Photo courtesy Arizona Diamondbacks
By Jose M. Romero / @RomeroJoseM
For FOX Deportes
PHOENIX – The masked man in the red-and-black cape and red-and-black Arizona Diamondbacks shirt is everywhere.
His likeness is found on billboards and bus stops ad signs. The real-life human version charges around Chase Field, popping up in the broadcast booth for appearances or on the field with the team’s official mascot, D-Baxter. Forbidden from speaking – in the tradition of old-school Mexican lucha libre performers – the D-backs Luchador (on Twitter @DbacksLuchador) has appeared in the press box messing with media members, dancing in between innings at the stadium, even on TVs in homes throughout the area.
There sits a hairy-chested guy in a corporate boardroom in full costume, complete with red-and-black and gold-trimmed Mexican luchador mask. His eyes and beard are all that is visible on his face.
It’s clear the Diamondbacks are trying to appeal to their Latino fan base with the presence of the luchador, and in so doing got the Phoenix Univision affiliate to sponsor the July 7 promotion in which Diamondbacks luchador masks will be given away to the first 15,000 fans through the gates that day.
Call it corny or call it savvy target audience marketing, but this one’s going to be a hit. In a story from the local paper, the Arizona Republic, a team official said he expects a crowd of 35,000. That’s a big crowd by Diamondbacks standards, though the team does fairly well with attendance.
The July 4 game – featuring postgame fireworks and a T-shirt giveaway – sold out with more than 48,000 fans. And people were lined up outside the gates to the ballpark three hours before first pitch trying to ensure they’d get a shirt.
It’s reasonable to expect the same on July 7. After all, Jim Rome said it best: If it’s free, there’s a line.
The Diamondbacks are banking on the popularity of lucha libre among Mexican fans. In a city where around 40 percent of the population is of Latino heritage, it’s a good gamble.
Though the real-life luchador character and mask campaign is meant to be more funny than anything else, the club seems to be seeking to return to the good graces of fans who were unhappy that the team didn’t take a firm stand against SB 1070, the controversial immigration bill that overtly targeted Arizona’s Mexicans. Ownership partner Ken Kendrick publicly expressed concern about SB 1070 though he did contribute to political campaigns of Republicans believed to support the 2010 bill.
It’s probably going to take more than a cool-looking lucha libre mask to win over those who protested at games and at last year’s All-Star Game, which the Diamondbacks hosted. One key component of SB 1070 was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. But if nothing else, the promotion is a nod to something many Mexicans hold dear to their heart. The campaign is gimmicky but not done in bad taste.
Club officials saw other teams having success with similar lucha libre mask promotions and decided to do one of their own. Also, a few fans were spotted at D-backs games wearing such masks of their own accord, so the team decided to create a custom mask for fans.
The Diamondbacks have some creative fan giveaway promotions, from bobbleheads to a Ryan Roberts (third baseman) tattoo sleeve (he has ink all over his arms) to a garden gnome last year and even more items for kids.
Want a mask? Feeling like Mil Mascaras or El Santo? Tickets should still be available at the Chase Field box office the day of the game, which starts at 7:10 p.m. local time. But get there early.
Maybe that night’s opponent, the Los Angeles Dodgers, will take notice and try a Dodgers lucha libre mask giveaway of their own. Makes sense in Chavez Ravine, que no?