How can sports publishers build a following that’s as loyal to them as to their favorite teams? We talk to ESPN Deportes’ Editorial Director to find out. 

Being a sports fanatic from Philadelphia (sorry), the ESPN brand has been deeply rooted in my life for the past 30 years. In the days before social media (and the days before I had my own family), I remember ESPN as a constant presence — live in the background of every college dorm room, bar, and living room. It was almost as if ESPN was the soundtrack to my single days. So when I got the chance to interview Andoni Biurrarena, the Editorial Director for ESPN Deportes, I jumped at the opportunity. For me, this conversation was about more than content… it was like a walk in the park with a college friend.

At the time of ESPN’s launch in 1979, there were 14.8 million US Hispanics in the US, making up 6.5 percent of the US total population. Twenty years later and the population had doubled to roughly 40 million. This influx brought new cultures and communities to the US, not to mention new sports allegiances.

ESPN recognized that its audience was changing, and in 2001, ESPN Deportes was born.

Today, ESPN Deportes is available to nearly 6 million Hispanic households throughout the United States and Andoni is responsible for their entire digital video strategy. Under the palm trees of Florida, in the company’s headquarters in Coral Gables (or, to be more accurate, under the halogen lights of Conference Room 305), we sat down for the interview.

Brett Lofgren: You have been leading the Editorial Strategy at ESPN Deportes La Revista for nearly 12 years and Senior Editor at since 2015. During this time, we have seen a massive transformation with audience and content. Given ESPN Deportes’s unique position to engage with a diverse Latino community, do you create content specifically for that audience, or are you thinking about a global audience when developing your strategy?

Andoni Biurrarena: The U.S. Hispanic market is complicated. It has many nationalities and different cultures under the Latino/Hispanic segment. Ten years ago, the Latino media focused on the Mexican market which is the largest in the Hispanic market. That has changed during the last few years.
The Mexican/U.S. audience has changed and become more global. Now we look for global content that is relevant and has an impact on all the different groups. For example – South American and European athletes like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Neymar have become global figures and are more relevant for all Latino groups – including the Mexican community, 

BL: Is there a difference between being a Spanish-language sports publication vs. an English-language one? 

AB: Totally. It is not only a different language but a different culture. Latinos not only consume different sports and follow different teams and athletes, but they have different ways of consuming sports. 

Given this diversification, how do you actively engage your audience? 

AB: Breaking news is still very important. Our viewers want news, live events, video plays, bloopers, fun videos and interviews from their favorite stars. They want real-time content from their teams and athletes — and they want uniqueness and authenticity. 

How important is social video? As a TV channel, how do you go about maintaining that high quality of video that you’re known for, while keeping up with the pace of online? 

AB: It is very important. Facebook is pushing for native video and the social platforms are important to us, so we need to be very creative with our social strategy. Good [headline] copy and an effective thumbnail image can make all the difference.

Our focus is to engage the fans and most importantly to develop an emotional connection with them.

How do you measure your impact and determine the success of your content? Does that data change what you produce and inform future strategy, and if so, how? 

AB: Data is the key ingredient. In today’s climate, we believe in scientific journalism. All of our strategies are based on hard metrics and analytics. We utilize a portfolio of tools so we can plan, create, and publish base on these insights. 

Any new trends in content consumption that you can share with us? 

AB: In social media, fans are really looking for authentic, unique content. And with social, you not only compete with other sports media outlets, but also news, entertainment etc. A fan who is following ESPN Deportes is also following Fox Deportes, but also BBC, CNN, and more. Their timeline will have content about Messi and CR7 (Cristiano Ronaldo) at the same time as stories about Star Wars, Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian, and cat videos.

We compete with all that, so we need to identify, curate, create and publish the best and most trending content. And we need to present these stories in the most engaging way so we can attract the sports fans and casual sports fans.

(But no matter the platform) our goal has been consistent: find new and authentic methods to reach your audience and deliver them the best content in the best format.

BL: Thank you for sharing your insights with us, Andoni. It was great to hear about how ESPN Deportes is making sure it stays in first place.

For a look at the data powering ESPN’s content, take a free demo of Spike, our discovery platform. Spike tracks the stories, videos and more that matter around the world in real time.

Brett Lofgren

Brett Lofgren is the President and Chief Revenue Officer at NewsWhip. Brett directs overall growth and revenue strategy, helping brands and publishers use NewsWhip technology to grow their audience through social data.