A Conversation With NFL Cultural Marketing Strategist Javier Farfán
There are only 16 Latinos currently playing in the National Football League but Hispanics’ interest for the sport is at an all-time high — and growing.
“In 2019 we grew by 1.5 million fans to reach an all-time high of about 30.2 million fans,” says Javier Farfán, the NFL’s cultural marketing strategist, citing a SSRS/Luker on Trends sports poll. “The NFL has had the largest Hispanic growth in fandom among all major sports, including NBA, MLB and international soccer.”
Farfán, who came to the NFL after stints in PepsiCo (as head of music, entertainment and cultural marketing) and Verizon (as vp segment marketing & strategy) is tasked with reaching this Latino fan and also grooming this fandom for the future.
This is not new for the NFL. “They’ve been doing Hispanic marketing for many, many years,” says Farfán. But there’s definitely a new emphasis that dovetails into this year’s Super Bowl halftime show, which will features Latin super stars Jennifer Lopez and Shakira. The last time a Latin act performed the halftime show was 20 years ago, when Enrique Iglesias and Christina Aguilera performed as part of a “Tapestry of Nations” number that also included Toni Braxton and Phil Collins.
Since then, the NFL has expanded its Hispanic outreach. The Super Bowl is broadcast in Spanish by Fox Deportes and Entravision, for example, and the league has been playing games in Mexico for years. In fact, the second most attended game in NFL history was on Oct. 2, 2005, at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, where the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals played for 103,467 fans.
Today, says Farfán, 54% of U.S. Hispanics fans of the NFL in 2019. He says, “From my vibe and what we’ve been doing this Super Bowl is going to increase it even further.”
But merging football and Latin music is not new for the NFL. “We’ve been doing Pepsi Musica shows during the Super Bowl and we’ve had everyone from Jenni Rivera to Ricky Martin,” says Farfán. This year, though, is “the pinnacle,” not to mention the many ancillary music events taking place around Miami that feature Latin acts.
Farfán says Lopez and Shakira’s halftime performance will send an important message to the country — and specifically the NFL’s Latino fans. “We have these powerhouses from the Latino culture,” he says. “One predominantly sings in Spanish, one in English. One was born in the U.S., one in Latin America, and they come together.”
While Farfán says the NFL “really wanted to give a little nod to the growing Hispanic fan base,” that wasn’t the sole reason Lopez and Shakira landed the coveted halftime gig. Their combined hits were crucial, of course, and since the game is being held in Miami, he says, a Latin touch was practically an essential ingredient.
“We’re pushing culture forward,” says Farfán. “[The lineup] shows the innovation and the understanding of culture. We want to do things in a culturally relevant way. The NFL takes everything into consideration: Location, partners, Pepsi and the environment. All those pieces contribute to that factor.”