Nationalism fades into the background when The World Cup is in play. Here’s what brands and marketers need to know to make the most of the opportunity.
Times were difficult, to be sure. It was 1930, the world was recoiling from the 1929 crash and the onset of the Great Depression, as well as political uprisings, takeovers and the onset of nationalist fever. But for Spanish-speakers worldwide, there was a single event that offered them the chance to forget: The World Cup. In the final match, Uruguay claimed the champion’s trophy and left Argentina a mere runner’s up. Out of this, a tradition was born. A phenomenon, even, that repeats without fail every four years, to unite Hispanics across the United States.
If you’re wondering why this is the case, when sporting events typically enhance rivalries, you’re not alone.
Let me explain. Every four years, the dreams of soccer fans everywhere hone in on a possible win for their “home” team. But as teams are eliminated—note that I’m speaking in general terms—support is translated in an incredible way—not to any team, but to another Hispanic team. And yes, I'm including Spain in this bunch. And as more Hispanic teams advance throughout the playoffs, our hearts are increasingly filled with pride.
So just what’s so interesting about this phenomenon? For one, during off years when there isn’t a World Cup, the differences between Hispanic countries are often accentuated. They’re not always all that friendly toward one another anymore, and even if they are, it’s not always of the supportive nature. There’s discordance on a variety of issues, from who has the better Latin food to old contentions related to past wars and political differences among their countries of origin.
But that all goes away during the World Cup.
It’s difficult to say for sure, but what is certain is that this phenomenon makes it clear that we Hispanics are not all the same. Many marketers and brands tend to put us all in the same basket—perhaps because we speak the same language, or perhaps it’s for another reason. Maybe it’s simply because it’s so much easier that way. But there’s nothing further from reality—except when the World Cup is in session. Today, it’s one of the few things that unites us and makes us somewhat similar for a month.
All good to know, but what does it mean for brands and marketers?
First, we should be able to identify the differences among Hispanics if we want to convey messages that are relevant. Being aware of what makes Mexicans and Colombians different, for example, is not only important to channel messages that apply to these two different communities, but also to avoid offending them by mixing up cultural elements or national symbols. Secondly, the World Cup is the ideal time to celebrate the similarities because nationalism fades into the background while there’s a shared pasión por el fútbol that goes beyond origin and even borders.
In short, we need to be careful when addressing Hispanics as a whole. Know when the time is right to highlight distinctiveness, and when to focus on similarities. Appreciate the diverse variety of food and music that derives from Latin America, as it’s not all the same. And when it comes to soccer, know that the 2018 Fifa World Cup, held between June 14 and July 15, will be the perfect time to emphasize this incredible sense of unity.
Javier Güemes is creative director at LA-based Orcí.