We are in the midst of Hispanic Heritage Month, a month-long celebration of Hispanic and Latino history and culture. From a sports perspective, few are better positioned to celebrate this month than baseball, a community whose Hispanic and Latino presence is undeniable.
Currently, over a quarter of Major League Baseball’s players hail from Latin America and a significant number are American-born with Latino descent. Yet, until recently, this population has been largely ignored by the mainstream sports media. That’s where La Vida Baseball comes in.
Just over a year old, La Vida “celebrates the past, present and future of Latino baseball through [its] own lens and voice.” Its content features a mixture of written and video pieces focusing more on culture than on what happens on the field.
“We’re not asking about the home run or the strikeout at the end of the game last night,” explained Jay Sharman, the CEO of TeamWorks Media, a purpose-driven media company that owns La Vida. “We’re going up and talking about [players’] favorite Mexican restaurants in Chicago or their thoughts on the Hurricane in Puerto Rico.”
To La Vida, discussing passion areas with people who have shared experiences in culture is more important than trying to get in the overcrowded traditional sports reporting space.
This approach has been successful with MLB’s Latino players who quickly warmed up to the publication.
“The receptivity we had from the day we announced it was great. We’ve got a bilingual staff that goes out, meets with and develops relationships with the players and gets stories. The players, regardless of how big a name they were, just were open arms because we’re meeting players on their own terms to talk about their stories,” said Sharman.
One of the earliest stories that took off was a story involving Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli who wanted to talk about the political situation in Venezuela and how he was wrestling with that.
“We immediately were able to strike a chord with the players and earn trust from them that we were providing a voice for the Latino fan, which they loved,” explained Sharman.
Disseminating content they have created has been “a little bit of a wild ride,” according to Sharman as La Vida, like many publishers, has been navigating the changing Facebook algorithm.
Year One has been filled with experimentation and figuring out how to position content on each platform in a way that connects with readers. Today, they are regularly reaching about six million people and focusing on measuring content success through engagement.
“We have a very, very high engagement rate with our content on the platforms that we’re on, especially relative to the size of the social media following. So that’s how we really measure success is the percentage of engagement.”
Its social strategy differs from platform to platform, with Facebook focusing more on fan engagement and Instagram skewing more towards players. As it continues to grow, Sharman says the plan is to figure out how to connect the dots to boost engagements across all platforms.
Across all platforms, language is an ongoing discussion. La Vida’s staff aids in translating Spanish interviews to the site, which is entirely in English. Videos differ and interviews are conducted in whatever language is preferred by the interviewee with subtitles applied if necessary.
Sharman admits translation and captioning are things that La Vida is still experimenting with as the platform continues how to determine the best way to connect with its audience.
One thing Sharman knows that lands well with the platform’s audience, across all ages, is content celebrating the impact of baseball’s historic Latino players. Roberto Clemente is a strong example. Despite passing away before a significant portion of La Vida’s audience was born, content regarding his impact on baseball resonates significantly with the audience, according to Sharman.
This ties in well with the platform’s partnership with the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, an organization that was trying to determine how to best connect with the sport’s largely represented, but immensely underserved, Latino community before the birth of La Vida.
The alliance has served La Vida as well, leading to a franchise called Stories From Inside the Hall, which takes an artifact from Cooperstown and generates context about it in video form.
While Hispanic Heritage Month wraps up in mid-October, La Vida will continue to celebrate Latino culture on its site, honoring the sport’s past, present, and future and the commonalities that bring its multicultural fans together.