The month-long 2006 World Cup Soccer tournament will begin on June 9, and already commercials have been launched with soccer themes referencing the event. The heavy hitters behind those ads include 15 global brands, such as McDonalds, Coca-Cola, MasterCard, Nike, and Adidas.

ICOM, a network of independent ad agencies, reports that World Cup-related ads will account for around half of overall page space and ad time in several Western and emergent countries. Television rights have been sold for a guaranteed minimum of 1.3 billion Swiss francs with the final price expected to be much higher.

Held only once every four years, this year's tournament is poised to become a marketing circus on par with the Olympic Games. Sponsorship deals abound and corporations are tripping over themselves to cash in to the tune of a more than $1 billion. Why? Exposure, and lots of it. Some 28 billion fans watched the 2002 World Cup, and 32 billion are expected to tune in this year.

The US focuses on advertising globally since the World Cup typically evokes little excitement domestically, according to ICOM. Only one market segment in the United States veers drastically from that trend—the Hispanic community.

Six Latin American teams have spots in the tournament this year (Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Paraguay, Costa Rica, and Mexico), as does Spain. The World Cup brings out an intense following and huge fan base among 42 million Hispanics in the United States. Ironically, four out of the six Spanish-speaking World Cup countries have fewer people than that.

And yet, in spite of the outrageous potential, there is little evidence of anyone but the big-name giants taking advantage of this potential marketing bonanza. Now maybe your corporation has $200 million to spend like Nike or a mere $50 million like Anheuser Bush—but if you're like most, that's a little out of your league.

The good news is that there are many marketing opportunities for the smaller fish in the sea as well. And by this I don't mean in the lesser millions or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. With some imagination and initiative, you can design a campaign for any budget. Here are just a few ideas:

  1. Hispanics listen to radio twice as much as the average American. Due to the timing and location of the World Cup, many of them will follow the games via the radio. Most areas now have at least one Spanish language radio station. The low advertising rates and loyal listening base makes this option a perfect venue for your campaign.

    In addition to a standard commercial, you can sponsor a specific program or purchase a remote broadcasting option. The remote is particularly popular with the Hispanic demographic. This is where the radio station broadcasts from an outdoor location. You can partner with food vendors, invite a mariachi band, offer face painting for kids, and give out soccer balls, T-shirts, and coupons. This is a great way to tap into the pre-game excitement with a fiesta atmosphere.

    If you choose the commercial option, ask for a popular DJ to record your commercial. Hispanic listeners often feel very connected to DJs as someone they can trust. DJs receive calls from listeners asking about community resources or assistance with navigating the American system. If you decide on a sponsorship, ask to "own" a certain hour, meaning that you are the only company who is the sponsor during that time.

  2. Every area with a substantial Hispanic population has either a soccer dome or soccer fields. Certain local teams, typically the best players, are covered regularly in the Spanish-language newspapers or radio. Find out who those teams are and offer to sponsor one of them in honor of the upcoming World Cup.

    This usually means buying their uniforms (with your company logo) and/or paying their game entry fee. It is a low-cost way to get exposure and be a local hero to the Hispanic community.

  3. Announce special discounts for services and products during the month-long World Cup. Use your local Spanish-language newspapers (again much less expensive than their American counterparts) as well as signage in your storefront.

For foreign-born Hispanics, word of mouth is the number-one factor behind choice of a product or service. And you don't need $50 million to spread the word in your area. Grassroots and guerilla marketing are key to market penetration for this event.

So don't let size inhibit you. But you need to get busy planning now or risk waiting another four years for the opportunity.

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image of Blaire Borthayre

Blaire Borthayre is a Mexican-American consultant in the field of Hispanic marketing and CEO of Hispanic Marketing Resources (