When the Chiefs and Raiders meet Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, more than the usual KC-versus-Oakland rivalry will be at play. The game also puts Kansas City-based Tico Sports’ two Spanish-language broadcast teams head-to-head for the first time.
It’s not a competition, said CiCi Rojas, partner and president of Tico Productions, the company behind Tico Sports that holds the rights to the Spanish color commentary and sideline reporting broadcasts for Kansas City and Oakland.
“They’ll really be here side-by-side. It’s going to be interesting — fun for us,” she said, noting neither will lack the high-energy enthusiasm and voice inflection of a uniquely Spanish-language broadcast.
“Where else are you going to be able to watch the game, talk about it, analyze the play, and then scream your lungs out?” asked her husband, Oscar Monterroso, commentator, founder and partner in the company. “And you get paid for doing it!”
But like Oakland and Kansas City themselves, Tico Sports’ two teams each have their own strengths, Rojas said.
Monterroso leads the vibrant Kansas City broadcast, having established himself for about six years as the Spanish-language voice of the Chiefs.
“On game day, we probably have six or seven people working the game: a sideline reporter, stats, spotter, color, play-by-play, producer and someone running social media,” Rojas said.
By contrast, Oakland’s crew just has an on-air play-by-play color commentator and a producer, but they are more seasoned, she said.
“They have very different personalities,” she said. “Both of the announcers from the Oakland team have been announcing for a really long time, so they’re very mature in their careers. Our Kansas City team is still very new, but very enthusiastic.”
Tico Sports brings not only energy, but also a broad range of capabilities for reaching Kansas City’s (as well as Wichita’s) growing Latino market, Rojas said.
“A couple years ago, we knew the Chiefs were open to other options for the Spanish broadcast,” she said. “We were already doing much of the production, but we knew that we could bring a different spin. We could bring a broadcast that was more robust and holistic. We could incorporate video, Facebook Live and some of our other competencies.”
That conversation led to an agreement for Tico Sports to handle radio and streaming broadcasts, as well as engagement for the Chiefs within the Latino community, Rojas said.
The Chiefs organization also was instrumental in helping Tico Sports land the deal to take over the Raiders’ broadcast, beginning with the 2017 season, she said.
“The Chiefs have been an incredible partner,” she said. “They’ve not only given us this opportunity, they’ve functioned as more of a coach or a mentor for some pieces of the business that have been new to us.”
Diversity of work
While Tico Sports’ broadcasts grab a lot of attention, Tico Productions’ other work reflects a wide range of capabilities for local businesses and organizations, Rojas said. Core competencies include graphic design, animation, events, awareness campaigns, websites, communications strategy and radio show production, she said.
“And on the production side, we’re fully bilingual, so we can do everything in English and Spanish very comfortably and seamlessly,” Rojas said. “But first and foremost, almost all of our clients — with the exception of the sports piece of the business — have all been general market. We pride ourselves on delivering an excellent product, it doesn’t matter what language it’s in.”
Representing such clients as the Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department, Hope House, PortKC, various chambers and economic development groups and nonprofits allows Tico Productions to flex its talents and continue to grow, she said.
“We are doing everything from radio shows to medicine to transportation and a lot of animation,” Monterroso said. “It’s working with kids to the elderly, working with pets to puppets.”
“We love the diversity of it,” Rojas added. “We could probably say we’re just going to focus here or there, but for us that’s not fun. And it’s also how we learn what’s happening in the city. When you work with a broad base of clients, it’s interesting to learn the stories. And all these stories lead up to the story of the city, and how you can move people through storytelling.”
The multimedia production company began about five years ago after Monterroso and Rojas moved to Kansas City from Texas, where Monterroso — an immigrant originally from Costa Rica — had worked as a journalist for Spanish-language networks Univision and Telemundo.
He took a job working at KMBC 9, while Rojas served as vice president of community engagement at Truman Medical Centers and later president and CEO of Central Exchange.
“We started out literally in our basement, in our home office, doing video and some graphic design — creative work,” she said. “Before you know it, it became too much. And like any small business owner, you ask yourself, ‘So when’s the jumping off point to go full-time?'”
Monterroso took the plunge first.
“We made the decision to start investing his human capital full-time in the business,” Rojas said. “Since then, we’ve been able to build a reputation of delivering a good, quality product at a reasonable price. We also want to be able to help everybody. You know, some people have budget constraints, but they still need to have their stories told in an excellent way.”
After a year, Tico Productions made its first hire, she said. The team continued growing, but Rojas knew she needed to wait until the time was right to join full-time herself.
“When we started the sports side of the business — that was my dream because I love sports — and we saw how busy we thought we could be, I told my husband, ‘I think this is probably the sign that I need to be able to move over and focus on it,'” she said.
Tapping into connections from her previous careers, Rojas has been able to leverage her network for sponsor and advertiser cultivation, as well as community building, she said.
“We have a niche with the sports platform that we’ve built,” she said. “We just need to focus on it and dedicate as much time and energy on building that piece of the business as we have the other side.”
Along the way, it’s important for Tico Sports and Tico Productions to groom — creating and cultivating — the next generation of sports broadcasting talent, Rojas and Monterroso said.
“It’s about how can we not only have a business, but also be able to help the little ones coming up behind us?” Monterroso said. “We can provide opportunities that I wish I had when I arrived to the United States — because I didn’t have the connections or maybe the opportunities didn’t even exist then.”
The company was honored with the Rising Star Award from Kansas City’s Multicultural Business Coalition in November.
“We’ve been very active in the organizations that support minority and women entrepreneurship. That’s the foundation for us. That’s who we are,” Rojas said. “And we want to give back to those organizations that have helped us along the way.”
The new language of business
The Latino market is huge, and it’s coming to the Midwest, Rojas said.
“On the coasts, it’s already arrived,” she said. “For most companies there, if you don’t have a bilingual strategy, you’re not going to be in business for very long.”
Oakland, for example, has an established Spanish-speaking population, so ignoring that audience simply isn’t an option, Rojas said.
“The Raiders enjoy the largest Latino fan base in the NFL,” she said. “For the Raiders Nation, the numbers are incredible: about 53 percent of their social media is consumed in Spanish and 48 percent of their season ticket holders are Hispanics.”
It’s business for the Raiders, she said, but the organization also wants to deliver a more authentic product to the Latino consumer. Its leaders know that Hispanics over index in two key areas: radio consumption per day and digital streaming consumption per day, Rojas said.
“Hispanics are more likely to share on social media, especially Latinas, women,” she added. “We’re five times more likely to share a Groupon or another great deal. The NFL has amazing statistics. They’re very tuned in to reaching and growing their market in Mexico and Latin America, for obvious reasons.”
It’s all about knowing the potential customer, Rojas said.
“This is a way to continue to build a fanbase,” she said. “For good or bad, we’re an impulsive buyer. We’re more likely to live in the moment — and there’s statistics and data to prove this. So, we’re more likely to call each other and say, ‘Do you want to go to a game today? Let’s get online and buy some tickets.’ Much more likely to be spontaneous. And that doesn’t go unnoticed. If you’re trying to cultivate a consumer, these are the kinds of behavior and buying habits you need to know.”
The Spanish-language component — along with the immediacy of the social media tools employed — also makes Tico Sports the most scalable part of Tico Productions’ business, Rojas said.
“Not only to other markets for NFL, but other sports, college — the possibilities really are endless,” she said. “But we have to do it in a thoughtful way. Ultimately, we want to build a network with affiliate markets. Then you’ve got a nice cache of outlets for media distribution that could have a national sponsor.”
The company’s first foray into new markets with Oakland has exposed nuances in the behavior and makeups of seemingly similar populations, Rojas said.
“It’s been a different kind of challenge,” she said. “The Raiders are in three different markets: the Bay area, the L.A. area and now in Las Vegas. So we’ve been traveling quite a bit out to the West Coast just to learn. It’s a Latino community, but it’s very different there. It’s a more mature community than Kansas City, but we’re getting there. The Latino community here is definitely growing as well.”
One commonality between the two cities: a niche Tico Productions can fill, Rojas said.
“Like the Chiefs, the Raiders wanted a different approach besides just the radio. They wanted the video piece. And something far more colorful. They wanted a different kind of visual engagement with the fans,” she said. “That’s Tico Sports.”