A front-row seat to the Hispanic market

"On Your Feet" (and in your seat) with a little Spanish-speaking help from Fantastico.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Some people want to build walls. Others want to help Hispanics score good seats for the futbol match.

Fantástico, a Spanish-speaking online ticket retailer, falls squarely into that latter group. Launched this week by New York City-based Schramm Marketing Group, the Northport-based subsidiary caters exclusively to online audiences that habla espanol with tickets to a wide selection of concerts, stage shows, movies and sporting events around Greater New York.

Joe Schramm: Have a seat, amigo.

Joe Schramm: Have a seat, amigo.

Schramm Marketing Group is no stranger to Hispanic clientele. Launched 24 years ago by founder and Managing Partner Joe Schramm, the agency has a long history of promoting television, pay-per-view and live events to diverse multicultural segments, with a noticeable focus on Spanish-speaking audiences.

“My expertise was developed at a time when the Hispanic market was becoming more relevant and more important, but was still underserved,” Schramm told Innovate LI. “So going after Spanish markets was a business opportunity, plain and simple.”

Well into its third decade, Schramm Marketing Group has built a reputation for attracting standing-room-only crowds at international soccer events in the New York City area – “We gave Citi Field its first sellout, long before the Mets ever had a sellout,” Schramm noted – and is also known for producing the Hispanic Television Summit, an annual NYC showcase for U.S., Latin American and European TV professionals.

“It has served our company very well,” Schramm said, of the Spanish-speaking focus. “Plus, I have a business partner who’s also from an exotic island – I’m from Long Island, he’s from Cuba – and that has influenced the fact that we’re going after the Spanish market.”

That inspiration is Rafael Eli, a Schramm Marketing Group partner and executive vice president of Fantástico. Eli referenced a “paradigm shift” in the Hispanic market over the last decade, during which time smartphone proliferation has changed the way many U.S. Hispanics access the Internet – in some cases, providing the only Internet access for large Latino segments.

“It’s been sort of a moving target,” Eli noted. “At one point, Latinos didn’t have access to computers that much, but then the smartphones came and that’s when Latinos started jumping in.”

That has dramatically changed how retailers and others view Hispanics and online transactions – though the world of online ticket sales, according to Schramm, has been slow to catch up.

So the entrepreneurs launched Fantástico, which officially went live June 14 and combines topnotch ticket-reseller technology with a blend of original and branded content, all in Spanish. Schramm Marketing Group farmed out the website development to Manhattan-based Crossfield Digital and works with various design firms to create some original content; other content is “aggregated” from producers and venues, Schramm noted.

While there are competitors – Ticketbis, a website based in Spain, provides English- and Spanish-speaking ticket sales to customers in 47 global markets – none are “mobile-optimized” like Fantástico, according to Schramm, again noting the prevalence of cell phone-based Internet access among U.S. Spanish-speakers.

And none are as localized as Fantástico, which is focused on a 150-mile Greater New York radius – encompassing NYC, parts of New Jersey and Philadelphia – as well as events at Connecticut casinos and as far east as Riverhead and the Hamptons.

“Of course we have competition,” Schramm noted. “Telecharge and Fandango are out there. But none of the major online retailers sell tickets in Spanish.

“And we want to sell tickets to Latinos who live in Riverhead and Brentwood and Long Beach,” he added. “We’re not really interested right now in selling to Spanish-speakers in Idaho.”

But they may be soon – if not Idaho, then other “major Hispanic markets” across the United States, with big-city centers like Miami, Houston and San Francisco topping Fantástico’s potential expansion list.

Schramm said he plans to expand to two additional markets in 2017 – each would have its own website with a hyper-local focus, he noted – though which markets is yet to be determined.

And any hypothetical expansion is on hold, Schramm added, until the startup ticket-seller reaches certain plateaus on its flagship New York site.

“We want to get this market done right first,” he said.

However long it takes, those expansions are coming – if for no other reason than it’s more good business, according to Schramm.

“If you look at the demographics of kids in elementary and high schools, 25 percent of them come from Spanish-speaking households,” he said. “And this Generation Next, as they call themselves, is larger than the Baby Boomers.

“This generation is going to be spending a lot of money in this country very soon,” Schramm added. “I want to be part of that.”

As for starting a Spanish-speaking enterprise at a time when presidential candidates and others seem intent on creating an “us-vs.-them” scenario between white and Hispanic populations, Schramm suggested such sociopolitical turmoil makes ventures like his “more important than ever.”

“If anything, this rhetoric will spark more energy,” he said. “Nothing brings out someone’s ethnic pride more than being pushed against a wall.”

Speaking of walls, building one between the United States and Mexico might actually give Fantástico a larger captive audience – “The Latinos who are here won’t be able to get home,” Schramm noted – though “our business is not about making a political statement.”

“This is about recognizing and seizing an opportunity,” he said. “It’s about serving an underserved market.”

Fantástico

What’s It? Spanish-speaking online ticket-seller

Brought To You By: Joe Schramm and Rafael Eli – both Islanders, after a fashion

All In: Roughly $1.5 million – ponied up by Schramm, Eli and a private Long Island investor – to cover website design and marketing

Status: Who needs entradas?