United States.

Today, the third largest Hispanic American population is clustered in and around Miami-Dade County (see graphic below). Currently, the closest MLS team to South Florida is 1,000 miles away in Washington, DC, so the southeastern US is a huge area of the Hispanic population that is currently untapped.

Beckham’s group should take a very strong Hispanic/Latino approach. Name the team something like Club Deportivo Miami or Futbol Club Miami, and make sure every promotion is done in Spanish, not in English. The PA announcements at the ground should be made exclusively in Spanish (although Florida passed many years ago an ethno-centric/race baiting constitutional amendment deeming English as the official language of the state, it has thankfully never been enforced). Local media rights should be sold in Spanish first. This is especially smart considering the Spanish language press has far greater reach both in terms of TV and Radio in the local market than the English-language press. This is actually the case in Fort Lauderdale-based Broward County as well as Miami-based Miami-Dade County.

Additionally, since concerns have been frequently aired that local Hispanics gravitate to clubs in their own countries rather than in the United States, this approach could help connect with that fan base. It should also be noted that since this tired old argument has been trotted out since the late 1990s, many Americanized fans of the game have turned away from MLS and towards the English game in the period since the Fort Lauderdale-based Miami Fusion were contracted by the league in 2001.

While this may seem extreme to some American soccer fans and also reinforce ugly stereotypes about Miami, it is in a crowded and difficult entertainment landscape that an effort needs to be made to connect directly with the fan base that will support the club. Trying to paint too broad an approach in an American sporting style will only lead to failure. As I have advocated with any soccer club in the fragmented Florida market, hyper-localism and community based appeals are the only thing that works. I know many perceive Miami to be a “go big or go home” market, but that in my opinion is simply wrong. The Florida Panthers of the NHL are about as unsuccessful a franchise in terms of wins and losses as any team in American pro sports, yet their highly localized western Broward County/Yankee immigrant approach has kept the team viable through the years. The team does alright attendance wise given the constant failures on the ice. While critics will claim attendance spikes occur when Montreal, New Jersey or the New York Rangers visit town (each has a large local fan base), the truth is the Panthers do decently well for what they are and where they are in general.

Local soccer supporters connected to the English/German pub culture and Premier League/Bundesliga on television are likely to stick with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at least in the short term. Hispanic fans who have been displaced from the local soccer scene want badly to have a team to call their own. David Beckham can and should provide that, and in the process can create a successful business model that other MLS clubs eager to attract ethnic fans can partly mimic.

30 thoughts on “David Beckham Needs to Embrace Hispanic Population in Miami For MLS Team to Be a Success”

  1. That’s an interesting idea. I’ve only been to Miami on business or vacations, but I don’t think of it as a very Anglo-Saxon-y town; I think of it being almost like a bit of Latin America/Caribbean in the US. So, it probably makes sense to market the team as such.

  2. I don’t think any of us need to give David Beckham pointers on the art of Marketing. He has done just fine so far.

  3. I think this article fails to note that while a huge percentage of Hispanics in the US are of Mexican descent, Miami’s Latino community is heavily Caribbean, and Cuban in particular. Soccer is the #1 sport in Mexico, but not in much of the Caribbean.

    Additionally, the Marlins tried this very recently, by moving to Little Havana, obtaining Jose Reyes, and hiring Ozzie Guillen as manager. The experiment failed, even before the owner tore the team apart.

    These facts don’t mean the strategy wouldn’t work for the MLS team; they just show that this article isn’t very thorough.

    1. In fairness the population we are talking about targeting is largely South and Central American. The Cuban-American population is only 38% of Hispanics in Miami-Dade County. Puerto Rican population is minimal in Miami-Dade (it is a bigger chunk of the pie in Broward actually) as well. A stereotype nationally exists that the hispanics in Miami are largely Cuban/Dominican. That is 1980s thinking.

      1. True but that doesn’t mean you can afford to ignore the Cuban population. Cubans are still the largest Hispanic group in the area with the most spending money. I believe Dominicans are the 5th largest behind Colombians, Nicaraguans, and Peruvians.

  4. “The PA announcements at the ground should be made exclusively in Spanish (although Florida passed many years ago an ethno-centric/race baiting constitutional amendment deeming English as the official language of the state, it has thankfully never been enforced).”

    why pander to cubans but not to mexicans in texas and california on spanish? and what’s wrong with english as the “official language” of the USA? kartic is showing his far left bias again.

    1. I think that marketing plan is a very bad idea. Chivas took a similar approach in LA, but to a lesser extent and it completely alienated any non-Mexican supporters and the club (and even youth academy) have suffered because of it. I fully appreciate making an effort to bring in the Hispanic community, but not at the extent of alienating everyone else.

      1. “I think that marketing plan is a very bad idea. Chivas took a similar approach in LA, but to a lesser extent and it completely alienated any non-Mexican supporters and the club (and even youth academy) have suffered because of it.”

        racism from mexico can also alienate people, even from californians who are symphathetic to their plight.



        1. I think a better way to do it is what the Houston Dynamo did. Houston has one of the largest Honduran populations in the country. They brought in Honduran internationals Boniek Garcia and Alexander Lopez (who are also actually good) and they have them involved in the local community, but they still market in English, etc… This attracts supporters from the targeted audience, without alienating the English speaking audience.

    2. As a former business owner in Tampa, I learned that in order to approach the entire market one needs to speak Spanish. I hired a Spanish speaker and told her to only speak Spanish to me. I learned to speak Spanish.
      Politics and football are inexorably connected. I think we Americans sometimes lose sight of this fact. However, in order to have a successful business, one sometimes has to put politics aside.

      1. the fact that mr beckham chose miami means he wants to court the hispanic community.

        whether he will be successful with a la raza style approach is up for debate.

  5. “although Florida passed many years ago an ethno-centric/race baiting constitutional amendment deeming English as the official language of the state, it has thankfully never been enforced).””

    official language means “language of government”. it was never meant to be enforced in private business or at home. when the governor of florida and other local officials starts governing in spanish (ala puerto rico) and official state documents are mostly written in spanish, then the law will start to kick in (hopefully).

  6. “The PA announcements at the ground should be made exclusively in Spanish”

    remember how that worked out in california, after mexico defeated usa 4-2 at the gold cup finals. good for tim howard to speak up. shame on landon donovan for taking it like a wimp (no wonder the guy was “lost in the wilderness” for a while)

  7. Many interesting points, but I do have to disagree with some points.

    PA announcements in Spanish, Spanish rights selling first … this sounds a bit more like pandering than marketing, and would pose the risk of ending up like the fiasco at CD Chivas USA.

  8. “The PA announcements at the ground should be made exclusively in Spanish.”

    Are you f#cking kidding? Does a serious and heartfelt outreach to the Miami Hispanic community really require insulting local non-Spanish-speaking American soccer fans?

    I’m no “English-only” conservative. I’m totally fine with bilingual education, government forms and signs, etc., but I would be more than a little offended if I went to an MLS game and couldn’t understand the announcer, the program or stadium signage. And I would not come back. I guess you think that they can build a fanbase that complete excludes the “Yanquis.”

    You are over the line with that suggestion.

    1. Well I’m from Miami. I’m Cuban-American. I agree with you. It would be foolish to have simply have announcements only in Spanish. There are plenty of people in Miami who don’t speak Spanish. Americans, English speaker people from the Carribean, Haitians, Brazilians, Russians and Latinos who lose their Spanish by being brought up in the USA. Not to mention you have a ton of snow-birds who come down from other parts of the USA, Canada and Europe who don’t speak Spanish. The person who wrote this article really doesn’t understand how complex and diverse Miami really is.

  9. Wow look at all those Hispanics in Southern California! Maybe MLS should try this strategy there, too! They could name the club something in Spanish and sign a bunch of Mexican players. That way all of the Hispanic immigrants who live there will feel connected to the club. There is NO WAY that wouldn’t be a HUGE success!

  10. Does this segment have enough money to spend? I think the idea should be trying to attract people who have spending power to be fans of the team and also make sure that people will want to pay for this.

  11. Some of you guys are totally missing the point here. What’s the goal for Beckham and his friends? To put in place a situation where a Miami MLS team has the best possible chance to succeed, correct? Nobody can argue much with Kartik’s assertion that spending time marketing to the portion of South Florida’s soccer fanbase that actually cares about domestic pro soccer is foolish. Why? Because those people are by and large up in Broward and Palm Beach counties, not in the heart of Miami. And MLS insists on this team being in the heart of Miami. That’s why you’re suddenly seeing a baseball stadium with terrible soccer lines, and a season that runs very concurrent with MLS emerging as the front runner for its first home. People in Broward and Palm Beach, again, for the most part, aren’t driving to downtown Miami. So what does that force the team to do? Get Miamians to BE their fanbase. Except, history shows us CLEARLY that the largely hispanic population of Miami doesn’t give a rat’s ass about American pro soccer. They just don’t. 70,000 for Messi and Barca? You bet. 50-something-thousand for AC Milan and Chelsea? Sure. MLS? Not so much. So how do you get them to come? There will be no “star” players. The rules don’t allow it, and even if they did, those players aren’t coming to MLS. That would be financial idiocy. They have to connect to the hispanic community somehow. I don’t think Kartik is saying it will definitely work, or ven that he personally endorses this idea. I think he just makes a case that it might be the best option they have to try and make a team work in the cityof Miami. And it comes from a person who has actually lived in this market for many years.

  12. I live in Miami and this whole notion that the franchise needs to capture the hispanic audience is kinda misconstrude.

    Like commenters earlier stated, the SoFL hispanic melting pot consists of South/Central/and Caribbean hispanics. Small Mexican contingent in the South (Homestead, mainly). That’s a fact. What I’ve seen is that many of those hispanics that don’t particularly pertain to any Miami FC / Ultras Supporters club, don’t respect the MLS and root for (in bandwagon fashion) the top teams in the world (Barca, Real Madrid,Man U) Hell, many don’t even give a damn about any of their association teams from their home country! Those same folks make fun of the MLS and always dismiss it without taking into account the age of the league and the rise in quality of play and presentation. I will say that we are forgetting that there are Caribbean non-hispanics also that like Soccer in these parts. Why we exclude them, no idea. Maybe it’s pointless, because they do the same thing and root for the best teams in the world since their caribbean country has no team above amateur level. If this is going to work, the future owners as well as the MLS will have to work on capturing THOSE types of fans that I describe because they are the majority. People like myself that care about American Soccer and the MLS are the minority. Well, at least here in Miami it is. I can’t really speak for the rest of South FLorida (FT Lauderdale and Palm Beach) areas but I’m just stating from observation.

  13. A lot of assumptions about the Hispanic/Latino community in Miami. For starters the use of Neymar in the photo is a mistake. Brazilians are not considered Hispanic/Latino because that is a term used for people of Spanish speaking descent. Brazilians speak Portuguese. Understanding the complexity and diversity of Miami’s community is key to marketing.

    Secondly not all Hispanics/Latinos in the Miami area are fans of the sport. The national pastime of Cuba is baseball, not soccer. Cuban-Americans are the largest group of Hispanics in Miami area. The same is true of Puerto Ricans and Dominicans.

    Whether or not a Hispanic in Miami is a fan of the sport not only depends on nationality, but whether or not they were born/raised in the area.

    Many Miami Hispanics of all nationalities have adopted too America’s sport cultural. They are more likely to be fans of the Miami Heat and Miami Dolphins rather than following their parents or grandparents football/soccer teams from Latin America.

    There are also many people in the Miami area from other parts of Caribbean such as Jamaica who enjoy the sport. They should not be ignored in the marketing.

    IMO no group in the Miami community should be ignored and that includes Americans. The marketing should be tailor made for the specific nationality your trying to reach.

  14. As the former marketing director of the NAPSL Phx Monsoon, I understand the Hispanic market ver well. Indeed, the Mexican and Hispanic population would not pay or support a team (represented in your graph). The Mexican owner of the Monsoon was correct with his analysis not to market into the Mexican community as they would not support a U.S. club! They folded the next year. Then the Phoenix USPL PRO team Wolfs came into to town and they tried to market to Hispanic/Mexican population and they failed. Hispanic did not support the team it was the local Yanks who moved to Phoenix from other areas of the U.S. Your assumption is wrong! Hispanic by CULTURE are tied to their own country clubs and nation no amount of greasing the Hispanic wheels by David will not break the CULTURE bound by Hispanic. Your assumption is dead wrong!

    1. I have advocated this ONLY because Beckham and his friends are determined to play in Miami. If they would embrace the local American soccer community which is further north and currently supports the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, they could try and be all things to all people. But if they insist on playing in Miami, they have one strategy to be successful. And I admit it is a long ball. I personally don’t think any team is going to work if it plays in Miami proper. That’s really the issue, but the hispanic strategy is the only viable one in Miami proper because of demographics…not only ethnicity but income. The disposable income is MUCH higher the further north you go in the metro area.

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