MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER, BUILDING A FAN BASE

Major League Soccer (MLS) in 2012 had paid attendance in the United States of nearly 6.1 million. This represented an increase of 21.5% over 2011 and plus 51.8% compared to 2010. The 19 MLS teams combined had an average 2012 per-game attendance of 18,801.

Don Garber, commissioner of MLS, told CNBC-TV that his league is growing along with the immigrant population in the United States, and in particular among immigrants of Hispanic origin. MLS actively seeks to attract Hispanics through initiatives like Socio MLS–“a … program to connect with and serve independent Hispanic soccer leagues”–and the MLS website incorporates a link to its Spanish-language version.

MLS is astutely pursuing a strategy that seizes on the predominant demographic trend in the United States. As the recent presidential election demonstrated, Hispanics are increasingly influential, and not just in states like Arizona and Texas, where they have traditionally settled.

The U. S. Census Bureau projects that the Hispanic population will expand from 16.03 % of the total population in 2010 to 21.2% in 2025 and 24.84% in 2035. By 2050, Hispanics should comprise 30.25% of the people residing in the United States.

Just as Hispanics have shown an affinity for soccer, many of them come from countries where Thoroughbred horse racing is very familiar to the culture. Brazil-based TNT Stud, for instance, was a leading buyer at the Keeneland breeding stock sale in November. Many of the jockeys and backside employees at U. S. racetracks are from Latin American nations.

As the Hispanic populace flourishes and continues to spread out across the United States, more and more racetracks have the opportunity to cultivate fans hailing from countries that are horse-racing friendly. Santa Anita, in Los Angeles, long ago demonstrated the wisdom of catering to Hispanics.

NTRA, the Jockey Club, Breeders’ Cup and other organizations involved with boosting racing’s popularity might consider, like MLS, providing a link on their websites to Spanish-language renderings of relevant topics and also to adapting social-media initiatives. A similar approach could, given sufficient time, bring an influx of new players to advance-deposit wagering companies.

Targeted outreach efforts intended to develop Hispanic horse-racing fans need to commence now because successive generations of immigrant families will acquire tastes, consumption habits, and language preferences more like the prevailing American ethos and less like the cultures their ancestors originally came from.

Copyright © 2012 The Blood-Horse. Used with permission.

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