The Denver Broncos are working diligently to build out a large Hispanic fanbase, particularly in Mexico.
The team’s efforts began at the start of the 2016 season as the organization discovered its largest concentration of Hispanic fans outside of Colorado was in Mexico, particularly around Mexico City, Marisol Villagomez, Broncos senior marketing manager, said.
“It’s not really by chance,” Villagomez said. “The NFL has done a great job for many decades reaching a global audience and with Mexico being so close, it becomes an organic transition or adaptation. On our end, in the late 1990s, we gained a lot of fans and the generational tradition to have them follow the team has continued.”
The Broncos are in the top 10 of total fans in Mexico, despite never playing in the nation. Mexico has hosted four games, including the first regular-season game outside the U.S. in 2005, which drew more than 100,000 fans. The three games since – 2016, 2017 and 2019 – have drawn more than 76,000 fans.
Since 2016, the then-Oakland Raiders have played twice, with the Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, Houston Texans and New England Patriots each playing once. The 2018 game between the Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams was moved due to unsafe playing conditions.
The league announced there will be Mexico games in 2020 and 2021, with the Arizona Cardinals hosting a game this season. Football’s popularity in Mexico is one reason the Broncos are able to sustain a fanbase without playing in the country. So is Denver’s Hispanic population, which is 31%, according to 2010 US census data.
For their efforts on the ground in Mexico, the Broncos have relied on the guidance of the NFL.
“We rely on their expertise of what is of importance and work with NFL Mexico to decide what we’re doing,” Villagomez said. “We have hosted football clinics, dance clinics, school and hospital visits and sponsorship appearances.”
At the heart of the efforts are social media, which includes 10% of the team’s followers on Facebook page being from Mexico – approximately 410,000 – and 11,000 followers of its Spanish-language “Fanaticos” page. There are more than 30 Broncos fan groups in Mexico to help lead gatherings and watch parties.
Social and digital efforts will be the primary entryway into Hispanic households, Stephen Macias, executive vice president and entertainment and multicultural practice lead at Rogers & Cowan PMK, said. Most importantly, Macias said the efforts need to be authentic community-building efforts and not opportunistic.
“Younger Mexicans and Hispanics are the influencers as it relates to sports and entertainment and it ladders itself through the household,” Macias said. “Digital and social being the main place they’re digesting information and looking for trends. It’s a great combo when reaching out to younger Mexican and Hispanic consumers, sports enthusiasts, to drive loyalty.
“You start with that premise and add on elements,” he said.
Macias said the additional elements are the same that they would be for English language speakers, but in a different language. Likewise, there are differences in customs – and pointed to the way the NFL has had success adjusting to English customs with the growth in the United Kingdom – aided by language similarities.
Villagomez said the team recently launched its first Spanish-language podcast, hosted by the team’s Spanish radio partner’s broadcaster, which she expects will have a significant impact. In 2016, the Broncos started partnerships with Telemundo Denver for a weekly show, as well as a Sunday recap show, and KNRV Radio for radio broadcasts of home and away games. Prior to KNRV, Denver had two other Spanish-language radio partners dating back to 1994.
In addition to social media, the Broncos rely on a competitive aspect, as the team has brought up to five Mexican super fans to Denver for games each of the past few years with an all-expenses-paid trip.
The competition starts with trivia and evolves to a video contest about their favorite Bronco – oftentimes it’s John Elway.
The superfan campaign is an extension of the team’s partnership with Bud Light, which is the only major sponsor on board at the moment, Villagomez said. But that could change in the future, as the organization is still in the “development phase” of its programs in Mexico.
As the team continues to build out its programs to build its Hispanic fanbase, one of the most consistent pieces of the Mexico efforts has been an annual team-bonding trip by the Broncos cheerleaders to the Yucatan Peninsula.
“While they’re there, they take one or two days to go into the community and engage,” Villagomez said. “They are our most important key because they’re there every year.
“But it’s really been a grassroots effort through fan groups and that’s a unique way of engaging with them.”