By Mike Lewis
On the eve of the next census, Hispanics currently make up an estimated 15.1% of the U.S. population and that number is expected to rise to nearly 18% by 2015, and 30% by 2050. Add in the fact that Hispanics are significantly younger on average than the average American, with 29% under 15, compared to only 17% of non-Hispanic whites and you’ve got a snapshot of your future demographic. So, what are you doing to reach this growing population of Hispanic millenials? If you’re like most in the action sports world, not much. For many this is uncharted and unfamiliar territory with significant challenges to addressing this group authentically.
Fortunately, the Denver-based duo of Juan Alberto de la Roca and Marcus Jimenez have released a detailed, highly insightful report examining the myths and realities of the Latino demographic and how snowboard brands can effectively reach this market. The M.A.S. Report, which has just been released as a free download atMASreport.com, is the first in a series of reports targeting this market for the action sports realm. We caught up with the report’s authors to discuss their insights on this market and the many opportunities that exist for action sports brands.
Why did you decide to create this report and what were your goals?
Juan: Our goal with M.A.S. was simple. Be the first to provide snow sports brands with sound market intelligence on the multicultural youth segment. There were industry myths that needed to be addressed, like socio-economics, geography, and interest levels. We believe the industry really doesn’t have the confidence to adequately address the needs of young multicultural consumers. M.A.S. is meant to elevate the discussion and help point brands in the right direction. Multicultural youth represent the future of snow sports. You can’t ignore their value as customers. This report is about broadening the reach of the snow sports market.
Marcus: The goal of the M.A.S. report is simply to provide the industry with a base level of understanding of [the] incredible, untapped potential that the urban, multicultural marketplace presents. We saw an opportunity to provide the industry with a position piece that can help elevate the discussion while at the same time giving marketers a clear roadmap towards consumer engagement.
Our team is made up of outdoor enthusiasts who are very passionate about the sport and have experienced first hand the awesome beauty and magic the mountains hold. It’s something you can’t really describe or show in photographs; it’s simply just something you have to feel firsthand, an emotional reward in many ways. It’s something I want all my urban and ethnic brothers and sisters to experience and share. So personally, I also see the M.A.S. Report as the catalyst we need to make more of that happen and ultimately, helping expand the sport.
What were your biggest “Aha moments” in the research?
Juan: For me it was how easy it was to debunk the myth of affordability. When we looked at what the average snowboard consumer looked like, especially household income, and examined it in relation with Hispanic statistics, it quickly became apparent that the notion that there was no money to participate in snowboarding was false. That is the first thing people ask when thinking about Hispanics and snowboarding.
Marcus: Another Aha moment came when we synthesized the cultural narratives from all the qualitative analysis pointing towards the emotional benefits that the sport provides. The fact that the mountains presented a reward or symbol of achievement wasn’t just a domestic insight, but a global one. We realized this during our interview with Pamela Flor, a Paraguayan national who now lives in Winter Park. When she described how getting on the hill for the first time changed her entire mindset, and how she was then able to see a path towards a more rewarding and enriching life than the one she led back home, we knew we were on the right path. Her description of how she overcame such adversity and how snowboarding provided her s sense of accomplishment and confidence is an incredibly powerful insight, one that we probably would never have uncovered without conducting this study.
How large is the Hispanic market and what percentage of that do you think can actually be influenced to get into snowboarding?
Marcus: Here are some (convergent) general stats to give you an idea of the scale of the marketplace (pre-2010 census read):
Total Hispanic Population = 46.6 million
Total Buying Power = $951 Billion
Hispanic Millennials = 12.4 Million
Young Millennials (14-18) = 4 Million
Adult Millennials (19 – 29) = 8.4 MIllion
Total Buying Power = $285 Billion
Census: American FactFinder 2009, PewHispanic Center
Can we convert them all-no way Jose. But in our findings, we discovered that over this massive audience, our right-to-win exists squarely with the bicultural Hispanic as they represent the future of the marketplace as native-born births now outpace immigration. They are also the influencers of the broader spectrum and are the gatekeepers we need to help drive the expansion of the sport.
What are the biggest geographic markets where snowboarding can have an impact with this demographic?
Juan: We identified seven key markets based around centers with sizable Hispanic populations that met the same criteria of the average SIA snowboard consumer. They are metro areas of Los Angeles, New York, Denver, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington D. C.
Marcus: Of these seven, NYC and LA combined account for almost 65% of the bicultural Hispanic market aged 14-29. That number equals approximately 5.1 million potential additional consumers. So if you’re doing the math, imagine what incremental sales of just 1% to this group would mean to your bottom-line.
You guys describe skate as the gateway sport to snow. How can snowboarding capitalize on that to get kids hooked?
Juan: Snowboarding’s heritage owes so much to skate-attitude, tricks, music, fashion, et cetera. As the sport grew in the late eighties/early nineties it was easy to fuse the two, a ‘mashup’ in its own right. Skate provides a basis for understanding for the snowboard lifestyle. It’s a natural progression to say, “if I can crush this urban handrail, I can replicate it on that log in the middle of the woods. Better yet, I’m taking something familiar and exporting into a new environment.”
Marcus: Other great influences on the sport have been Hip Hop and urban. In fact, when you look at the whole category of action sports, much of it’s lifestyle is rooted in these two cultures-from music to fashion to even the personas the pro riders embody. This is a lifestyle that was born from and still led by the urban multicultural, and the fact that they are embracing the sport of skate in droves provides an organic playing field for the snow sports industry to engage young potential enthusiasts. A great example of this is what Ruby Hill Rail Yard and the Union Sq. Rail Jam are all about, bringing the mountain experience to the inner city.
What companies and resorts have done a good job of targeting this market?
Juan: As far as brands go, nobody really. The one who’s probably done the most without even really trying is probably Nike. That’s more of a reflection of the fact they’re in so many sports categories. They have pop cultural influence in the form sports and entertainment. Just look at the Nike 6.0 team ads with RZA. But no core snow brand has done a really bang up job targeting this market. This is why the M.A.S. report is so significant on the eve of the census dropping.
When it comes to resorts, there’s nobody better than Mountain High. They’ve built an inclusive environment by using bilingual signage, radio ads and signing Marc Frank Montoya to its team. You’re crazy if you don’t think a billboard with MFM in a Hispanic heavy southern California is helping get multicultural youth on the hill. [Mountain High Director of Marketing] John McColly and his marketing team are showing others how a resort can effectively target the Hispanic market.
Another resort I have a lot of respect for is Winter Park in Colorado. Bob Holme, director of youth marketing, did something really special with the city of Denver in the form of Ruby Hill Rail Yard. It’s the first public free snow terrain park in the country. WP brought an element of the resort into the urban environment in order to introduce people to the sport. If you’re a brand manager and you don’t visit Ruby Hill during SIA in Denver, well you’re missing out on seeing what the future holds with regards to the urban market.
What are the keys to successfully and authentically speaking to Hispanic millenials?
Juan: The key understanding is that your target market is bicultural. They walk, talk, and feel in two cultural worlds, and they navigate easily between both of them. It’s about giving them the means or tools necessary for exploring new concepts and activities.
How important is Spanish advertising to reaching this group?
Juan: Spanish language does serve a purpose. Mountain High is an example of a resort that has used Spanish-language advertising as a way of telling the audience; “Hey, we know you speak Spanish, so when we use it, we’re talking to you.” It does help direct the conversation.
Marcus: Where Spanish language media was once seen as a default line of engagement for reaching Hispanics, bicultural millennials present even more challenges. To say that they only watch English language media is a false assumption as evidenced by the growth of stations like MTV3s and MUN2 who are hugely popular with bicultural audiences. Instead, bicultural Hispanics are tapping into a variety of media outlets both English and Spanish to form their own unique identities. Digital and social media platforms are only adding to the complexity of media targeting.
Utilizing Spanish language advertising and media can also serve a purpose in helping bicultural Hispanic’s influence not just English dominant friends and family. Spanish language media can help raise the awareness within Spanish language communities and social networks, that in effect, help to lower the barriers to entry of lesser-acculturated Hispanics as their level of awareness of the sport rises. So I believe it comes down to context and category, and should be seen on a brand-by-brand basis versus an all out assumption for the category.
There’s often the view that the Hispanic population can only be reached through altruistic organizations that don’t have a huge impact on actually creating snowboarders – true or false?
Juan: [It’s] true in the sense that supporting altruistic organizations is all the industry has done thus far in targeting the Hispanic market. It’s false to believe that at-risk or economically disadvantaged kids are the only Hispanic kids to likely start snowboarding. What has happened though, it has developed the means of creating snowboard enthusiasts who can later affect other members of their social network.
Marcus: False. This was one myth we sought to correct with The M.A.S. Report. Altruistic programs have done a phenomenal job at exposing and introducing Hispanic youth to the sport. But as they are viewed and funded today by the industry, it’s simply not a sustainable business model for brand building and growing the sport to its fullest potential. At the same time, we should also say that in no way does this finding diminish the role and importance that altruistic programs play.
How do you foresee using this report and expanding upon its findings?
Juan: We foresee a deeper dive with a larger pool of research participants that’s able to give brands an even greater understanding of the opportunity the multicultural snow sports market represents. This report is designed to get attention, spark interest, and map out the future of snow brands.
Marcus: Like Juan stated, our plan is to use this preliminary report as a starting point in elevating the conversation of multicultural engagement within the industry. So this first “Hispanic Snow Summary” we see as the first in a series of “Black and Brown Papers” that would also cover Skate and Surf.
There is still more to uncover here as this is really just a preliminary dive. Our next step is to seek out exclusive partners to engage in conducting a broader study that will go much deeper into key sectors such as apparel, equipment, retail, media and consumer packaged goods.
Tell us a little about why you partnered with Geoscape and how they were able to help fine tune your findings?
Marcus: We connected with Geoscape about three years ago while putting together a retail opportunity for Monster energy drink that focused on the Hispanic market. When we saw what they had under the hood from a data metrics standpoint, we just knew it would be a matter of time in finding the right opportunity to partner up. Hands down, they have the best analytics tool for mapping the multicultural marketplace.
For the report, we were focused on using their rich quantitative analytics to tell a more holistic story when overlaid with the qualitative work EquipoRoca & Huemanitas were doing. Their ability to build a virtual model of target Bicultural Hispanic consumers according to household income level, acculturation, language usage, and educational attainment, then map them geographically in key metro areas, is just flat out sick. This allowed us to drill down the data to almost city block levels, giving readers an incredibly accurate picture of real-time consumers even at this preliminary stage of reporting. I know, it’s a bit big brother like, but if you’re serious about consumer engagement, you can’t do it without good metrics, and Geoscape has some of the best in the industry.