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Spanish vs. Spanglish in sports marketing

The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the teams that are part of the NBA's
The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the teams that are part of the NBA's "Noche Latina" promotion.

The New York Times' Off the Dribble basketball blog has an interesting piece on how NBA team names are adjusted for the league's occasional "Noche Latina" promotion, a marketing push aimed at attracting more Latino fans to the sport

Whether a Noche Latina is a good idea or not is an altogether different story; this particular controversy revolves around what language should be used on the participating teams' jerseys. Currently, the team names read as-is, but with "Los" added — as in, say, "Los Bulls" and "Los Lakers." 

But some bloggers have complained about the Spanglish approach, saying it might be better to translate the names, i.e. "Los Toros." One (apparently non-Latino) blogger wrote“It’s like saying, ‘Yeah, I speako Español.’ La N.B.A. can do better.”

Not so fast, counter the experts. The NBA says it did some market research and "got a much stronger response to the jersey names it chose than a true translation." Why? From the story:

Felipe Korzenny, director and founder of the Center for the Study of Hispanic Marketing at Florida State, said it would have been a tactical error to translate because Latinos do not see the team names as words — lowercase “heat” or “bull” — but as proper nouns, brand names that have equity. “They don’t translate Coca-Cola or Clorox into Spanish,” he said.

Imagine trying to translate iPad into Spanish, he said. (In fact, Korzenny said, he often hears Latinos who think Colgate is a Spanish word and do not understand why Americans do not pronounce it col-gat-e, as if it were a Spanish word, with three syllables and an accent at the end.)

Spanglish is, in fact, spoken daily to one degree or other by many, if mot most, Latinos in the U.S. — sports fans included. After all, where does the term béisbol come from? Marketing gurus know that content in English and Spanglish is a good way to reach bilingual, second-generation children of Latin American immigrants, which is why Spanglish has become an increasingly popular advertising tool.

Read the entire story here