AOL Latino Signs Major Brand Sponsors

America Online has signed four major brands as sponsors for AOL Latino, signaling that big-time advertisers are taking note of the approximately 12.5 million Hispanics online.

General Motors, Coca-Cola, InterContinental Hotels Group and Artisan/Lionsgate are charter launch sponsors for AOL Latino, the Spanish language version of the giant ISP’s online service that launched in October 2003.

AOL Latino, a Spanish language version of AOL’s 9.0 Optimized online service, is attempting to capitalize on the fastest-growing minority group in the U.S. The 12.5 million Hispanics online represent a 25 percent increase from 2000, according to a June 2003 comScore Media Metrix report. And AOL is the top ISP for U.S. Hispanics, according to comScore.

Hispanics spend 9.5 hours a week online at home and 18.8 hours a week at work, 16 percent more time that the overall Internet-using U.S. population, according to an America Online/Roper ASW U.S. Hispanic Cyberstudy. The group is seen by many as the next big opportunity for online marketing.

The sponsors will get exclusive exposure in AOL Latin’s core programming channels, including Noticias (news), Entretenimiento (entertainment), Estilo de Vida (lifestyle), Musica (music) and Deportes (sports). They will also get premium placement within the service’s key programming areas.

“They sponsor sexy content,” said Peter Blacker, VP for sales and network solutions for America Online International and U.S. Hispanic. “For example, soccer in sports, music franchises in Sesiones,” the latter of which features a series of private studio performances by leading Latin artists.

The sponsors will also be the first to test new advertising formats on AOL Latino, Blacker said. “Streaming video will launch on the site this year. As we roll out streaming ads, these four will try it out first.”

The charter launch sponsors are not the first major brands to jump aboard. Advertisers at the time of the October launch included Coca-Cola, Bank of America, Heineken, Loreal, General Mills’ Cheerios and Toyota.

Blacker was not concerned about the largely unsuccessful track records of past Spanish-language portals such as StarMedia and QuePasa.com.

“It is important to look where the market has gone to. It has skyrocketed. Pioneers in that space were in a different era,” Blacker said. “The fact that companies like GM want to communicate and pitch to Hispanic people speaks to that.”

In the future, AOL Latino will launch a travel section and other sections endemic to the partners, Blacker said.

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