There seems to be a pattern with Arizona. First the refusal to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a holiday and now an anti-Hispanic immigration law.
Arizonans have every right to be fed up with Mexico’s drug cartel violence spilling into their state. And they have every right to have grown tired of waiting for Washington to do something about immigration but sacrificing the constitution and the dignity of Hispanics is hardly the way to go.
For those folks who get upset with politics seeping into marketing blogs (as a few readers recently did on Adage.com), I wonder if they really get marketing. But perhaps I’m putting too much faith in AdAge.com readers, who represent an industry that has yet to demonstrate a credible appreciation for diversity.
But back to why Arizona’s political environment and actions against Latinos have everything to do with business in general and Hispanic marketing in particular. It’s all about context and about the almighty dollar. The proponents of a national holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. established the precedent. And kudos to the NFL back in 1990 when it yanked the 1993 Superbowl from Phoenix after that state’s voters rejected the initiative to establish a King holiday. But after the NFL’s action and an estimated $350 million in lost convention business, Arizona voters finally redeemed themselves.
Fast forward to 2010.
In many ways, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer made an understandable and very politically-calculated decision in signing SB 1070. As she runs for office, she’s feeling the pressure from the far right, she knows that 70% of Arizonians favor the bill and quite frankly Hispanics were a non-issue. Citizenship among Arizona Hispanics is not yet a critical mass enough to make an impact as it did in the 2008 presidential election, in the neighboring state of Nevada. But she may have naively overlooked the fact that 90% of US-born Hispanics in Arizona are under 18–I can already hear them knocking at Brewer’s and McCain’s doors. But I don’t think Brewer or Arizonans expected that African-Americans would join in the fight.
The battle of MLK, Jr. redoux. Boycotts are certainly always controversial, and their impact are often difficult to gauge; but back in 1990’s they did have an impact. So it was quite telling and ironic that last week, the oldest African-American collegiate fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha–the fraternity to which King belonged–voted to move their July 2010 convention from Phoenix to Las Vegas.
Now back to business. In recognition of the fact that many of its players are African-American the NFL back in 1990 did not want to be on the wrong side of history. Similarly, with so many Latino players the Major League Baseball players association has already stepped up to the plate by condemning the Arizona law. I’m waiting anxiously for the MLB owners to issue an NFL-type of ultimatum to Arizona: either you repent or we’ll yank the 2011 All-Star Game from Phoenix. But it doesn’t end there. Other professional sports leagues and other business entities need to speak up with a loud voice. The 2009 NBA All-Star game was in Phoenix so the NBA needs to be unequivocal in telling Arizona: baby, we ain’t coming back until you change your evil ways. The same goes for the NFL. Whatever the call or action it needs to have a reasonable chance of impact; if misplaced it can backfire.
If the business of our business are Hispanic consumers, what happens when those consumers cannot function like other American citizens? Back in 1994 when former California Governor Pete Wilson pushed for Prop 187, there were some Hispanic voters who initially supported that anti-immigration legislation. But those Hispanics changed their minds once support for 187 became essentially anti-Hispanic. In 1998, while at Miller Brewing, I recall conversations with colleagues trying to assess Corona’s surge among US Hispanics in California, passing domestic brand sales; the conventional wisdom at Miller at the time was that taking their cue from Wilson’s actions, Hispanic consumers were gravitating toward brands they felt either represented or respected them.
Governor Brewer: I encourage you to start getting familiar with the Hispanic dollar, and the dollar of those who share our sentiments.