Courting Hispanics: It’s a numbers game

Posted on Written by Richard Armstrong

rbffRBFF hires a culturally attuned marketing firm

The reason the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation is targeting Hispanics in a just-launched five-year promotional campaign can be found in the demographics, the RBFF says.

“It’s the largest-growing segment of the population, expected to reach 67 million by 2020, and it’s growing exponentially,” RBFF president and CEO Frank Peterson says. (The U.S. Census counted 50.5 million Hispanics in 2010).

“And if you look at the age breakdown, their baby-boom generation — equivalent in size to our post-World War II baby boom — is zero to 15 years old. There is a tremendous opportunity to educate, inform and get those kids involved so when they get into their 20s, 30s and 40s their size can create a tremendous ripple effect. Hispanics have the potential to have the same impact on fishing and boating and the economy as a whole as the baby boomers we all know of.”

Census data confirm the dramatic difference between the Hispanic population and that of whites. The median age of all Hispanics in the United States is 28, compared with 42 for whites.

One barrier the RBFF needs to overcome is cultural and is seen as the biggest reason the RBFF’s overall marketing campaign has been falling on deaf ears in the Hispanic community.

Peterson cites a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service survey: Between 2001 and 2011 the nation’s Hispanic population grew 54 percent, but Hispanic participation in fishing grew just 0.7 percent a year. From 2006 to 2011, the survey found, participation in fishing was up 11 percent among the population as a whole, but it remained stagnant among Hispanics.

“So you see the dilemma. We are not attracting that demographic,” Peterson says.

The RBFF, the non-profit marketing arm of the recreational fishing industry, hopes the tide will begin to turn after its July 11 unveiling of a five-year campaign to increase boating and fishing participation among the Hispanic population.

From 36 marketing proposals the RBFF recruited Lopez Negrete Communications, a Houston-based firm that specializes in Hispanic consumer communications.

“Fishing is a great recreational sport for Hispanic families,” says Ed Cantu, director of consumer insights at Lopez Negrete. “They just need to know about it and be invited. There’s a really big opportunity here and we’re excited about it.”

As the largest independent, Hispanic-owned and operated marketing agency in the country, Lopez Negrete has used its cultural insight to earn contracts with Walmart, Microsoft, Kraft and other global corporations.

Cantu says one cultural difference became clear in the many focus groups the firm consulted in developing the RBFF campaign.

“We found many of the barriers to getting people out on the water were universal, but some are more nuanced,” he says. “For example, in the general market fishing tends to be viewed as ‘a guy’s night out.’ With Hispanics, however, more often than not fishing is viewed as a group activity, with multiple ages and genders. Fishing is one part of a day in the park or another larger family event.”

The Hispanic outreach campaign tools will include digital, social and traditional media and a retail point-of-sale strategy and engagement with state fish and wildlife agencies.

The campaign will focus on awareness and education in the beginning years, then shift to drive participation, Peterson says. In 2014 the RBFF will pilot the program in states that have greater numbers of Hispanic consumers — the largest being California, Texas and Florida. The plan calls for a nationwide campaign launch in 2015.

Nearly all of the RBFF’s $12 million budget will go toward the overall “Take Me Fishing” campaign and the new Hispanic effort.

One of the campaign’s first challenges is a tricky one.

“The phrase ‘Take Me Fishing’ doesn’t translate well in Spanish,” Peterson says. “Their culture prefers to be invited to join, so we obviously need to look at a variation to the slogan.”

Cantu says it’s not so much that the phrase doesn’t translate. Rather “it’s another nuance of Hispanic culture. Hispanics are not comfortable making the request themselves. They want to be asked. That invitation is absolutely vital.”

Although a final decision on any potential slogan change is far from determined, Cantu offers one simple variation that he says would play well in Hispanic culture: “Vamos a pescar” or “Let’s go fishing.”

This article originally appeared in the August 2013 issue.

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