Minor League Baseball Announces the Inaugural “Copa de la Diversión” (“Fun Cup”)

The original four uniforms in the “Copa de la Diversion” series (via MiLB)

Three years in the making, Minor League Baseball (MiLB) announced today the creation of the inaugural “Copa de la Diversión” or “Fun Cup”.

The 33-team, 165-game, season-long event series is designed to embrace the culture and values that resonate most with participating teams’ local U.S. Hispanic populations.

This new initiative looks to build on the success of the “It’s Fun to Be a Fan” (“Es Divertido Ser Un Fan”) MiLB campaign launched in 2017.

The 33 clubs will not only take on Spanish language brand identities but will also integrate Hispanic culture into the fan experience including Spanish public address announcements and concession menus.

The campaign was put together by Vice President of Marketing Strategy and Research Kurt Hunzeker and his team as part of MiLB’s plan to break 50 million in attendance by 2026. MiLB and their member clubs had a total attendance of 41.8 million fans, made up of 14.5 unique attendees during the 2017 season.

“We started putting together the plans three years ago when we started diving into attendance trends,” Hunzeker said. “According to ESPN sports polls, 18.3 million U.S. Hispanics designated themselves fans of Minor League Baseball. Nielsen Scarborough data told us more about the demographics of the attendees coming through the gates. That data showed that only 1.8-1.9 million Hispanics were actually attending games.”

This significant gap between self-designated fans and those coming through the gates was what Hunzeker called the “neon light”.

“The question became ‘how do we close that gap?’ That led to us diving into what other sports properties had done, and trying to learn more about the Hispanic population in each of MiLB’s 160 communities,” Hunzeker said. “There was one key element that stood out, whatever we do, it cannot be a one-hit wonder or gimmick; it can’t be a singular heritage night. Pawtucket, which has a rich Puerto Rican community, is going to adopt the Osos Polares nickname every Tuesday this season, which is 10 of their 70 home games. It makes all the sense in the world for them, and that’s been the feedback we’ve received from all of the clubs participating.”

The 2018 season was supposed to be the pilot season for the “Copa de la Diversión,” but when putting together the 10-year plan three years ago, MiLB and Hunzeker decided it was worth making a priority.

“In our original 10-year plan, we were planning to use 4-6 teams as a pilot program in 2018, but as we built algorithms and started testing what attendance might look like if we implemented certain campaigns, we immediately decided we couldn’t wait and tore up the first five years of our marketing plan and pushed the national Hispanic fan engagement initiative to the forefront,” Hunzeker detailed. “This initiative is something clubs have wanted, and we are now helping break the ice for clubs to engage with their Hispanic communities.”

Four teams took part in the pilot program last season, including the Las Vegas 51’s, who took on the Las Vegas Reyes de Plata moniker.

Amed Rosario sports the Las Vegas Reyes de Platas uniform unveiled in 2017. (Photo via MiLB)

Over the course of the season, Las Vegas averaged around 2,200 fans on Tuesday’s, but on the three Tuesdays they played as the Reyes de Plata, attendance increased to 3,400.

Hunzeker and his team have worked closely with the participating teams to come up with how to measure the success of the “Fun Cup”.

“The 33 clubs have invested almost $500,000 to start engaging with their Hispanic communities, which shows the commitment at the club level, while we are also investing at the league level,” said Hunkezer. “We asked all 33 clubs to build marketing activation plans and what key performance indicators (KPIs) they would be using so that at the league level we can better understand how the teams are measuring success since they are the ones actually putting their boots to the ground.”

If you take away Major League Soccer’s expansion teams, MiLB had the largest positive growth among all professional North American sports properties in 2017. MiLB saw an attendance increase of 1.1%, which the league hopes to increase to 2 % this season.

According to a release sent out by MiLB, the league expects the “Copa de la Diversión” to increase attendance by 100,000 and have an overall impact of  $3 million across the 33 participating teams.

“Total attendance is going to be much higher because this effort is going to bring in new fans, and when you take the anticipated increase in new fans by the $10 average ticket and the average $12 food and beverage spend, clubs are expecting to generate significant revenue,” said Hunkezer.

The 33 clubs that are participating will also be competing for the 3 foot “Copa de la Diversión” trophy which will embark on a tour of the participating cities, as part of a “Gira de la Copa” (“Cup Tour”).

The event series kicks off April 8th in Round Rock, Texas.