Q&A With ESPN Deportes Marketing Director Maribel Viteri

ESPN Deportes earlier this month announced the hiring of Maribel Viteri as marketing director. The Ecuador-native lands in the sports channel after spending over six years at Diageo, where she served as multicultural marketing manager, leading Hispanic strategy and marketing efforts for brands such as Johnnie Walker, Buchanan’s De Luxe Scotch Whisky, and Smirnoff Ice. Viteri recently spoke to Hispanic Television Update about the challenges of joining a media property, her experience targeting Hispanic male viewers and where she expects the brand ESPN Deportes to be in the medium term. An edited transcript follows:

Q: You joined ESPN after years working on the client side at Diageo. Why were you attracted to switching to the media side of the equation?

A: After six years of doing marketing for consumer products and being able to handle all marketing disciplines to build brand awareness among Hispanic males, I felt this was the right time in my career to take on new challenges. Coming from the client side, I have a strong good solid understanding on what media companies look for in strategic partnerships with agencies.

Q: What do you consider your biggest challenge in this new position?

A: I look at challenges as opportunities. The ESPN Deportes brand has had incredible growth in the past couple of years. The network’s distribution increased by approximately 50%, ESPN Deportes Radio launched in three additional markets and now reaches 45% of the Hispanic population; traffic to ESPNdeportes.com grew by 44% this year and we recently launched a new version of the magazine for the Caribbean. I think that as long as we stay focused on maximizing our platforms to better the experience of our constituents we will continue to enjoy growth.

Q: What do you consider the biggest overall challenge when targeting Hispanics?

A: Multicultural marketing budgets are smaller and typically the first ones to be cut. It is hard to prove [return on investment] when you have limited resources to quantify success. Many companies are still looking for the best model to target Hispanics and other ethnic groups.

Q: Do you think coming from a big client that knows the U.S. Hispanic market well gives you an edge?

A: Of course. As a client who spent millions of dollars in Hispanic media and consumer research, I knew what I was looking from my media partners and sometimes I was not able to get it. I think that my background gives me a clear understanding of the Hispanic consumers and I think that ESPN Deportes -- being a multimedia company -- will certainly give us an edge over other Spanish-language media companies.

Q: You seem to be a big fan of a multimedia approach to marketing and advertising. Why is it important to have several platforms working for your marketing campaigns?

A: Today Hispanics consume media differently. As a marketer, you have to be able to offer creative solutions to help clients reach consumer via various platforms and certainly being a multimedia company helps you provide integrated solutions to our advertisers.

Q: There seems to be a growing number of women in top marketing positions at sports properties. What do you say to the cliché of “women don’t understand sports”?

A: As you just said, that is just an old cliché. We’re in the business of serving fans. Understanding the consumer and their needs is a determining factor in this business and that’s what we’re focused on. I think that, regardless of gender, Latinos are passionate sports fans. We take a lot of pride in understanding our Hispanic consumers since they are at the center of everything we do.

Q: Is there a brand that you think has positioned itself nicely and that you look up to?

A: I would say Johnnie Walker has done a great job at positioning itself as the ultimate icon of progress. It’s the only liquor brand that doesn't need to show a bottle in their advertising and its message is consistent around the world.  

Q: Where would you like to see the ESPN Deportes brand in, say, 5 years?

A: I’ve been in this company for a little over a month and what strikes me the most is the employees’ passion, hard work and commitment to serve the Latino sports fan. We are focused on raising the bar in the way sports are delivered to the Latino community by offering the content they want, when they want it and on whatever device and as long as we continue to do so, we’ll be successful. I would say that five years from now -- most likely earlier -- ESPN Deportes will be indispensable to the Latino sports fan. We have aggressive goals and we have all the tools to achieve them.