Will the Super Bowl Halftime Show Open New Doors for Latin Music?

Shakira and Jennifer Lopez
Shakira: Greg Allen/Invision/AP Images, Lopez: picture alliance/Getty Images

Shakira and Jennifer Lopez

From the success of "Despacito" to the explosive growth of reggaetón and urbano, Latin music has made monumental inroads into the mainstream over the past few years. But there’s perhaps no greater proof that the genre has cemented its place in American pop culture than the Super Bowl LIV halftime show, when Jennifer Lopez and Shakira will take the stage at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Feb. 2.

“This is a great opportunity for Latin music and Latin artists,” says Horacio Ontiveros, CEO of On Air Media Group and a former producer for ESPN Deportes. “There are a lot of promoters who are finally realizing that there is value in [booking] Latin music talent.”

The performance — expected to feature songs in both Spanish and English, as well as additional Latin artists as possible special guests — is not just a victory lap. Routinely drawing over 100 million viewers stateside, the halftime show is one of the most-watched TV events of the year, and it offers enviable sales and streaming boosts to even the biggest superstars: Following her 2017 performance, Lady Gaga’s song downloads increased by 960%, according to Nielsen Music. “[This year’s show] is a unique event that will definitely have unmatched numbers during the broadcast,” says Elena Sotomayor, executive vp Latin sponsorship at CMN Entertainment.

And if it does, the ramifications may go well beyond the headliners’ pockets and lead to more collaborations between Latin artists and the worlds of sports, media and advertising. In 2016, ESPN — whose radio division has been broadcasting NFL En Español games in recent years — approached reggaetón duo Alex & Fido to produce an exclusive Spanish-language theme song and incorporated the track into multiple franchises. A 2019 analysis of MLB players’ walk-up music from found that Latin pop and reggaetón made up a combined 23% of walk-up songs, more than any genre besides rap; Bad Bunny was the athletes’ top artist, with four of his songs ranking among the 10 most popular.

“Smart brand marketers have already aligned themselves and developed strategy utilizing Latin cultural insights,” says Erik Bankston, head of integrated marketing and branded entertainment at CMN Entertainment. Last year, CMN helped broker a sponsorship deal between Corona and Bad Bunny’s X 100PRE tour. In the past, “there wasn’t a beer brand to collaborate with a global artist at this level,” says Sotomayor.

Whatever happens at this year’s halftime show, Ontiveros is confident the NFL’s booking of Lopez and Shakira is not the pinnacle of Latin music’s assimilation, but the kickoff of a new era: “Latin music is coming in full force in the United States.”

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 11 issue of Billboard.

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