Some 27 percent of Major League Baseball players are Hispanic. Ironically, though, Latino sports fans don’t tend to care much about baseball, and there isn’t a clear way to recognize how culturally diverse the sport is.
So, in a project that took two years to prepare, the Major League Baseball Association worked with Austin-based LatinWorks to launch “Ponle Acento” (“Put an Accent on It”), which rights a historical wrong—by putting accent marks back into names whose accents were dropped in the immigration process.
“Baseball is America’s pastime and has a rich history steeped in tradition,” LatinWorks executive creative director Gabriel García tells AdFreak. “It’s had tremendous influence on American culture, and Hispanic players form an important part of that story. Yet when we looked at its fan base, they were underrepresented, despite their contributions … and the fact that nearly one-third of MLB players are of Hispanic descent.”
He continues: “We needed to ignite Hispanic passion for the game, demonstrate that they’ve played an important role in its past, are contributing to the game’s present, and will continue to influence its evolution moving forward.”
The campaign consisted of putting accent marks on the names printed on players’ jerseys. It received wider recognition when, in May of last year, Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Adrián González referred to it in a tweet with hashtag #PonleAcento.
The movement quickly spread to other sports, including boxing and basketball, and stars jumped in, too. Some Latin actors, like Angélica Vale, requested that an accent be included on their Walk of Fame stars, marking a reversal in past efforts to Anglify names for “mainstream” recognition.
Asked how the MLB responded to the initial pitch, associate creative director Alberto Calva told us they “owned the idea since day one. They were very brave in approving [#PonleAcento], because it not only takes a stand in America’s favorite pastime; it stands for minorities and inclusion in American culture as a whole.”
The campaign’s timing is also prescient, given how the political climate has evolved, with anti-minority sentiment growing more vocal. “We always knew there was a big parallel between the U.S. and baseball. Minorities are a fundamental part of both,” Calva emphasizes. “Twenty percent of the U.S. population is comprised of Hispanics, roughly equal to the 27 percent of Hispanics in MLB’s rosters. This country and this game look like they do today because of what Hispanics have brought to the table.”
MLB also made an effort to give the campaign necessary traction, pitching the idea to all 30 baseball clubs. “Somehow they had to sell the #PonleAcento idea to them,” says Calva, “and they did a great job. Players of all teams, Latino and non-Latino, across the league joined the movement. MLB even modified their logo in support of the campaign.”
Since its launch, more than 30 MLB players and coaches added accent marks to their jerseys, and social media impressions totaled over 500 million.
“This campaign not only speaks to Hispanic baseball fans, but to all Hispanics living in the U.S., who in one way or another lost part of their identity—whether in the shape of an accent or by Americanization of their names,” adds creative director Morris Dávila.
“In a time in which immigration is part of the big conversation, many Hispanics identified with this message and turned the hashtag into a movement. This campaign has also seen great feedback on social media from English speakers, who are learning something new about our rich cultures and have joined in on the celebration.”
García believes the campaign reconnects the Latino community with values it should be proud of, like “respect, inclusion, tradition and competition,” he says. “It also gives Hispanics permission to insert their personal passions and interests into the conversation, yet always with a reference back to MLB, the game that recognized the need to not only put an accent on a name, but on a sport and on your life.”